Unions talk a big game about voting rights. Every election cycle, they spend millions in members’ dues on left-leaning and Democratic-aligned get-out-the-vote groups. But when the elections are closer to home, Big Labor ignores principles of democracy. Evidence its flacking of the “Workplace Democracy Act”—an Orwellian name that reminded us of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—which would replace private votes on union representation with publicly obtained card signatures.
This week, the legal wires give us another example of unions being democratic in name only: A Las Vegas local of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has been accused by the Department of Labor of using a questionable literacy test and nonstandard election procedures to disqualify a member from running for Vice President of the local.
In a scene reminiscent of the Jim Crow South, the union’s election judge allegedly ordered prospective candidate Mark Trujillo (an immigrant member of Local 872) to “read aloud a provision of the union’s constitution to determine whether Trujillo was literate. No other candidate was required to read aloud to assess his literacy.” Trujillo was later disqualified from running for union office, as were all his fellow challengers to the union incumbents. Labor law permits setting literacy as a condition for holding union office, but the requirement must be assessed uniformly.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about unions going the extra mile (and allegedly breaking the law) to ensure incumbent union officers have a lock on their positions. SEIU Local 221 reportedly censored candidates’ statements in a re-run election after only one percent of members voted in an officer election with polling stations at “5 weird Starbucks locations.” The Department of Labor has concluded 20 “voluntary compliance agreements” just this year to remedy improper union elections.
Unions’ consistent disregard for the basic democratic protections guaranteed to union members by the Landrum-Griffin Act shows the need to expand employee rights. The Employee Rights Act (ERA) currently before Congress would require unions themselves to stand for reelection under a recertification procedure.
Rather than frequently rigged “democratic” officer elections run by unions, the ERA would require federally supervised referendums on whether the union was effective enough for the employees to keep around. The measure is widely supported, with 77% of union households favoring the measure.