Four women filed National Labor Relations Board complaints and one of them filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination against a union run by supervisorial candidate F.X. Crowley, public records show.
Many of their charges were dismissed, but in at five instances, the complaints ended in settlements — and some involved substantial payments to the women.
The union, Local 16 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, has never admitted to gender discrimination.
Four settlement agreements that occurred while Crowley, a candidate in District 7, was the union's business agent contain confidentiality clauses. But details of a lawsuit settled in 2008 are public — and the records show that the plaintiff, Sandy Reed, accepted $500,000 to settle claims of gender discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and disability discrimination.
Crowley says that the accusations of discrimination are completely untrue. When we asked if gender discrimination went on at Local 16 under his leadership, he replied, "absolutely not."
"Local 16 has never admitted that there's been any discrimination at the union hall," said William Sokol, an attorney for the union. "The union is steadfast that there has been absolutely no discrimination."
SANDY REED'S CASE
Reed works in craft service, catering film shoots. Since 1989, she worked regularly on sets that were organized by the union and protected by a union contract. She even paid the union 3.5 percent of her earnings in "work fees."
But some craft-service jobs required union membership, and when she tried to become a union member, Reed alleged in her suit, she ran into problems. She was informed that applicants needed to take a three-year apprenticeship class — and then told that the classes were full, year after year. Meanwhile, male friends and colleagues, doing what she saw as similar work, were brought in as "auxiliary members," a process by which workers can bypass the apprenticeship program and become members, she claimed in her suit.
In 2001, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, asking what recourse she could take for what she perceived as discrimination based on gender and disability.
The EEOC made a determination in her favor, and in 2003, Reed sued Local 16, its president Richard Putz, and Crowley. Reed settled in 2008, after the case went before labor arbitrator Gerald McKay.
In his findings, McKay wrote: "The Union's arbitrary standards provided the opportunity for the Plaintiff to claim that the reason for her denial was based on her status as a woman. Whether it is true or not true, the Union has forfeited its defense by not having any objective or transparent criteria against which one could measure the Plaintiff to see whether she is being rejected for reasons other than her status as a woman. The Plaintiff's evidence is sufficiently strong to conclude that it is quite possible that she was discriminated against in her request for membership because of her status as a woman. What the Union has failed to do is to rebut that assertion by objective evidence that there were other reasons for her rejection. The Arbitrator is persuaded that the Plaintiff was the victim of discrimination because of her status as a woman."
But charges aimed specifically at Crowley and Richard Putz, the union's president, were dismissed. The two had allegedly facilitated the discrimination.
We asked Sokol about Reed's case. "I don't think Sandy Reed's case was about gender discrimination at all," he said. "That may be her retrospective point of view on that. That sure wasn't what the case was about at the time."