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Legal Rights for union members


1. Basic Democratic Rights of Rank and File Union Members

2.Cuatro Derechos Basicos de los/las Trabajadores/as Dentro de la Unión

3. Cyberdemocracy: your legal rights online.

4.Checklist for Democratic Organizing

5. Organizing for Women's Issues

6. A Draft Bill of Rights for BUilding Trades Workers

7. AUD's Union Democracy Benchmarks

8. Where to File Complaints

AUDHome--> Legal Rights--> Handouts

Handouts you can use to promote union democracy
AUD
encourages union members and officers to reproduce and distribute these handouts. Several Unions have published the first two handouts in their union newsletters. Rank and file activists have posted them on bulletin boards or handed them to coworkers. All we ask is that you give AUD credit and include our contact information.

Disclaimer: the information presented on this website is general and intended for educational purposes. It is not a substitute for practical legal advice on any specific situation.

Basic Democratic Rights of Rank and File Union Members

Union Democracy makes unions stronger. The key to union democracy is an educated and active membership. This summary describes your rights under a Federal Law: the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Several unions have printed this handout in their union newsletter, or posted it on union bulletin boards. 

1. The Right to Equal Participation in Your Union
You have the right as a member of the union to participate equally in union affairs. You have the right to:

attend and participate in union meetings,

vote by secret ballot in local union officer elections, and other important election rights,

equal access to union publications in election campaigns,

if voting on contracts is in your union constitution, you have the right to know what you are voting on,

due process if you are disciplined by the union.

NOTE: It is illegal for the union or the employer to retaliate against you, or threaten you, for exercising your rights under the LMRDA.

2. The Right to Essential Information

As a union member, you have the right to certain types of information:

Copies of annual financial reports, including the LM-2 forms, available from the Office of Labor Management Standards--OLMS,

Copies of union contracts and side agreements that affect your job,

Copies of the union constitution and bylaws.

NOTE: You are free to publish the information in the reports and documents described above.

3. The Right to Free Speech in Your Union

Your right to free speech in the union is very broad. You are free to:

criticize union policies, officers, staff, or candidates,

discuss union policies and issues,

write about, sing about, draw cartoons about union representatives,

complain, protest, demand and advocate.

NOTE: You can not be disciplined for free speech. However, if you advocate leaving the union, or changing unions, your speech may not be protected.

4. The Right to Free Assembly

Like your rights to free speech, your rights to organize with your coworkers to make changes in your union are very broad. You can:

organize a committee or a caucus,

meet without official union permission or participation,

write and distribute leaflets, newsletters, etc.

run candidates for office,

take collective action to influence the union (pickets, buttons, etc.).

NOTE: Be careful not to represent yourselves or your group as official union representatives if you are not.

Enforcing Your Legal Rights

Some parts of the LMRDA are enforced by the Department of Labor (Elections, Financial Reporting, Right to Information). Other rights you enforce through a lawsuit in Federal Court (free speech, free assembly, union discipline cases). Some rights can be enforced through State Court, also.

You may be required to "exhaust internal union procedures" before taking your case to the Department of Labor or Federal Court. This means you must first file an internal union protest or complaint, according to the procedures in your union bylaws/constitution—even if you believe that this is a waste of time. If, after four months (three months for election complaints), the internal charges have not been resolved, or you want to challenge the result, you may take your complaint outside of the union. If you do not exhaust the internal procedures, the union can not discipline you, but the court or Department of Labor may dismiss your complaint.

Because the legal procedures are complex and have strict time limits, it is important to get advice. You may need a lawyer. Contact AUD:

Association for Union Democracy
104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA
718-564-1114, info@uniondemocracy.org
www.uniondemocracy.org

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Cuatro Derechos Básicos de los/las Trabajadores/as Dentro de la Unión

La fuerza de la unión depende de que tan democrática es. La democracia dentro de la unión depende de que tan involucrados están los miembros y de los conocimientos que tienen sobre sus derechos dentro de su unión. A continuación aparece un resumen de los derechos que usted tiene como miembro de un unión bajo la ley federal llamada Ley Obrero-Patronal de Reportaje y Divulgación (Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA)

Los procedimientos legales son complejos y operan dentro de límites estrictos de tiempo. Por éso es importante que se asesore adecuadamente. Es posible que necesite un/a abogado/a. Póngase en contacto con AUD.

