AUD: Looking to the Future
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
The Association for Union Democracy has had a whirlwind of a year walking its beat on the ramparts of union democracy. On the one hand, our office suffered major structural damage as a result of flooding from Hurricane Ida and we’ve been scrambling to regroup. The costs of repairing said damage has taken a bite out of AUD’s already burdened budget. AUD already had a hard road to hoe with our small staff facing a deluge of emails and calls plus the research necessary to address the variety of concerns, and get back to those selfsame contacts. We also must find time to administer the office, send out literature requested by reform minded unionists, and meet the compliance demands of the governmental agencies that regulate non-profit organizations.
On the other hand, AUD has had the good fortune to observe and even be involved with several landmark union democracy movements in the past year, ones that vindicate our cause and continued existence as an organization.
Just this month, the outcome was announced in a referendum of the UAW membership, held pursuant to a consent decree obtained by federal prosecutors, that from now on, all the top UAW International officers will be elected directly by the membership, rather than by delegates. AUD has been assisting the UAW reformers, and submitted an Amicus Brief in support of a rank and file group, the UAWD (Unite All Workers for Democracy):
“… it is important to note that promoting union democracy and membership participation in consent decrees like this one is not just an idea pushed by union democracy advocates like the AUD. Equally supportive of that approach are experts coming at these issues from the perspective of criminal law, not labor law. For example, in a 1990 report on racketeering in the construction industry, the New York State Organized Crime Task Force endorsed as “most promising” a strategy . . . to nurture, encourage and support union democracy. In essence, labor racketeering involves the exploitation of rank-and-file workers for the benefit of corrupt union officials and employers. . . .Government policy must therefore give highest priority to assisting honest workers in obtaining their rights and wresting control of their unions from racketeers.”
In other instances, AUD has assisted unionists seeking to fully exercise their membership rights as protected by the LMRDA and other law. For example:
A California member of HERE who contacted AUD for help was provided guidance as to whether his local’s “preregistration” requirement for participation in Zoom membership meetings was a violation of LMRDA Title I free speech protections.
In Washington state, a member of ATU and candidate for office was barred from campaigning in uniform on break time by a local election committee. He contacted AUD about his recourse and we assisted by looking at relevant union and NLRB case history on the issue. He filed a post-election protest with the International, and an unfair labor practice charge with the state public employment relations commission.
A member of a national union contacted us for advice regarding the union’s requirement that to be the national President the winner must relocate to California, at their own expense, or forfeit the office.
To continue our work and stay vigilant in our counsel of union members, we need your help. Just as important as the logistical necessities of running a functional office is insuring the longevity of our service and funding the staff to provide it. AUD establishes and maintains contacts with interested parties as long as the latter wishes to inquire about the democratic rights of union members. We at AUD are the one non-profit that provides this service.
Our goal has been to inform, and thus advocate for, empower, and protect, those union members who challenge the status quo. They only ask that their questions, ideas, or grievances be addressed in a fair and democratic manner by their union: that they be allowed to take part in the union’s affairs. We try to help them to do that. We believe that for a stronger labor movement, the concerns of the members must be taken off the back burner and engaged with as soon and as thoroughly as possible.