Association For Union Democracy




From the December 2000 issue of UDR



Darwinian Selection Produces A Monster


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A kind of discussion by Herman Benson


As time goes on, and I admit it may take another generation or two for its full flowering, you may have to be the equivalent of a Certified Public Accountant or a made member of a family to run for international union office. The date, scientifically established, when this monster budded off from the main line of evolution was 1978 when the Steelworkers, alarmed by Ed Sadlowski’s strong insurgent run for international president, adopted a rule which forbade any candidate for union office to solicit, accept, receive, condone, permit, or think about campaign contributions in cash or kind—like paper, clips and the use of typewriters—from anyone not a fully paid-up member of the union.


To enforce the rule, the union buttressed it with several pages of densely printed requirements for record keeping, frequent reporting of names, amounts, sources, and whatnots. Still, the full text of the intricate rule and the associated directives, might still be stuffed into a single no. 10 envelope. Remember, however, that the first cluster of one-celled creatures that got together to form a new more complex organism only occupied a micro-space, and the next thing you know, we got a tyrannosaurus rex.


Cutting through the thick brambles of verbiage, what it means is that to run for office legally you can only search for money from those who don’t have much. But to run illegally, you can take money anywhere from anyone as long as you don’t get caught. In time, those will survive best who can navigate their way around banks in Cayman Islands or have family friends who know how.


In 1982, the Supreme Court decided that the Steel rules are permissible under the law, not that they are desirable, not that they are mandatory but only that they are permissible. But through that evolutionary crack, these things became fruitful and multiplied.


The United Mine Workers and the SEIU followed with similar bans, but short and constitutional without the heavy enforcement superstructure. The IBEW came through with its own variant, complete with the accountants nightmare; it tried to extend the rule into the locals, but backed off under threat of a lawsuit.


Then the lawyers got into the act. When the courts intervened in the Teamsters union and the Laborers Union and the Carpenters Unions, the judges appointed lawyers to act as election officers and each one invented a variant on the Steel rule.


Remember, they were not required to use the Steel nonmembers rule. The law does ban employer contributions but not contributions from other nonmembers. As time went on, these lawyers simply decided that the Steel rule was a great idea, and they built upon it. And built and built.


We can only imagine the delight with which they seized the opportunity to elucidate and amplify. The first Teamster election officer added his piece by demanding reports and a list of its contributors from AUD. His successor extended the federal law’s ban on employer contributions by prohibiting an attorney from urging others to make contributions. And the next officer extended it even further to ban all nonmember contributions.


And so it went.


The lawyer who wrote the New York Carpenter rules threw in the Steelworkers ban. And so did the Laborers election officer.


A lawyer is one who looks for possible loopholes and then, in plugging up each loophole, opens up four more that have to be plugged. And so the rules become bulkier and more complex.


The latest Teamster rules run to at least 100 pages.


The Laborers election officer did a fine job in supervising the last election of international officers and will surely do the same in the next. But his rules runneth over.


I don’t remember how many pages, but it yields nothing to the Teamsters. I no longer possess a copy because I sent mine to one of our attorneys; it was too long to copy or fax on our rickety equipment.


In just twenty years, the election rule book has erupted into a multi-page monster. If this keeps up, it will soon rival the Manhattan telephone directory.


And then the IRS Code.




The Association for Union Democracy.

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