Derecho a participar en su unión

Ud. tiene derecho a participar en los asuntos internos de su unión.

Tiene derecho a:

asistir y participar en reuniones de la uniónes,

votar por medio de boleta secreta en las elecciones de oficiales de su unión local,

acceso equitativo a las publicaciones de su unión en campañas electorales,

si los reglamentos de su unión proveen con el voto sobre contratos, tiene el derecho a ser informado/a sobre el contenido del contrato sobre el cual ud. va a votar.

procedimientos justos cuando la unión archiva cargos contra ud.

Nota: La ley prohibe que la unión o el patrón lo/a amenacen o tomen represalias contra ud. por ejercer su derechos bajo el LMRDA.

Derecho a la libre expresión

Ud. tiene amplios derechos a la libre expresión en su unión.

Tiene derecho a:

criticar las políticas de la unión, a los oficiales de la unión, los empleados del unión y a los candidatos,

discutir las políticas y asuntos de la unión,

escribir, cantar y hacer caricaturas o chistes sobre los representantes de la unión,

quejarse, protestar, demandar y abogar a favor o en contra de las políticas o decisiones de los representantes de la unión.

Nota: Está prohibido que lo/la disciplinen por hacer uso de su derecho a la libre expresión. Sin embargo, expresiones que abogan por salirse o cambiarse de unión no están protegidas por la ley.

Derecho a la libre asociación

Al igual que con sus derechos a la libre expresión, sus derechos a organizarse con sus compañeros para introducir cambios en la unión son muy amplios.

Ud. tiene derecho a:

organizar comités o cabildos,

reunirse sin la autorización ni la presencia de los oficiales de la unión,

escribir y distribuír volantes, boletines, etc.,

postular candidatos para posiciones oficiales,

llevar a cabo acciones colectivas para influenciar a la unión (piquetes, botones, etc.),

Nota: Asegérese de no presentarse como representante oficial de la unión si no lo es.

Derecho a obtener información básica

Como miembro de la unión, ud. tiene derecho a los siguientes tipos de información sobre su unión:

copia de los reportes anuales de las finanzas del local, incluyendo los formularios LM2 disponibles en la Oficina de Standards Obrero Patronales (Office of Labor Management Standards, OLMS),

copia de los contratos colectivos de trabajo y acuerdos aledaños que lo/la cubren a ud. en su trabajo,

copias de la constitución y reglamentos de su unión.

Nota: Ud. tiene el derecho a publicar/distribuír la información provista en esos documentos.

Como poner en vigor sus derechos

Algunos aspectos de la la ley LRMDA (tales como elecciones, reportes de finanzas, derecho a obtener información) son puestos en vigor por el Departamento de Trabajo (Labor Department). Otros derechos (tales como a la libre expresión y asociación y a procesos justos) se ponen en vigor a través de una demanda legal ante la corte federal y, en otros casos, ante la corte estatal.

Puede ser que antes de llevar su caso ante el Departamento de Trabajo o la corte federal, sea necesario que ud. "exahuste los procedimientos internos de la unión". Esto quiere decir que primero debe archivar una protesta o queja dentro de la unión siguiendo los procedimientos de la constitución o reglamentos de su unión, aunque esté convencido/a que es una pérdida de tiempo.

Si después de cuatro meses de haberlo hecho (tres meses en el caso de protestas electorales) no ha habido decisión alguna sobre la protesta o ud. decide retar la decisión, puede tomar acción fuera de la unión. Si no cumple con los procedimientos de la uniónes internos, es posible que la corte o el Departamento de Trabajo rechacen su protesta.

Association for Union Democracy (Asociación por la Democracia Sindical)
104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA
718-564-1114, info@uniondemocracy.org
www.uniondemocracy.org

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Cyber-Democracy for Unionists: Your Legal Rights Online.

Democracy makes unions stronger. The key to union democracy is an educated, informed, and active membership. Fortunately, you have legal rights that protect internal union activity, including activity that takes place online. This summary describes your rights under a Federal Law: the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) as they apply to online activism.

