The Bureau of National Affairs
Volume 46 Number 2284
Wednesday, June 28, 2000
Rules Allow First-Ever Direct Election Of Full Slate of LIUNA International Officers
CHICAGO--Under draft election rules released June 23, the Laborers International Union of North America will for the first time in its nearly 100-year history elect a full slate of international officers by a direct vote of the union's membership.
While LIUNA's president was elected directly by the union's membership in 1996, the new election rules establish processes for the direct election of all 15 international officers by rank-and-file union members. The history-making rules seek to remove the alleged biases and fairness questions associated with past LIUNA elections, which featured balloting by convention delegates. Direct election of all international officers comes as a result of a referendum approved by union members in 1996. The new rules also establish a process by which delegates to the 2001 convention will be chosen.
"These rules are designed to provide for fair, honest, open, and informed elections in which all members can nominate, campaign, vote, and run for office and without intimidation," the draft rules state.
Stephen Goldberg, LIUNA's independent elections officer, developed the so-called "Draft Rules for the 2001 Delegate and International Officer Elections." Goldberg, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, was LIUNA's elections officer in 1996.
Voter Participation Concerns
Goldberg told BNA that several components of the draft rules were designed to address the minimal degree of participation experienced in the last general election. Only 15.5 percent of LIUNA's 446,000 eligible members cast ballots for general president in 1996. Goldberg blamed the low voter turnout rate on the union's lack of democratic traditions.
Goldberg said this concern about voter turnout led him to draft rules granting candidates for international office more opportunities to campaign and express their views to LIUNA members. Similar opportunities at the delegate level are critical, Goldberg said, as LIUNA develops democratic traditions.
The opportunity for delegate candidates to address their locals and send out mailings are big changes from a few years ago when some locals nominated and elected delegates with little or no notification issued to their memberships. "What I am trying to do is make it easier for the candidates to reach the membership. That's all I can do," Goldberg said. "I can't force anyone to vote."
Convention Meets in September 2001
Voting to select convention delegates will take place in June 2001, and each local will determine whether to conduct mail or in-person balloting. The international union's convention is scheduled for Sept. 17-20, 2001. The convention will be followed by mail balloting for all international officers in November and December of 2001.
Independent oversight of the international union's elections in 2001 and 2006 is required under the latest internal reform agreement reached last January between LIUNA and the Department of Justice. Since 1995, the department has monitored the union's efforts to rid itself of corrupt elements and mob associations. The internal reform process came in lieu of Justice Department threats to take over the union and impose a government-directed house-cleaning process.
LIUNA's general president, general secretary-treasurer, four vice presidents at large, and nine district vice presidents will be elected directly by members. To be nominated for one of the officer positions, a union member must be a delegate to the convention and have nomination votes of 10 percent of all delegates entitled to vote.
Election rules include wider opportunities for campaigning for convention delegate candidates. Delegate candidates will have the opportunity to address a regular meeting of their local, and will be able to send, at no cost to themselves, a one-page campaign communication to all members of their local.
Each international-officer candidate will have wider opportunities for campaigning, including the right to address a regular meeting of each local. They also will have the right to publish a one-page campaign advertisement in all issues of LIUNA's in-house magazine during 2001. The rules also create various financial disclosure requirements.
The rules establish campaign contribution limits for officer and delegate candidates. Recordkeeping and disclosure requirements are also imposed on candidates.
Zack Matus, a spokesman for LIUNA, said the international union had no comment on the draft rules. He said LIUNA members have until Aug. 1 to comment on the rules before a final version is issued in September.
Matus said he was unsure whether the international would submit comments through this process. "At this point we believe it is our membership's prerogative to comment," Matus said. "I'm not aware of any plans by the international to comment, but it is possible."
James McGough, a spokesman for a reform group known as Laborers for Justice, expressed confidence in the new election rules, but said he would ask for certain modifications. "This will be a more informed electorate than in 1996," McGough said. "Members will have more time to organize, and they will have more opportunities to be informed. Laborers for Justice will submit suggested changes to the elections officer, however, including [a request for] additional mailings," he said.
The draft rules are posted on the LIUNA Web site at www.liuna.org. and on The Laborers Network at www.thelaborers.net
By Michael Bologna
Copyright © 2000 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.