This April 2014 marks the first contested election in 53 years for IAM International President and several top International officers. The US Department of Labor, Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) ordered a rerun of the IAM’s election for its top officers. OLMS stated in 2013 that IAM did not properly notify members that nominations for open positions had begun. The open positions include International President, General Secretary-Treasurer, and eight General Vice Presidents.
In a “Notice of New Nominations” sent to membership and dated 12/16/2013, the International explains that “some local lodges did not provide proper notice of nominations to their members and did not afford members a reasonable opportunity to nominate candidates and vote on endorsements, in that some members were working during the nomination meetings.” Members are then instructed to bring the enclosed letter to their local nomination meetings to verify the bearer’s eligibility to nominate candidates.
An opposition slate calling itself the “Reform Slate” is contesting seven of the open positions. The Reform Slate is lead by Jay Cronk, who is running for International President. Cronk was an IAM officer for over 20 years, and was fired just eight days after announcing his candidacy. Also running is Karen Asuncion, a 30-year United Airlines employee in the Washington DC area. She filed the initial election complaint that prompted the OLMS investigation.
The Reform Slate’s website, www.IAMreform.org, posts a letter from Cronk that cites several problems with the current administration that the slate will address if elected: nepotism and cronyism in staff appointments, excessive salaries of top IAM officers, a complete absence of union democracy, and substandard contracts. Creation of the slate was in part prompted by concerns over the recent Boeing contract negotiations in Washington State, where, fearful of threats to move the plant elsewhere, the International intervened and helped push through a contract with concessions that outraged much of the membership. In addition to discontent over the Boeing contract, a number of Local Presidents have stated that they feel the International is out of touch with the rank-and-file workers.
Even with the rerun, which is being supervised by the OLMS, it remains to be seen whether the challengers can oust incumbent International President Thomas Buffenbarger, who has held the position since 1997 and previously worked at IAM headquarters since 1986. OLMS ordered the rerun to take place prior to July, 2014.
OLMS ordered several Locals to rerun elections in 2013, but IAM was the only union ordered to rerun an International election.