1. The Right to Participate in Your Union

You have the right as a union member to participate in union affairs, including meetings and elections. This means you have the right to:

  • participate in official union chat groups or discussion lists,
  • participate in elections: run for office, vote, and observe the vote count (there are other important election rights),
  • equal access to union publications -- including union e-mail lists, web sites, listserves, and e-mail publications -- in election campaigns,
  • due process if you are disciplined by the union.

NOTE: It is illegal for the union or the employer to retaliate against you, or threaten you, for exercising your rights under the LMRDA. Participation in union activities is subject to reasonable rules and procedures.

2. The Right to Essential Information

As a union member, you have the right to certain types of information, much of which is available online:

  • Copies of annual financial reports, including the LM-2 forms, available from the Office of Labor Management Standards--OLMS,
  • Copies of union contracts and side agreements that affect your job,
  • Copies of the union constitution and bylaws.

NOTE: You are free to publish and distribute, in print and electronic form, the information in the reports and documents described above.

3. The Right to Free Speech

Your right to free speech about union affairs (in the union and in public) is very broad and includes e-mail and web speech. You are free to:

  • criticize (or praise) union policies, officers, staff, or candidates,
  • discuss union policies and issues,
  • write about, draw cartoons about, sing about, etc. union representatives,
  • complain, protest, demand and advocate.

NOTE: You can be disciplined if you advocate "decertifying" -- leaving the union, or changing unions -- or for violations of the union constitution that are not otherwise protected by the law.

4. The Right to Free Assembly

Like your rights to free speech, your rights to organize with your coworkers are very broad. Among other things, you can:

  • form a committee or a caucus,
  • meet on or offline without official union permission or participation,
  • set up a website, blog, discussion list, newsletter, chat room, or other online publication or forum,
  • limit access to all or parts of your site to members of your committee,
  • link to other websites, organizations, and unions (including your own),
  • take collective action to influence the union (online pickets, PDF flyers, e-mail petitions, web sites, etc.).

NOTE: Be careful not to represent yourselves, your group, or your website as official union representatives if you are not. Do not use computers or other resources that belong to your employer, or to the union. In union elections, an employer--anyone who employs at least one other person--is prohibited from contributing to a candidate or campaign.

Enforcing your Rights

The LMRDA applies to private sector union members and some federal employees, and includes union bodies that represent a mix of public and private sector workers. Public sector workers often have the same protections in other forms, through state laws or regulations, or through case law.

Some parts of the LMRDA are enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (elections, financial reporting, right to information). Other rights you enforce through a lawsuit in Federal Court and/or State Court (free speech, free assembly, union discipline cases).

You may be required to "exhaust internal union procedures" before taking your case to the Department of Labor or Federal Court. This means you must first file an internal union protest or complaint, according to the procedures in your union bylaws/constitution—even if you believe that this is a waste of time. If, after four months (three months for election complaints), the internal charges have not been resolved, or you want to challenge the result, you may take your complaint outside of the union. If you do not exhaust the internal procedures, the union can not discipline you, but the Court or Department of Labor may dismiss your complaint.

The web is a new area for activism and law. This summary is only a rough guide. Because the legal procedures are complex and have strict time limits, it is important to get advice. You may need a lawyer. Contact AUD:

Association for Union Democracy
104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA
718-564-1114, info@uniondemocracy.org
www.uniondemocracy.org

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Checklist of Basic Principles of Democratic Organizing
(adapted by Matt Noyes from The Troublemaker's Handbook, by Dan LaBotz, Labor Notes 1989)

"The practice of democracy in organizing is the organizing of democracy in practice." This checklist is designed to raise issues for organizers and activists. It is incomplete and debatable -- you will want to add your own principles, or change some that are here. Use this checklist to see if you are doing all you can to make your organizing democratic and participatory.

1. Do you work with others?

Organizing means working together to make change.
Isolation and individual solutions are not paths to democracy and power. A one-person operation or a small clique is doomed from the start. There is no substitute for an organized, democratic group. Be patient and supportive and keep your eyes on the prize. Make it clear to your coworkers that you need each other, and that there is room for them in your group -- not just as foot soldiers, but as full, equal participants and leaders.

