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Eligibility in union elections

Qualifications for Union Office

In a 1977 decision involving the United Steelworkers of America, the U.S. Supreme Court by a split vote upset a union rule requiring candidates for local union office to have attended at least one-half of a local's union regular meetings for the 3 years preceding the election. Under the union's rule, 96.5 percent of the members of the local were disqualified from union office. In its decision, the high court stressed that national labor legislation (and specifically the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959) was designed to promote union democracy without interfering unduly with union internal affairs. It said:

Applying these principles to the case, we conclude that the anti-democratic effects of the meeting attendance rule outweighs the interests urged in its support An attendance requirement that that results in the exclusion of 96.5 percent of the members from candidacy for union office hardly seems to be a reasonable qualification" (as required by Landrum-Griffin) consistent with the goal of free and democratic elections. A requirement having that result obviously severely restricts the free choice of the membership in selecting their leaders.

The minority of the court believed the attendance rule to be a reasonable qualification. It criticized the majority for using a statistical test. The rule was reasonable, it said, because it could encourage attendance at meetings, guarantee that candidates for office had a meaningful interest in the union, and assure that the candidates had a chance to become informed about union affairs.

Do you agree with the majority or the minority here and in either case, why?

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Do you agree with the majority or the minority here and in either case, why?

Because participation in union activities is more important than mere office holding and attendance at meeting is a very important form of participation, I agree with the minority opinion. As at every union meeting a list of worker related issues are discussed and decisions taken it is important that the future office bearers attend at least 50% of the meetings.

One important reason why the rule of 50% attendance should be enforced is that the incoming office bearers are aware of the past issues and ...

Solution Summary

There is a requirement in the union rules that 50% of the meetings should be attended by a member to be eligible for standing in elections. The legal ramifications of the rule are discussed.