The Union Election Process: Nominations
(This article first appeared in the September-October 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Nominating candidates for office is a fundamental component of democratically electing union officers, and an important part of the election process.
According to the Labor Management and Disclosure Act, union members must be given a reasonable opportunity to nominate candidates. To do this, election officials (or other responsible officials) must provide a timely notice of nominations and must use procedures that give all members the opportunity to make nominations.
Even if local officials believe no one wants to run, a nomination notice must be sent to all members, and nominations for each office must take place each term.
Although most unions hold nomination meetings, the law does not require unions to use any particular nomination procedure. A union is free to choose any method that provides members a reasonable opportunity to nominate; however, the nomination procedure used must follow the provisions of the union’s constitution and bylaws and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements.
The Nominating Process
In accordance with DOL regulations, there are several key provisions that must be addressed by local and state election committees. Article 12.8 of the national APWU Constitution requires local unions, area locals, regional and state organizations to establish an election committee, which is responsible for conducting the election and deciding any controversies that arise. Candidates for election may not serve on the election committee.
A number of methods may be used for notifying union members of nominations, including mailing a notice to the last known home address of each member, publishing a timely notice in the union newsletter, posting or distributing a notice at work sites, or other methods that can reasonably be expected to inform all members in good standing.
Since the DOL requires that a reasonable attempt be made to notify all members of nominations and elections, a mailed notification is recommended. The mailed notification may be included in the union newsletter or mailed separately.
Email or other electronic messaging is not recommended because there is no guarantee that all members have access to electronic media. The U.S. mail is considered a more reliable and universal means of contact.
If the union newsletter is used to give notice of nominations, the notice should appear in a conspicuous place. Election officials should advise the editor that the notice must be given a prominent position.
The nomination notice should specify the offices to be filled in the election (and identify any offices for which the officer is a delegate by virtue of election to office). It should also include the date, time, place, and method for submitting nominations, including details such as whether a nomination must be seconded. (If nominations must be seconded, the good standing of the member who seconds the nomination should be verified at the meeting.)
The nomination notice (unlike an election notice) does not have to be given at least 15 days before nominations, but it must be given in accordance with any requirement in the union’s constitution and bylaws and must allow enough time for members to have a reasonable opportunity to nominate candidates of their choice.
It is strongly recommended that local election committees or officials include the notice of election in the notice of nominations. This eliminates the need to mail to separate notices, and saves money.
If the election notice is mailed separately, a notice of election must be mailed to every member, including non-working members, at his or her last known home address at least 15 days prior to the election.
The notice of election must specify the date, time, and place of the election, as well as the offices to be filled. To determine the 15-day mailing period, do not count the day the notices are mailed, but count the day of the election. For example, if the ballots will be counted on June 30, the 15-day notice requirement would dictate that the notice must be mailed before June 15.
Other things to keep in mind during elections include:
Nomination by Members in Good Standing - The election committee must be able to verify that any member making a nomination is a member in good standing.
Self-Nominations - Candidates should be permitted to nominate themselves at a nominating meeting or by mail. If a notice is mailed, the deadline for receipt of the nomination and where the notice should be mailed (certified) should be clearly stated in the nomination notice.
Electronic Self-Nominations - An issue that has arisen recently is the submission of notices of self-nomination by email. Since these communications can be dated and receipt can be authenticated, it is recommended that they be accepted the same way that certified-mail nominations would be accepted.
Quorum for Nomination Meeting - If nominations are conducted at a meeting a quorum requirement may not be imposed. However, the meeting must be held at a date, time, and place that allows members a reasonable opportunity to attend. Nominations at the regularly scheduled membership meeting would satisfy this requirement.
Acceptance of Nomination - Requiring candidates who are in attendance at a nominating meeting to accept or decline a nomination is common, in order to prevent any misunderstanding about who is running for which office (especially if someone is nominated for more than one position but is allowed to run for only one office under the union’s constitution and bylaws).
When candidates nominate themselves, their acceptance of nomination is considered automatic. However, some provision must be made for acceptance by candidates who are nominated at the meeting, but are not present at the nominating meeting. A reasonable period of time should be established to receive their acceptance of a nomination. Election committee officials may be assigned to make this determination.
The Secretary–Treasurer’s Department is available to provide assistance and training for local officers and election committee members. Resources are also available on the department’s webpage, www.apwu.org/departments-divisions/secretary-treasurer.