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  • authored by remote viewer
  • published Sat, Oct 26, 2002

A Bill of Rights for the Power Source

MFD Weekend: A Bill of Rights for the Power Source

Over the past several months we have discussed off and on the idea of a Bill of Rights for union members. As these discussions have progressed, it is apparent that current legal protections for union members are not good enough and that such a Bill could be helpful in advancing the interests of union members who believe that democratic unions are best for workers. A group of our contributors recently put together a list of the main themes and suggestions that have emerged from these discussions. We put these out to you for discussion and debate with a view to developing a Union Members' Bill of Rights.

1. The right of all workers to join a union of their choice.

2. Union governance on the basis of democratic principles. Unions of, for and by the members.

3. Equal rights to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums, and to attend and participate in union meetings.

4. Freedom of speech and assembly, including the right to criticize officials, speak at union meetings, distribute literature, and hold rank and file caucus meetings without interference from union officials. A specific prohibition against SLAPP lawsuits.

5. The right to secret ballot vote of all members on dues, initiation fees, and assessments.

6. The right to sue the union if internal appeals do not produce a satisfactory result within four months, or if you disagree with the union's decision.

7. Due process in union disputes, including the right to specific, written charges; the right to confront and cross-examine accusers; adequate time to prepare a defense; and a full and fair hearing. The union may not discipline you for exercising protected rights.

8. The members have the right to full and timely disclosure of all policies, strategies, actions, and finances of their union. Furthermore, members have the right to vote on the entire contract rather than summaries or synopses of the contract.

9. The right of the rank and file to control the union's political endorsements and actions and broad member input prior to political endorsements, contributions and participatory campaigns.

10. The right for members to hold authority over their union resources and policy. Staff and elected leadership are subordinate to members and their duty is to serve the needs of the rank and file.

11. The right to a strong and active voice in the decision making.

A specific prohibition against secret agreements, expressed or implied, between union and employer officials. No agreements that diminish the members' right to strike or effectiveness in a strike.

12. The right to a fair grievance procedure.

13. A job steward program that provides ongoing training, fair access to arbitration for grievances, and organizing around these issues to bring members actively into the process.

14. The right to receive a copy of your collective bargaining agreement (union contract) along with all riders and supplements.

 

15. The right of all workers to change unions of their choice on majority vote of total members in unit.

16. The right of members to determine the union's overall collective bargaining strategies and issues that will be priority items at negotiations.

17. Acknowledgement, at negotiations in within the union's own staffing practices, of social issues that are important to the members.

18. The right of entitlement to family time.

19. The right of a fair and livable wage.

20. The right to employer-paid benefits.

21. The right to place parental obligations as a priority.

22. The right of the majority of the members to recall any officer elected by a direct membership vote.

23. The right to equal access to the membership lists prior to an election. Members running for election to have unqualified access to the employer premise and access to a list of those premises.

24. Staff and elected leadership are subordinate to members and their duty is to serve the needs of the rank and file.

25. The right to be informed fully and educated about monies invested or held in trust on members' behalf and to meaningful participation in decisions related to the investment of those monies.

26. Socially responsible investing of members' funds.

27. An obligation on union officials to use the resources of the union responsibly and always in a manner that provides the greatest and most tangible benefit to the members.

28. The right to be fully informed about the union's constitution and by-laws, including the process for amending those. A vote of all members on any changes to the constitution or by-laws.

29. Election of all union officers by majority vote of the members. One member, one vote.

Please join us in the Forum with your views on this draft Bill. Has anything been missed? Is something less than clear? What would you add/delete and why? In your own words (no need for legalese) tell us what you think.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Oct 26, 2002 8:55pm

These are a great start. Anyone else want to see a mandatory one or two day employer paid pension/benefit seminar upon employment?

The companies all say they care, let them put their money where their mouth is. If it has to be legislated then so be it.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 1:51am

Pension and benefits seminars are a great idea. We need more educational opportunities concerning our future. Along with the paid seminars, what do you think of the following?

Add to #3, The right for any member to run for office, and observe the vote count, along with the right to equal access to union publications during an election campaign-- including union e-mail lists, web sites, listserves, and e-mail publications.

3. Equal rights to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums, and to attend and participate in union meetings, including the right for any member to run for office, and observe the vote count, along with the right to equal access to union publications during an election campaign-- including union e-mail lists, web sites, listserves, and e-mail publications.

Add to #4, Free speech should include free 'web speech' with freedom to discuss union policies and issues, write about, sing about, draw cartoons about, etc. union representatives, complain, protest, demand and advocate.

4. Freedom of speech and assembly, including the right to criticize officials, speak at union meetings, distribute literature, and hold rank and file caucus meetings without interference from union officials; including free 'web speech' with freedom to discuss union policies and issues, write about, sing about, draw cartoons about, etc. union representatives, complain, protest, demand and advocate with a specific prohibition against SLAPP lawsuits.

  • The right to set up a website, discussion list, newsletter, chat room, or other online publication or forum in order to use collective action to influence the union (online pickets, PDF flyers, e-mail petitions, etc.)
  • The right to publish and distribute, in print and electronic form, the financial reports, contracts, side agreements, and your constitution and by-laws.
  • posted by BillPearson
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 6:56am

Interesting discussion, because as i first looked at it, i thought how does this help the vast majority of non-union workers. The immediate answer is that, once union workers have these rights, all other workers would fight to enjoy them also. That unfortunately fails to consider the sorry state of labor laws that prevent workers from joining now.

