ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

May 22, 2007

2007.05.22: Re: Response to alleged violations of UAW Constitution

Filed under: ALAA History,Key Documents,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 2:16 pm

From: L.Antonia Codling
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 2:16 PM
To: ALAA MEMBERS; George Albro
Cc: [REDACTED]
Subject: Re: Response to alleged violations of UAW Constitution

The shame of the leadership of this Union continues to be that whenever an idea or opinion is expressed that is contrary to those in the majority, those ideas are ignored, or at minimum, never fully explored or addressed.  Otherwise, it is done so in an inappropriate fashion such as this.

My message consisted entirely of concerns about apparent violations of union rules, and contained no allegations of bad faith or personal attacks.  In contrast, George’s reply drips with hostility, defensiveness and partisanship (I am allegedly a “complaining member,” who has “suddenly opined”; my arguments are “completely without merits,” “ludicrous,” “exclusionary,” “undemocratic,” “ironic”; it is “difficult to fathom why an ALAA leader would argue,” etc.).

There are absolutely no “improper motives” that could have been inferred from my suggestion that the EB/leadership of this Union must ensure that the proper process for this election has been followed.   I have not and would never suggest that the members should not be allowed to elect their president.  My message was sent to inform the members.  My objection is to George Albro’s arrogant response, and his decision not to hold the emergency EB meeting I requested to consider these and other concerns.  Other EB members were attempting to coordinate their schedules when George unilaterally determined that the meeting was not necessary.

Moreover, I did not attempt to disqualify Debbie Wright from running.  However, in the event that Debbie wins this special election, her seat as Recording Secretary on the EB will be vacant.  Will the EB then hold another Special Election — or not, because they do not want more dissenters in its midst;  Or will the members call for the filling of this vacancy?

In addition, George is not persuasive about the election rules themselves.  If we are now “amalgamated,” it’s the first I’ve heard about it.  (The Delegate Council minutes for May 31, 2005 state that ALAA could “become” an amalgamated local, but when did this actually happen, was the membership ever so informed, and were our charter or bylaws ever so amended?)

Contrary to George’s claim, our union bylaws do not state that no membership meeting is required in a special election.  While we have never needed a special election for president until now, we have always had such meetings and there is no reason not to have one now.

I have been raising and investigating these question since the election was noticed, and if George was not on vacation perhaps they could have been addressed (or dismissed) sooner.  At this point in time, it’s really not about this election or any of the candidates, because the President of this Union is only 1 person  — there are 700+ of us.  What are we willing to accept when our leaders have determined for us what is appropriate?

>>> George Albro 5/21/2007 9:29 PM >>>

See Attached and below.

In arguing that the ALAA membership should not be permitted to elect its President and that the Special Election to fill the presidential vacancy should be canceled, an Executive Board member, 3 days before the election, has suddenly opined that the Special Election violates the UAW Constitution. For the reasons stated below, that argument is completely without merit.

1. The argument that the vacant presidency can only be filled by a vice president, not by a special election, is misplaced. The UAW Constitution requires that all officer vacancies be filled by a special election, except for the office of president, where THE vice president shall serve out the remaining term. However, ALAA has 9 vice presidents (4 from CDD, CAB, Civil, JRD, CLO and Federal Defenders of NY). In that situation, the UAW Const. says that the Local Union shall establish a fair and reasonable procedure for determining which of the vice presidents shall fill the vacancy. ALAA’s Bylaws, enacted by the vote of its membership in May 1999, has established that procedure as follows: “All officer and other EB vacancies shall be filled promply by a Special Election.  PENDING THE SPECIAL ELECTION (emph.added), …..a presidential vacancy shall be filled by one of the vice presidents elected by the DC”.

On April 30, 2007, the ALAA EB voted unanimously (without the complaining EB

member present), pursuant to ALAA’s Bylaws, to call a prompt special election, opting

not to call a special DC meeting to elect a VP to be president for the 10 days (May 14th-

24th) between the end of Rogers’ presidency and the Special Election by the entire

membership. It is submitted that the UAW Constitution sets a minimum standard of

democracy which a local must adhere to. Where a Local’s membership, as ALAA’s, has

enacted a procedure which is more democratic than that required by the Constitution, it

does not conflict with the UAW Constitution. To hold otherwise would mean that we

must fill every vacant officer position by a Special Election of the entire membership

EXCEPT the most important position, the Local’s president. It would also mean that if

none of the Vice Presidents wanted to serve out the remaining term, then ALAA should

have NO President for the next 18 months. Finally, such an interpretation would mean

that none of the 3 current nominees would be eligible to run.

2. It is also opined by the complaining EB member that the date of the election can only be set by “the membership body” and not by the EB. However, this provision is applicable to ONE SHOP Locals which are required to have monthly membership meetings. ALAA is an Amalgamated Local, which means we represent employees of more than one employer (we currently represent

3 separate shops, with 3 separate contracts, and anticipate representing more in the near future).