2. Do you question authority?

You want people to think and use their judgment.
Do people challenge the boss? Speak out in a union meeting? Do they demand accountability, and ask hard questions? Support others when they do this -- even when they are questioning you. In your group, encourage discussion, questions, and debate.

3. Do you confront management?

You want people to "speak truth to power."
Organize actions where people stand up to the boss. Use all the tools available to you -- grievances, work-to-rule, march on the boss, slow downs -- to get people involved in putting direct pressure on management. Teach people to be smart about it so they do not get set-up -- be a "model worker," obey first grieve later, etc. -- but take the fight to management in the workplace.

4. Do you spread information, knowledge, and skills?

Give people the information they need, or--better yet--teach them how to get it for themselves. Do you know how to get union officers' salaries? A copy of the contract? Answers about members' legal rights? Do you know how to file, investigate, and present grievances? How to run a job action? How to plan and run a meeting? Your group should be a school for organizing. Do not hoard knowledge or information, even if takes time to spread it out.

5. Do you get people involved in collective activity?

We learn how to act collectively by doing it. Start where people are and escalate--from wearing a sticker, to signing a petition, to filing a grievance, up to bigger job actions--always working together.

6. Do you use creativity and make organizing fun?

Use cartoons, songs, costumes, contests for supervisor who commits most contract violations per shift—appeal to your coworkers’ sense of creativity and humor. Ridicule can be a powerful weapon for undermining your employer's agenda.

7. Do you practice democracy within your group?

This is what democracy looks like. Use your meetings and actions to give people a working example of democracy. Encourage people to think, question, challenge each other, but also to reach decisions, take actions, and follow-up. Practice group-centered leadership -- where leaders help others participate and contribute to build a strong group.

8. Do you bring in potential activists?

There are different levels of knowledge and involvement—from the core activist, to the regular activists, to the passive supporters. Get your regular activists to play a more central role, and bring your supporters into some kind of activity. When you plan an action, think about who you want to reach and how you can bring them closer. Core activists need to turn over some of their work as the group grows.

9. Do you build dialogue and unity across potential divisions?

Inequality and democracy do not mix. Employers will try to split you up by race, gender, language, sexual orientation, job title, whatever they can find. The goals and priorities of your group and its activists and leaders need to include every group of workers. What issues do you share? Do you include people from the different groups in planning, organizing, leading, and taking action? Do you speak one-on-one with people in each group?

10. Do you talk to coworkers one-on-one?

Use one-on-one all the time. By talking person-to-person, you build relationships and learn about people's concerns, interests, and skills. One-on-one is mostly asking questions and listening. Make it part of everything you do: give a person a flyer and talk with her about it, instead of dumping a pile of flyers on a table.

11. Do you organize the organizers?

You will need to organize the one-on-one contact so that one person is not trying to talk one-on-one to fifty people. Make a list of members, divide it up, and recruit people to talk one-on-one to a set number of workers, then report back. Keep a database of members with phone number, e-mail, address, job, shift, etc. and a note about their interests and talents. Use your network to spread the work around -- you will create more leaders and avoid burning out your core group.

12. Do you think strategically and act methodically?

Be aware of every part of organizing: brainstorming, analyzing, planning, assigning tasks, acting, and evaluating. Take the time to set clear goals for the long term, medium term and short term. Discuss the advantages and risks of actions you are planning. Have a backup plan. Be "SMART", make sure every task is Specific, Measurable, Assigned to a person, Realistic, and Time-specific. After the action, assess your work and set new goals.

13. Do you pay attention to roles?

Look at your group: Who decides? Who acts? Who has information? Who asks questions? Who answers? Who makes the plans? Who does the boring or interesting work? Who learns or teaches? Who is at the meeting? Who speaks for the group? The more people do, the stronger they become.

