Union cites one employee's 'destructive power,' ends bargaining unit

SEATTLE - Union leaders are cutting ties with more than 200 city of Seattle workers after representing them for 13 years.

And Local 17's Executive Director Joe McGee blames one disgruntled member.

In a letter dated June 26, 2014, Local 17, which represents Professional and Technical Employees, says it will no longer represent the City of Seattle IT Bargaining Unit, giving this explanation:

"Why are we taking this relatively drastic action? The simplest way to explain it comes down to the destructive power of one," writes McGee.

"Preston Hampton has been a persistent and unrelenting detractor of our union. He has been verbally abusive toward our employees and those in leadership at Local 17. He flaunts our rules, structures, and processes and he repeatedly, on a variety of fronts, engages in harassing behaviors that distract us from our organizational priorities."

McGee tells KOMO that Local 17 administrators were also facing a potential conflict of interest.

"We believe some of the conduct has risen to potentially legally actionable levels, and we can't exercise any legal options or rights we might have when we have this conflicting duty to represent someone."

Hampton says the accusations against him are simply not true.

"I just don't see any sense to it at all," he says.

"What I have done is I have called out the behaviors of certain individuals because they were either limiting discussion or just out-and-out falsehoods."

Hampton also says the move is unfair to his colleagues.

"We have in fact a process in the constitution that if they want to expel me as an individual there's a process clearly laid out in how they go about doing that," he says. "To take out 250 people and all of a sudden say, 'Hey, we don't want you' and the reason is because one individual did something we didn't like borders on ridiculous if not bizarre."

King County Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer David Freiboth declined to talk about the specific issue, calling it an internal matter.

"I'm confident that this leadership is making what they feel is the best decision for the local," he said.

He says it's not uncommon for unions to disclaim interest in a bargaining unit, but he's never seen an action on this scale before.