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Postal Union Members to Picket Own Picnic Over Newsletter Fight

September 27, 1987|GEORGE FRANK | Times Staff Writer

A battle between the president of the Orange County postal workers union and the editor of the union newsletter--who was locked out of the office and ordered not to publish in September--is expected to spread today when workers picket the union picnic.

But Bobby Donelson, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Southwest Coastal Area Local, said Saturday: "It's an internal thing. The newsletter was canceled one time and it will be available to the membership again in November."

Donelson was elected president of the 2,200-member local, which represents most postal workers in Orange County, in April. He said the controversy over the newsletter and allegations of financial improprieties are being raised by some "sore losers" from the last election.

Locked Out

Barbara Ribar, recently elected editor of the local's Coastal Line, said that after she questioned one of Donelson's decisions at a June meeting, he locked her out of her office at union headquarters on Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana. She said her newsletter files disappeared and that she hasn't been allowed back in the office.

Ribar, a mail sorter in Costa Mesa, said she also questioned Donelson about why wages of a local union officer had been paid twice--by the local and national chapters--and why an auxiliary account to help union members and their families was under the name of the former wife of another union member. Donelson said the account is under the woman's name because she was the last president of the union's auxiliary.

Ribar said a growing number of members are concerned about the newsletter and questions about the union's expenditures.

She said Donelson canceled the September newsletter after she told him that if he didn't answer questions about the union's finances, she would print a story about it.

She received a note from him in her mailbox at union headquarters saying that because of their "uncooperative" meeting, the newsletter, which is 14 years old, would not be published in September.

Ribar said some members intend to picket the union picnic today at Yorba Regional Park near the Santa Ana River with signs and 500 balloons that read, "Free the press" and "Let's have a meeting."

The latter slogan refers to a Sept. 12 union meeting attended by 60 members. Donelson abruptly ended it after financial questions were raised, Ribar said.

Referring to today's planned picket, Donelson said, "That's their right."

Donelson said the newsletter, which is published every other month and claims a circulation of 3,000, was canceled in September because he could not work with Ribar, whom he described as "yelling and unruly."

He said Ribar "spouted off" a list of financial accusations and that "none of them were in violation of labor laws" or the union constitution.

Written Charges Asked

Donelson said local union trustees, at a meeting in early September, decided to send a letter to some dissident members asking them to put the allegations of financial improprieties in writing. Ribar and Richard Cantu, senior vice president of the local, were included in that mailing.

"As of today," Donelson said Saturday, "no allegations have come from them or anyone."

Ribar said she had just received the letter Saturday.

Times staff writer Henry Rivero contributed to this story.

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