Union Member Defends Election Rights in APWU

Mary Corner is a member of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Northwest Illinois Area Local 7140 in Bellwood, Illinois, and decided this March to run for the Presidency of her local, hoping to improve the union through the example of her leadership. She attempted, as is her right as a candidate for union office, to send flyers to the membership   promoting both herself and her platform. Corner went through the  required internal APWU channels to get her request approved and   she obtained access to the full membership address list over the course of the month of April. However, the election committee of her local insisted that her designated mailer sign an agreement that the return address on Corner’s campaign literature would be the union’s, not the address the candidate specified previously. Corner contacted the election committee in early May requesting that the form be voided, thus allowing her to use her own return address. Corner’s objection   asserted that:

“(1) I have the right as a candidate to use the membership list to mail out my campaign literature.  At this point, the election committee is holding the membership list hostage because of the restriction they place on my mailer to use their address as RTS on my campaign literature, 

(2) The election committee is in violation of 29 U. S. C. section 401(c), distributing candidate campaign literature in a union election,

(3) It has been established at the APWU National Level that the “From” is considered as the contents of campaign literature, 29 C. F. R. section 452.70.”

Finding no relief at the local level, she contacted the national union, requesting they intervene and force the local to allow her to use her chosen return address. Corner  also contacted the AUD and was put in touch with AUD Director and attorney Paul Alan Levy of the Public Citizen Litigation Group.

On May 8, the national APWU found in Corner’s favor and issued a directive to the local to allow her to choose the return address. But the local refused to comply.  So Corner and her legal team, which also included AUD Advisor Robin Potter of Potter Bolanos LLC, drafted a complaint for Injunctive Relief to be filed in federal district court, Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois.

Generally speaking, Corner’s request for relief points out that LMRDA section 401(c) charges labor organizations with the responsibility to comply with all reasonable requests from members to distribute their campaign literature by mail or otherwise. Specifically in her draft complaint for injunctive relief, Corner insists that she be allowed to use a return address of her choosing because 1) DoL guidelines forbid unions from regulating the content of campaign literature mailings, 2) Corner does not want returned mailings to go the union first and thus be in control of local officials, 3) Corner needs to know which mailings are returned so she can take extra steps to get those members her literature, 4) Corner needs to know the returned mailings so she can develop a list of potentially challenged ballots, and 5) Corner needs to know the number of incorrect addresses on the union’s list for it might be subject to potential challenge as flawed enough to void the election.  

Such was the nature of Corner’s request for Injunctive Relief submitted to the court.  A court procedure  became moot, as the local, having balked at first, backed down and agreed to comply with their National APWU union’s directive. The election, delayed by the union for several months due to the pandemic, took place this summer. Corner lost, but has filed an election complaint.

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