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CTY copeland04p 6-10 The longtime business manager for Local 500 of the Laborers International Union of North America, Phil Copeland, was defeated Sunday in his bid for re-election by the former vice president whom he fired in April.
The longtime business manager for Local 500 of the Laborers International Union of North America, Phil Copeland, was defeated Sunday in his bid for re-election by the former vice president whom he fired in April.
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Published: Monday, 6/10/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Copeland ousted as Laborers’ business manager

Local 500’s former vice president, Fleetwood, wins election over former boss by 38 votes

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The longtime business manager for Local 500 of the Laborers International Union of North America, Phil Copeland, was defeated Sunday in his bid for re-election by the former vice president whom he fired in April.

David Fleetwood was elected business manager with 132 votes over 94 for Mr. Copeland.

Two other contenders, Bert Canterbury and Brian Musser, split the remaining ballots, Mr. Fleetwood said.

Of the 978 members of Local 500 in six counties eligible to vote, 315 cast ballots between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday at the union hall on Ashland Avenue, Mr. Fleetwood said.

The union’s jurisdiction includes Lucas, Wood, Fulton, Henry, Defiance, and Williams counties.

The change in business managers took effect immediately.

Mr. Copeland, who simultaneously worked as Lucas County recorder, angered Mr. Fleetwood when he said he would seek another three-year term as the union’s business manager while continuing as recorder.

Fleetwood Fleetwood
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Mr. Fleetwood, 53, informed Mr. Copeland, 67, on March 30 he would challenge him for business manager and Mr. Copeland promptly fired him from his $95,000 job as business agent, although Mr. Copeland later told the union’s board he had “laid off” Mr. Fleetwood.

Mr. Copeland, a Democrat, was elected to the county seat in November for the job that is responsible for recording mortgages, liens, and deeds.

He was paid $126,127 as Local 500’s business manager and $71,286 as county recorder.

In December, Mr. Copeland said he would give up the union post, but later changed his mind, saying he had goals he wanted to complete before stepping down from union leadership.

Mr. Fleetwood said the union needs a full-time business manager and criticized Mr. Copeland for working another job.

Mr. Copeland did not return a call seeking comment Sunday night.

In an interview Sunday night, Mr. Fleetwood praised the man he defeated, calling him a decent man who has put in nearly four decades with the union.

“I thank him and applaud him for his 37, almost 38 years, of service,” Mr. Fleetwood said.

“We don’t have any ill feelings against him. I think he’s decent man. He came up to me afterwards, before all the votes were counted, and shook my hand.”

The new business manager said he plans to double the number of field agents to four “to police the counties” under the union’s jurisdiction.

To do so, he will cut his annual salary by $20,000 and lower the salaries of the business agents by a similar amount to $70,000 to pay for the additional agents.

“We’ll have more feet on the ground and spread the duties out so it’s not too taxing,” he said.

Other plans call for holding monthly union meetings in Williams and Defiance counties to make it easier for members to attend, he said.

“Members on the outside feel neglected,” he said. “I want to include all 978 members before my three-year term is up.”

Other plans call for building more community ties outside of Lucas and Wood counties, where the union is now most active.

“It’s going to be members first,” he said.



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