Association for Union Democracy

Summer Appeal 2015: Hold Them Accountable!

We know what we all want – a union that will protect its members from unfair and unscrupulous employers. But all too often AUD gets calls and emails from union members who think their unions are not doing the job we want them to.


Sometimes it is not just apathy or business-as-usual, everyday-run-of-the-mill lack of attention but outright retaliation, unfair discipline, institutional hostility towards outspoken opposition groups who may or may not have a chance of winning but who challenge incumbent officers, and even union collusion with an employer that gets a dissident fired. We help callers to understand their options, avoid avoidable campaign and election pitfalls, and take action if they want to. We help callers to know what a fair election is and how to get it. We help them wade through the cumbersome process of filing an election complaint with the union and with the U.S. Department of Labor. We may be able to find them an attorney who knows about union democracy law.


Sometimes the callers tell us about the union just not doing its job vigorously or at all. Often, for an example, not even filing a grievance when there is a termination, even after repeated pleas. While there is not very much we can do in that kind of situation (the union is the legal representative and the law gives it lots of exclusive rights) we have sometimes found ways to help. Tatiana, with AUD help (see below), found a way to prod her union into action to help her. (In her case loss of employment and eviction were on the line.) Sometimes we can guide someone through the NLRB to get an investigation. Or help them with an attorney’s letter. Or find another way to hold the union accountable.


Members at a loss with nowhere to go may just want to get out of the union altogether and get it out of their workplaces. We work to avoid this and encourage them to fight for the union to be better, to keep in mind what we want unions to
be and do. But we have few resources. The people who come to us for help – many in economic difficulty at the time – are not enough to keep us going.


So we are asking again for help from people who care about the labor movement and believe in its possibilities. People who know that unions CAN help their members and do what no other “agency” can do: fight for workers’ rights at the workplace every day, every year. And who know that to do their job unions must be open to members who disagree and that that makes a stronger union.
Please help us realize this vision of what a responsible union and workplace can be. Send us a tax deductible donation today, so we can continue to be here every day for the people who need us and for you.



Messages from two of our dedicated volunteer advisors:


As a volunteer for AUD, I know how important it is for the dozens of frustrated union members around the country. When they run into problems, either with a boss or with one of their union officers, they are so grateful to stumble across AUD, even if we can’t wave a magic wand and solve their problems instantly. Our knowledge of the laws and of organizing strategies, helps start them down the right road, even if it’s tough to see the end of it. Even more important – and I have the bulging e-mail inbox to prove it – just offering a friendly ear and a supporting conversation is so important. We show them how decades of political timidity have weakened the labor laws that we all need and that strong organizing is the way to turn around their situations. None of this would be possible without AUD.
-Bill Barry, Director of Labor Studies (Retired), Community College of Baltimore County


As an AUD volunteer, I know we do good work for others and try and help them. For example, many call us having never heard of the NLRB and their possible recourse there. Many have no idea how to file a grievance. And I am always shocked when it is the union that is doing wrong by the member. You expect that from the employer, but when it is the union, it breaks my heart. I spent most of my days when I was a union president standing up for my members. Now I can help do the same as a volunteer. Please support AUD.


What some of our supporters have to say:AUD Seal


      • “To obtain justice, my husband needed to get real help. So, I called the Association for Union Democracy. The AUD staff person was very informative and extremely helpful. His knowledge of labor laws, union policy, and legal representation was invaluable. AUD staff have a compassion for helping others, people who work and need to be protected by law. I would wholeheartedly recommend AUD and urge you to help support such an organization, which does real work in order to help others. Thank you so much AUD!” – Tatiana, NYC
      • “I recently ran for union election, with a sinking feeling right from the get go that the deck was stacked against me. I played by the rules, documenting everything the other side did, but not necessarily knowing if what the other side was doing was legal, illegal, right or wrong. I sent along the information I compiled and met with AUD to get an outsiders view of where things stood. The AUD was an invaluable resource in informing me on the nature of the perceived violations as well as how to take action to rectify the wrongs! Their honest, straightforward approach to what the law dictates is the type of entity the Labor Movement (unfortunately) needs at this time, and I am so thankful they are there as a watchdog group to ensure the proper ethics and behavior of the Labor Unions we have today.” – Justin Babula



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3 Responses

  1. the statutes of limitations for 301/fair representation actions and actions under the lmrda union members bill of rights need to be increased to two years. six months is ridiculous. the supreme court, featuring rehnquist, hobbled the unions in 1983. the unions were partly at fault. it is time for the unions to wipe the egg off their faces and STAND UP!

  2. Yes, as a member of OPEIU, I saw how this union took advantage of their failure to represent a member in a grievance by ignoring the member’s request to have his grievance taken to a system board and leaving that member without recourse. The union, acting as his legal representation, simply did not advise this individual that his next course of action was to file a civil suit in federal court. Thinking his union was working toward a reconsideration, the six month time frame elapsed and when the individual got an attorney to seek action, the individual was obligated to sue both the company and the union. The company countered by saying the common law limitation was 6 months, and the court agreed. But, the union (the grievant’s union) asked to joined the company in that counter, claiming a 6 month limitation, even though the union was acting as the grievant’s legal representative and where they failed to inform the grievant of his legal options or limitations on that matter. They failed to represent because there was an expectation by the union member that his grievance was being processed, and because, as (forced) legal representatives, they had a legal, ethical, and fiduciary duty to provide competent representation. By not even processing the individual’s grievance to the System Board of Adjustment in a class and craft subject to the RLA, they clearly failed this individual and conveniently used the short 6 month period of limitations in their favor. Had they explained to the grievant the limitation, he may have acted earlier, but sat thinking his union was processing it. There was a clear conflict of interest also between the union and the grievant where this 6 month limitation works in great favor to the union itself, and not the union member. This union acted in lieu of the statutory System Board denying the member a chance to have a fair hearing at a System Board of Adjustment by deciding ahead of the board (usurping the Board’s authority) that his grievance was not being processed to the System Board of Adjustment, and then not responding to a request to reconsider nor informing the individual of his next legal course of action.

    The law should not require a union member to file suit against both his employer and his union in matters where the union itself failed to represent its member ethically and honestly.

    See Moore v. Air Methods, et al, (2015)

  3. Can I sue my union? our company had a cap of 42 hours of overtime per week, if it was offered. Now the union imposed a cap of 20 hours per week. Is there anything I can do about this?

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