In that situation, the UAW Constitution allows the Local to dispense with monthly membership meetings and to instead form a Joint Council representing all our shops (see Article 37, Sec.

4(b)). ALAA’s Delegate Council which has existed for virtually ALAA’s entire existence,  is identical to a Joint Council and allows ALAA to concentrate membership meetings in the offices, where attendance is the highest. Moreover, the Constitution explicitly recognizes the authority of the Executive Board to set the election date.

Thus, the membership, by passing Bylaws requiring a “prompt” special election in the

event of a presidential vacancy, is in fact the authority requiring the scheduling of a

special election. The EB, in setting the specific date, as it as done without objection in

virtually  every election since the establishment of the EB, is doing no more than carrying

out the will of the membership.  To argue that ALAA must call a Special membership

meeting, which the UAW Constitution does not otherwise obligate it to do, to decide if

May 24th or May 25th should be the date of the election, is ludicrous. And should it have

called such an meeting, and not have obtained a quorum (which almost certainly would

have happened), then the UAW Constitution explicitly allow the EB to set the precise

date. This is putting form way, way over substance.

3. The election committee must be elected by the DC (ALAA’s Bylaws, Art. VIII, Sec. 4.1).

Whether this violated the UAW Constitution in 1999 when it was enacted with the then leadership’s recommendation, is irrelevant. Since ALAA became chartered as an Amalgamated Local (see #2, above), several years ago, the Joint Council or ALAA’s DC has the constitutional authority to elect the election committee.

Pursuant to the Bylaws, the DC has always elected the election committee. The current

election committee of Tom Bomba and George Albro  has been elected by the DC and

has supervised several elections over the last few years (a thankless job, indeed). The

union has consistently  reached out for more members and Kamber Brisbane has

graciously agreed to volunteer to help out with this election.

4. The complaining EB member next implies that the UAW Constitution was violated because the EB was apparently not given the chance to “ensure proper election procedure”, presumably by the election committee. However, this clearly conflicts with the previous argument that the EB was too involved in the election procedure, e.g., by calling for the  election in the first place and setting the date. Simultaneously arguing that the EB had no right to call an election and set the date and that it did not adequately supervise that election is strange indeed.

5. The complaining EB member also argues that the UAW Constitution was somehow violated since the union did not hold a “special union-wide membership meeting” to close nominations and conduct a candidates forum.

First, it should be noted that nowhere in the UAW Constitution is there any such

requirement. ALAA’s Bylaws do require such a procedure, but only during triennial

general elections where all EB positions are open for election. No such procedure is

required for special elections and none has ever been held for any special election in

ALAA’s recent history. Moreover, candidate fora are currently being held in virtually

every office which has requested same, thus maximizing the opportunity of members to

hear and engage the candidates.

6. Finally, the complaining EB attempts to disqualify one of the candidates from running by arguing that she (as current ALAA Recording Secretary) must first resign her current position before running in the Special Election, citing UAW Const. Art. 38, Sec. 16. Apart from the exclusionary, undemocratic nature of such an argument, it is completely baseless. This section clearly bars a member from running for two positions simultaneously, much the same as general election law. Nowhere does it require a current officer to resign when that officer runs for an open position in a special election. If it did, than all the Vice Presidents would have to resign before being considered for the open presidential position, which the complaining EB member argues is the limited pool of eligible candidates.

Thus, all of the complaining EB’s members constitutional arguments are without merit.

It is difficult to fathom why any ALAA leader would argue that the members should not be allowed to elect their president, a sacred, proud  tradition which is as old our union itself. I do not wish to imply any improper motives. However, members should know some context.

Some EB members (not the candidates themselves) wanted to call an “emergency” EB meeting to consider postponing the election due to the fact that there might be some office or ALAA caucus which did not have an opportunity to hear the candidates or have a forum, a concern that we all shared.  However, and quite ironically, it was brought to the attention of the EB that the very UAW Constitution which the complaining member now says was violated, bestows upon the Election Committee alone the authority to take such an unprecedented and severe action. The UAW’s Region 9A sub-regional Director, when asked for guidance on this issue, sent an email citing the constitutional authority for this. Earlier today, the election committee then held a conference call, and voted 2-1 NOT to postpone the election. It cited the fact that, to its knowledge, every office or caucus which had requested a forum had one scheduled and that no committee member knew of anything to the contrary. It offered to investigate with the candidates whether they were available Wednesday evening (May 23rd) to attend a forum at the union office for the benefit of any member who may have missed a forum and wanted to attend one. The committee majority also pointed out that postponing an election should be reserved for the most extraordinary circumstances – which were not present here – and that absentee ballots were sent out and that many members were already in the process of voting by absentee. It was also mentioned that postponing the election would require new notices of required time periods, and that postponing the election would mean a delay of at least another 22 days in the election, during which time ALAA would still be without a president, at a critical time when state legislation (JRD case caps) and CDD and Civil funding was being decided.

It was apparently in reaction to the Election Committee’s reasoning that the complaining

EB member launched her email arguing that the Special Election be canceled outright.

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