Is Your Union Constitution in Conflict?
May 24, 2023
Your local union constitution contains the fundamental principles by which the local is governed. Federal law requires local unions to adopt a constitution that has been approved by the members. Section 201 (a) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) states, “Every labor organization shall adopt a constitution and by-laws, and shall file a copy thereof with the Secretary of Labor.”
Constitutions should address the following:
- Executive Board, Stewards and Committees
- Duties of Officers • Salaries and Benefits (if any)
- Meetings and Quorum
- Dues and Fiscal Year
- Membership Protection
- Amendments and By-Laws
Local and states should periodically check their constitutions for outdated language or prohibited language that violates the Department of Labor’s interpretation of the LMRDA or conflicts with the union’s national constitution.
Determining if there is a conflict requires a review of the national constitution. If a local constitution restricts rights found in the national constitution, or if language conflicts with a federal or state law, it can be removed or modified without applying the regular constitutional amendment procedures. Because the provisions are in conflict, they cannot be enforced and should be immediately corrected.
Please consult with the Secretary-Treasurer’s Department when making a determination on constitutional language conflicts. The following is language that frequently causes problems:
- • The LMRDA requires local unions to elect delegates to state conventions by secret ballot if officers are elected at the conventions. Many locals have meeting requirements for eligibility to run for state delegate. Such requirements often disqualify too many members from running for office because members cannot attend the meetings; therefore, the Department of Labor has nullified some state delegate elections. We encourage locals to eliminate all meeting requirements for eligibility to run for state delegate. (This does not apply to delegates to the APWU national conventions, because officers are not elected at our national convention.)
- Local and state unions should remove any “recall” language in their constitutions. Article 14 of the national APWU Constitution prohibits recall elections. If an officer has committed an offense, the officer can only be removed from office under the provisions of Article 15 of the national APWU Constitution.
- Many local and state constitutions outline detailed procedures for charging members with violations of their constitutions. All charges must be handled in accordance with the national APWU Constitution. We recommend that local and state unions delete any such language and substitute, “Member charges will be processed in accordance with Article 15 of the national APWU Constitution and By-Laws.”
- Any member of a local or state executive board must be elected to office by secret ballot or be an appointee to a vacant office that is filled by secret ballot election. Local constitutions should not include appointed positions on the executive board. Candidates for elected office who run without opposition are considered to have been elected to office.
Locals and states should also review their constitutions to identify language that is outdated. We recommend convening a constitution committee to review and report to the executive board and membership on proposed changes. The Secretary-Treasurer’s Department is available to assist with changes to local and state unions’ constitutions and by-laws. If changes are made, a copy should be submitted to the Department of Labor when fi ling the annual LM report. â–
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