Laborers Will Soon Elect Officers.

That's news?




LIUNA members have been electing delegates from their locals to the union's 2001 international convention where candidates for top office are to be nominated by the delegates.


Following the convention, those lucky enough to gain the nomination will go on the ballot for election by direct vote of the membership. What is newsworthy about these events is that they are worth reporting. This is a union once so heavily infiltrated by organized crime that it went for 30 years, 1911-1941, without any election of national officers. In 1981, one delegate, an AUD associate, was beaten right on the convention floor just for trying to nominate an opposition candidate.


By now the mood has been changing. The union operates under the terms of a consent agreement with the Justice Department; in the new atmosphere members feel freer to speak up and to run for office. For the Laborers, it is a real achievement. That is what is worth reporting. But it is progress, not perfection!


As in 1996, this year's election of delegates and officers is supervised by Stephen Goldberg, the outside election officer appointed under the terms of the consent agreement. Again, he has been scrupulously fair in establishing procedures to guarantee an honest count. He has preferred charges against at least one local election officer for mishandling ballots. He has explicitly affirmed the right of rank and filers to observe convention sessions.


"Accredited" candidates will get a fair chance to reach the membership. Goldberg has promulgated rules that give them access to the union magazine; candidates have the right to address union meetings; candidates can have actual copies of the union membership list and the names and addresses of convention delegates. But Goldberg's good intentions are limited by the basic conditions that govern the elections.


Candidates have their right to this, that, and the other. Candidates! But how does one become a candidate? To begin enjoying some of these rights an aspirant must become "accredited" as a candidate.


To be accredited you must have already been elected as a delegate from your local. But, to run for delegate you must have been a member of the local for two years, in continuous good standing. (Goldberg has tried to take the edge off that nasty requirement by ruling that locals may not disqualify candidates by a last minute notice of a break in their good standing.)


In addition to all those requirements, the hopeful candidate-to-become-an-accredited-candidate must present 1,000 signatures on a nominating petition for top office; and 500, for regional office. Having surmounted all those hurdles, only gives the applicant certain campaigning rights. "Accreditation" does not guarantee a spot on the ballot in the actual referendum election.


There is still more to come. To get on the final ballot, the "accredited' candidate must have been a union member for five years, a convention delegate, and working at the trade. (That last provision is always waived for full time union officers.) Finally comes the really big one: To end up on the final ballot, you must get the support of 10% of the delegates from your constituency. Since there will be 2,500 delegates at the convention, candidates for president, secretary treasurer, or vice president at large will need the support of 250 delegates.


In 1996, the secretary treasurer faced no opposition. There were two candidates for president. The successful incumbent, Arthur Coia, was later forced out of the union on corruption charges. The defeated opponent, Bruno Caruso, was later forced out of the union on corruption charges.


The requirements are so difficult that no one is likely to be able to run against the administration, whose top officers may coast in without the need for an election. If so, in 2001, LIUNA may see the most scrupulously, most honestly, most painstakingly supervised election never conducted.


August/September 2001

Association for Union Democracy
500 State Street
Brooklyn NY 11217
phone: 718 855-6650
fax: 718 855-6799

The Association for Union Democracy is a national pro-union non-profit that promotes the principles and practices of internal union democracy in the North American labor movement.

Union Democracy for a Strong Labor Movement

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