Association for Union Democracy
104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA
718-564-1114, info@uniondemocracy.org
www.uniondemocracy.org

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ORGANIZING FOR WOMEN'S ISSUES

(from AUD’s Manual for Survival for Women in Nontraditional Employment)

It is not easy to be one of a few women doing work that has traditionally been reserved for men. You may experience isolation and hostility, not just from management, but even from some of the men within your union who should be a source of support. The old boys network may be very much alive in your union. Women of color and lesbians may experience added discrimination and harassment. By getting together with other women in the union, you can gain the support you need to survive the stresses of life on the job. As part of a women's committee or caucus, you can overcome your individual powerlessness and fight effectively for equal treatment and responsive leadership in your union...

Click here to read the rest of this handout.

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A Draft Bill of Rights for Building Trades Unionists

AUD drafted this Bill of Rights for discussion at the AUD National Conference on Union Democracy in the Building Trades, November 8th and 9th, 2002, in Brooklyn, New York. We encourage construction unionists to circulate and post this document for discussion and debate, and to forward responses to us at billofrights@uniondemocracy.org. It is our hope that construction unionists will embrace and promote these principles in their unions. (Last updated: 1/3/03; contact AUD for 11 x 17 inch poster version.)

1. No more "right to reject."
Most construction contracts give employers the right to reject any applicants for employment without explanation or justification, even when they are dispatched from the halls of unions with exclusive employment rights. The so-called "right to reject" leaves employers free to take action against union activists, to blacklist union stewards, and to discriminate against any worker who files a grievance to enforce the terms of a union contract.
We call upon our unions to take action to abolish the right to reject. Unions should insist that employers show good cause before rejecting an applicant, that they be required to explain and justify any such rejection, and that procedures be established for enforcing the new rule.

2. A fair hiring system.
Construction unionists should have the right to work safely, in dignity, and with a high standard of living. In too many cases, arrogant officials use their control over job referrals to build a political machine and guarantee their reelection by handing out the best jobs to their cronies and discriminating against independent-minded members who insist on their rights. Union members who are women or workers of color are doubly victims of such favoritism in hiring.
We insist upon the implementation of a fair hiring system which distributes job opportunities for all dues-paying members without fear or favor.

3. Strong job stewards and a grievance procedure which protects workers from retaliation.
Once employers lose the right to reject, union stewards can be protected against retaliation and will be free to fulfill their responsibility to enforce the union contract. It will be possible to implement an effective grievance procedure to protect workers' rights to safe and decent working conditions. Meanwhile all unionists should be informed of their rights under existing grievance procedures. Where unionists are discriminated against by employers for insisting on their rights, the union should seek every avenue of recourse, including a demand that the NLRB fulfill its obligations to protect union workers' rights to fair employment.

4. Direct elections: one member one vote.
The top officers of construction unions, like the officers of other unions, tend to lose touch with their membership and forget that their first loyalty is to those whose dues pay their salaries. To remind them of this basic principle of unionism, we propose that top international and regional officers be elected by direct vote of the membership under a system which provides for: 1. Supervision by an impartial outside agency independent of the union power structure, 2. Reasonable requirements for running for office, and 3. Provisions for the discussion of candidates and issues at union expense. Meanwhile, as a step forward, where top officers are elected by vote of delegates at conventions we propose that delegates vote by secret ballot to free them of pressure and intimidation by the incumbents in power.

5. Right to vote on contracts.
We demand an end to the system by which collective bargaining contracts are imposed on members without their review. We endorse the right of members to vote for or against proposed contracts. Before any such vote, we propose 1. That the full and accurate terms of any contract be reported to the membership far enough in advance of the vote to permit intelligent review, and 2. That provisions be made for democratic discussion of the contract provisions.

6. Let our members know!
We demand automatic distribution to all members of copies of the collective bargaining contract and union constitutions and bylaws. Our unions must comply with Section 105 of the LMRDA which requires unions to inform members of their democratic rights under Federal law, a summary of these rights to be posted permanently on the union's website, distributed to all new members, and appended as information to the international constitution.

7. Equal treatment for all members.
Establish a system and a schedule of meetings which allows all members to attend and to vote, taking into account that members may live and work in geographically scattered localities. The power of labor depends upon strengthening the solidarity of union members. Therefore it is essential to ameliorate the tension between travelers and all other members. Because of the transient nature of our work, construction workers are denied the kind of seniority rights that provide security for unionized workers in production. It is imperative that hiring systems be adopted which assure local members the greatest possibility of secure and steady work.

