Newman and her colleague, full-time bus driver Johnny Jackson, don't understand how part-time and temporary transit workers were cut out of a $24 million class action settlement between the county and its part-time and temporary workers. They believe that some 400 transit workers are due a sizable chunk of cash.
In 1993, part-time and temporary workers -- led by a cashier at the county's Solid Waste Department -- sued the county for what they deemed unfair treatment. They were being denied certain benefits, including sick leave, life insurance, and holiday pay. They were also receiving only partial medical benefits.
A class action settlement agreement was reached with these employees in 1997. The agreement, however, never listed the specific employees who could cash in on the settlement. It only names "part-time and or temporary King County employees."
Part-timer Newman wants her cut, and she may be on solid legal ground.
"The settlement document in my view speaks for itself," says Judith Bendich, an attorney who negotiated the settlement for the county workers. "See for yourself if there's anything in there that specifically excludes the transit workers."
None of the county's part-time or temporary transit employees have yet received a check as part of the multi-million-dollar compensation. Newman came across the deal while she was researching other transit worker issues. "The county knew they were obligated to give us that money, but they never did," she claims. Newman claims that the transit workers involved are owed "at least $5 million."
Jackson blames Amalgamated Transit Union 587. "I thought the union and the union attorneys fell down on the job," he says. "I don't blame the county; whatever they can get away with -- that's their job, to cut down on costs." Newman and Jackson, it should be noted, are union dissidents -- they're pushing a major ballot issue to democratize all unions in the state of Washington.
Barry Samet, president of the union that represents transit workers, doesn't know what the two are talking about. "When I was brought in under discussions of [the settlement], I was shown a list of names. I asked, 'Do we have any Local 587 members here?' There were hundreds of names, and we didn't have any [on the list]."