The old axiom is as true today as it was when it was first scribbled: For every action, there is a reaction. Let me cite my concerns with an analogy that i think is comparable. All during the 60s and 70s, pension plans in the US were being robbed by employers, usually through bankruptcies. The federal government passed legislation in 1974 and again in 1981 or so that it locked down employers from using pension monies. The first bill was ERISA and the second was MEPPA, i think, and both were significant for workers. They forced trust funds to relax rules on qualifying, they lowered age restrictions, vesting and a host of other changes. None of those things were as dramatic as the funding requirements that said if an employer sold or went out of business, someonne was responsible for the withdrawl liability attached or assessed to the fund. The numbers were huge, and the proverbial reaction we talked about above was inevitable. Attorneys representing employers flat out said, don't get into defined benefit plans. They warned employers ten or twenty years down the road when they wanted to sell, it could break them. It was the death knell for newly organized workers joining defined benefit plans.

There-in lies my fear in a bill of rights for only union workers. Will we create a fear that is so intense that no employer will ever accept a union organizing drive without a fight to the death. I think the suggested items would add a whole new dimension to membership, though some of it is called for now. Is there a better value in drafting a bill of rights for workers as a whole?

BTW, RV, great job on putting this together. You never fail to amaze me with your creativity.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 6:58am

quote:


The right to set up a website, discussion list, newsletter, chat room, or other online publication or forum in order to use collective action to influence the union (online pickets, PDF flyers, e-mail petitions, etc.)


We have that ... don't we?

Great ideas Lic. I was hoping the Power Source could put together a dress policy as well. The Power Source should have the right to easily identify the elected representative while they are on duty. Right now I'm thinking clown suit but I'm sure that will change as they do.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 11:10am

quote:


13. A job steward program that provides ongoing training, fair access to arbitration for grievances, and organizing around these issues to bring members actively into the process.


Add to #13: guaranteed full financial support/compensation for the griever when the dispute is delayed or is not finalized within 3 mos(?)

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 11:05pm

quote:


Is there a better value in drafting a bill of rights for workers as a whole?


BP, maybe you can start a new thread concerning a 'Workers Bill of Rights'. I know you have been discussing this very thing with other social reformists. Did you ever get together with the leaders of Isaiah to discuss a BoR? Maybe you can get us off to a good start with the info you already have! There are quite a few of the above proposed rights for union members which would be just as relevant in a workers' BoR don't you think?

quote:


Add to #13: guaranteed full financial support/compensation for the griever when the dispute is delayed or is not finalized within 3 mos(?)


Sig, this would have surely helped NVA and I think it's a good idea and fair to the member considering the hardships a member could expect from a long drawn-out grievance procedure!

  • posted by siggy
  • Mon, Oct 28, 2002 7:07am

quote:


Will we create a fear that is so intense that no employer will ever accept a union organizing drive without a fight to the death.


What I would like to see here is everything a worker needs to survive. If we spend too much time defeating our own ideas what the hell will be left for mainstream to do?

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Nov 13, 2002 1:12pm

Add to the much needed list of workers rights:

The right of a worker to be informed of all possible dangers, real or implied, within the workplace. The worker has the ultimate right to decide for his//her own safety. The safety of workers must override company policy at all times.

ed=added (real or implied)

  • posted by <Joe Blow>
  • Wed, Nov 20, 2002 6:36pm

We have been working with the Ontario Minister of Labour who has a committee looking into a Union Member Bill of Rights. They are hoping to bring it to the floor before the next election. Needless to say there will probably be a lot of oposition from the union officialdom. My take is that the only ones who will complain are the ones we need protection from. When we went to our representive we actually had an International Representative with us. I won't say of what union but needless to say it's a big one. There are some union officials out there who hold some moral values, which our union had some!

  • posted by <Joe Blow>
  • Wed, Nov 20, 2002 6:37pm

Oops, I mean WISH

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Nov 20, 2002 6:57pm

quote:


They are hoping to bring it to the floor before the next election.


Well can we see it? Who's got a copy to show us, after all we are the workers they are talking about ... aren't we?

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Wed, Nov 20, 2002 7:21pm

Yes, joe blow, let's hear more about this. The union officials who are going to oppose this bill will try very hard to keep the public from knowing very much about it. The more publicity the better. Where are things at with the bill of rights for union members in Ontario?

  • posted by <Joe Blow>
  • Thu, Nov 21, 2002 7:20pm

Brad Clark, the Minister of Labour for Ontario has had a committe together for a while now working on the Bill. I wish I could tell you more than that. We do keep going back for updates and I'm sure that if he is serious (and he seems to be) we will have more to tell soon. There was talk of an election in March and he wanted it ready then so they can't be far off completion. I have been sending him relevent information from your site as well as the AUD site. However, I cannot stress enough that more complaints to MPPs will make the job easier. Lets flood them with stories so that they will see that we mean business.
I'm pushing this because my family has been badly damaged by the actions of gready totalitarians who run our local. I want a legal remedy to deal with the issues, one that will not require that I mortgage my house to hire a lawyer when my local refuses to follow it's own Constitution. They are even willing to ignore previous judgements against them if they think that the rank and file member is unaware of the decision.

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