At the same time, when work is slow in their own locality, union members must be protected in their right to seek jobs where the demand for labor is high. Travelers should receive full protection of their rights under the contract as all others. After living and working for an extended period in their new locality, they should be eligible for membership with full rights in the local under whose jurisdiction they have been working.

8. Strengthen the right to run for office.
Meeting attendance rules and long-term continuous good-standing rules simply restrict the right to run for office to a tiny entrenched clique. A longtime union member can be disqualified even if she or he inadvertently and temporarily falls in arrears months before an election. End all such rules and extend the right to run for office to all members in current good standing who have been union members for some reasonable period, like six months or one year.

9. Freedom from corruption.
Let all elected local trustees do their job with full access to the union books. Provide members with full and accurate reports on union finances. To assure honest elections and referendums, let voting procedures be supervised by a reliable outside agency wherever there is even the remotest possibility of fraud.

Please post this notice widely. (Copies available upon request.)
The Association for Union Democracy presents this Bill of Rights for discussion and debate by construction unionists. This Bill of Rights offers more than principles to endorse. It can serve as a guide to action on those issues which are directly relevant in your union. We welcome feedback.

Association for Union Democracy
104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA
718-564-1114, info@uniondemocracy.org
www.uniondemocracy.org

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AUD's Union Democracy Benchmarks

We do not maintain a list of "AUD-certified" democratic unions. We feel that judgment is best left in the hands of union members themselves, the people most familiar with the real workings of the institution. Visit the rank-and-file sites on our links page to see how various unions measure up in the eyes of some of their members.

But, we like the idea of union democracy benchmarks, so we put together the following checklist. Warning! This list has many limitations; we welcome your feedback.

AUD's Union Democracy Benchmarks (updated 8/12/02)

  • Fair elections that promote participation. Union goes beyond the minimum DOL requirements for elections (see links below): provides more time for nominations and campaigning, union representatives encourage members to run for office. All members in good standing eligible to run; no continuous good standing or meeting attendance requirements. No ban on non-member contributions (except employers and unions) to candidates for union office. Officers back members' right to time off for campaigning. If necessary, elections run by legitimate outside agency.
  • Frequent, contested elections. More than minimum required by law; members regularly challenge incumbents; there is turnover in officers and representatives.
  • Access to membership list. In elections, candidates have access to membership list (name, work location, phone, e-mail) for campaign purposes, including right to copy the list.
  • Open publications. Local newsletter/website publishes members' views, including those critical of officials, representatives, or union policy; union encourages debate and discussion of issues and candidates. In elections, all candidates have equal use of union publications and means of communication (website, newsletter, e-mail list) to put out their campaign material.
  • Member ratification of contracts. All contracts and side agreements between the union and management subject to ratification by secret ballot by members covered by the contract.
  • Strike votes. Members vote on striking, on return to work, and on other decision during strike; strike votes not used to force members to ratify contracts ("either you vote "yes" or you vote to strike").
  • Informed vote. Complete text of proposed contract changes, amendments, referenda, etc. distributed to members prior to ratification with sufficient time for meaningful membership review and discussion. Union circulates different opinions about the contract offer.
  • Elected representatives. Shop stewards and business agents elected, secret ballot, by members they represent, subject to recall by members they represent; stewards and active members trained in legal rights and organizing; stewards council that meets to plan and coordinate action.
  • Grievants' bill of rights. Workers participate fully in the grievance process at every step, with full information about their case and its progress.
  • Access to information. Union representatives give members current and complete copies of the contract and the union constitution/bylaws. Contract and Constitution are published on union website. Members have easy access to information on officers' salaries, budget, and expenses. Union representatives regularly inform members of their rights under federal and state law, and how to enforce them, including rights and responsibilities under the LMRDA.
  • Regular local meetings. At least quarterly; announced ahead of time; time and place convenient to members; agenda circulated in advance; real business conducted, not just a pep rally; members encouraged to speak, make proposals, vote, and ask questions. Reasonable quorum (not so high as to prevent member meetings). Minutes available to members.
  • Independent organizing and communication. Members organize in independent committees and caucuses, publish rank-and-file newsletters and websites, run candidates for union office. Union officers encourage this.
  • Inclusion and equality. All members are treated fairly; union fights discrimination by management and among members; officers and representatives reflect membership in terms of gender, race, language, craft, seniority, etc. Contracts, Constitution, meetings, publications translated into languages spoken by members.
  • Education for members. Union trains members in legal rights and organizing, including how to participate effectively in the union and how to organize on the job.

