Victory Is Part of Trend towards Democracy in Rail
October 18, 2006. For the second time in three months, railroad engineers and conductors have scored a victory for the right to vote.
On Aug. 21, ballots were counted and the members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) voted to change their bylaws to require direct election of the top three national officers. The result was overwhelming, with 88 percent supporting the change.
Two months earlier, Teamster engineers and conductors in the United States also approved a system of one-member, one vote by a landslide. In 2005, delegates to the convention of the Maintenance of Way Division of the TCRC also changed their constitution to provide for direct elections.
Gerry Ranson of Division 320 in Vancouver first circulated the Canadian proposal in May. Within two months, divisions representing over 25 percent of the membership had passed resolutions endorsing it. Under the TCRC bylaws, this triggered a referendum where all members voted on whether to accept the change. Now it’s official; TCRC members get the right to vote.
“Having the right to vote was one of the big reasons we joined the Teamsters in the first place,” says Ranson. “Every Teamster power point presentation and flier talked about that. So we felt it made sense to have this same right with respect to our national officers.”
Additional Changes Sought
Delegates from divisions that supported this reform are also considering additional changes that could be made to the TCRC constitution this September. The one that may be dearest to many members’ hearts is a proposal to have direct elections at the General Committee level as well. A similar proposal was defeated by U.S. delegates at their convention in June. TCRC activists say that whether the delegates pass this reform or not, it is still the right thing to do.
“The General Chairmen are the ones who actually bargain our contracts, so we feel it’s extremely important to hold them directly accountable to the membership,” says Div. 320 member Craig Brown. “When they bargain our contracts they don’t say ‘look what we got,’ they say ‘look what we didn’t give away.’ That’s got to stop.”
TCRC delegates have the chance to hold these leaders accountable by supporting direct elections for General Chairs. If they fail to take that step, the membership may well mobilize for the change using another initiative to keep the trend rolling towards democracy.