Union head loses election

Elections for the Temple branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were decided amongst controversy earlier this month surrounding emails sent to members deriding the former president and calling for more accountability.

Paul Dannenfelser, the former president of AFSCME local 1723, which represents administrative, technical and professional employees at Temple, was defeated by Donald Deigh in the elections held Jan. 10 at the local headquarters on Walnut Street, pending confirmation by the election committee.

Cynthia Harmon-Williams, who previously served as Dannenfelser’s vice-president and resigned in January ran alongside Deih.

The election committee had 10 days to hear claims of improper electoral conduct in the process. Dannenfelser said that possible misconduct could be found in an email sent prior to the election.

“I think there were some irregularities of election rules and laws that could be the cause of some protest,” Dannenfelser said. Deigh and Harmon-Williams, who are awaiting confirmation by the election committee, declined to comment on their  campaign, the anonymous email or what his plans are for future contract negotiations when the current contract expires this fall.

In an anonymous email sent the night before the elections to union members, Dannenfelser was criticized for his leadership of the local.

“Currently the president does not work for Temple University; he has been gone for more than two years, working for another employer. Why didn’t we the members receive a letter in the mail just like the postcards to inform us that their president is not currently working for Temple? If he was not an employee of Temple University, would he have been your president,” the email read.

Dannenfelser, who is currently employed full-time as a council representative at the AFSCME district 47, while maintaining union leave as part of the university, said that his position at the district and local levels were separate, and did not conflict one another.

The letter also condemned Dannenfelser’s handling of contract negotiations, which took more than two years to come to an agreement in 2009.

“As you all know our last contract negotiation was a failure; we went two years without a contact or raise but Paul was collecting money from our union dues as Salary unknowing to our members,” the email read.

“I wouldn’t characterize them as a failure, I would characterize them as going on for a long time,” Dannenfelser said.

The negotiations ended in 2009 with a 3 percent wage increase for all bargaining unit members, followed by 2 percent increases each of the following three years, according to a contract summary. Other contract changes included increased vacation time and increases to family cost sharing for employee health benefits.

Dannenfelser also defended his salary and said that he was paid part-time as president of the local, without benefits, and that his earnings were accessible via financial reports that were made public to the executive board and sent out to members.

Dannenfelser declined to publicly release his salary to the public, and called on the other ticket to address the issue, “one of my questions for [Deigh and Harmon-Williams], are they thinking of taking less of a salary?”

Dannenfelser said local 1723 is made up of about 350 to 375 members, representing a larger bargaining unit of about 700 Temple employees. Dannenfelser estimated that 80 to 100 members showed up for the vote.

John Moritz can be reached at john.moritz@temple.edu or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU.

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