Limitations:

The AUD Union Democracy checklist is not exhaustive -- we have undoubtedly left out items that in a given set of circumstances could be critically important.

Many of the items on the list are subject to legitimate debate -- is it always more democratic to have elected business agents? Are direct elections by members always better than delegated elections?

It is possible for a union to meet many of these benchmarks in form, but not in substance, for example holding regular union meetings that really only serve to rubber stamp decisions already made by the officers. The reverse is also possible, a union's officers might do a fine job of representing members even in the absence of certain democratic practices or rules.

There are principles that are important to the union movement that are not strictly speaking union democracy issues: whether to oppose concessions, how much to prioritize new organizing, the role of unions in politics. This list is about what makes a union democratic, not about what union members should use that democracy for.

A union does not become democratic once and for all, but rather as a result of constant vigilance and struggle.

The checklist is neither our ultimate wish list, nor just the bare legal minimum. (See our summary of legal requirements.) It assumes that your union is already meeting its legal obligations under federal, state and local law. This checklist is intended to spark your thinking on the subject.

Association for Union Democracy
104 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11225; USA
718-564-1114, info@uniondemocracy.org
www.uniondemocracy.org

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Where to file complaints

To file complaints with government agencies you must contact them and, usually, go to the local or regional office. See the AUDLinks page on this site for internet addresses for government agencies. For a listing of agencies in your area, consult the government listings in your phone book, call information, or use the links on the AUDLinks page to get a listing of state agencies. For some violations, you may need to file a civil lawsuit in state or federal court. Call or e-mail AUD for assistance and possible referrals 718-564-1114 , info@uniondemocracy.org.

The following is a list for workers in New York City. We suggest you make up a list for your area, using the phone book, a local librarian, or the internet. (See the AUDLinks page on this site for good leads.)

National Labor Relations Board (organizing, contract negotiations, unfair labor practices)
26 Federal Plaza, Rm. 3614
(Broadway and Worth Streets)
New York, NY 10278
(212)-264-0300, 0360

Federal Labor Relations Board (for Federal Employees)
(212) 399-5183, (202) 523-8271

U.S. Department of Labor

Office of Labor Management Standards (financial reports, constitutions, election protests)
201 Varick Street
New York, NY
(212)-337-2580

Wage and Hour Division (unpaid wages, overtime, etc.)
26 Federal Plaza
(Broadway and Worth Streets)
New York, NY
(212)-264-8185

Office of Pension and Welfare Benefits
26 Federal Plaza
(Broadway and Worth Streets)
New York, NY
(212)-264-4830

Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)
201 Varick Street
New York, NY
(212)-337-2378

Asbestos Control Bureau of Enforcement
One Main Street, Rm. 811
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 797-7686

Discrimination Agencies

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission
(800) 669-3362
90 Church Street, Rm. 1501
New York, NY 10007
(212)-264-7161

New York State Division of Human Rights
State Office Building
Veterans Memorial Highway
Hauppage, NY 11787
(516)-360-6434

Brooklyn Office
55 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 722-2856

NYS Harlem Office Building
163 W. 125 Street, 4th floor
New York, NY 10027
(212) 870-8650

New York City Commission on Human Rights
40 Rector Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10006
(212)-306-7500

New York State Agencies

Public Employment Relations Board
55 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 260-4545

State Labor Relations Board
400 Broome Street
New York, NY
(212) 219-4125

NYC Office of Collective Bargaining
40 Rector Street
New York, NY
(212) 306-7160

Workers Compensation Board
180 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 802-4981 or 4982

Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board
One Main Street
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 797-7156

New York City Department of Environmental Protection
59-17 Junction Blvd.
Corona, NY 11368
24 hour hotline
(718) 699-9811

New York State Department of Law, Labor Bureau
120 Broadway, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10271
(212) 416-8700


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