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Former Machinists Union Vice President Withdraws Retaliation Suit

May 19, 2022, 6:18 PM

A former top official at the International Association of Machinists withdrew a complaint alleging that the union retaliated against him and his staff for supporting an opposition candidate in an internal election.

Former International Vice President Sito Pantoja filed the lawsuit in August 2021 following the removal from his position heading the union’s Transportation Department. The dismissal was submitted May 12.

Pantoja’s complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleged that the IAM engaged in a “deliberate and purposeful” effort to remove dissenters such as himself after he publicly criticized General Secretary-Treasurer Dora Cervantes and supported a challenger in her bid for re-election in April 2021.

Cervantes was re-elected to her position in May 2021. Pantoja was also re-elected as a vice president of the international union during the same election cycle, but retired effective April 1 of this year, according to a union official.

Pantoja could not be immediately reached for comment. An attorney representing Pantoja, Stephen C. Leckar of Kalbian Hagerty LLP, declined to comment.

The union also declined to comment on the lawsuit, but IAM International President Robert Martinez expressed contentment with the dismissal in a letter to membership obtained by Bloomberg Law.

“The lawsuit made many misleading and meritless claims, and now both a District Court judge and three judges at the Court of Appeals have rejected his [Pantoja’s] claims and held that the IAM’s conduct was proper,” Martinez wrote in the letter dated May 13.

A request for a preliminary injunction that would restore Pantoja and his staff to their former positions was denied in October 2021. An appeal of that order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was denied in March of this year.

A joint filing dismissing the case included a stipulation that the plaintiffs “shall not seek to be added or joined as parties” to other pending lawsuits alleging similar claims.

The case is Pantoja v. Martinez, D.D.C., No. 1:21-cv-02197, stipulation of dismissal filed 5/12/22.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Wallender in Washington at awallender@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com; Laura D. Francis at lfrancis@bloomberglaw.com