Fooled' at Contract Vote

When our last contract was negotiated, the BA didn’t tell us the whole story. The local had a meeting where they just told us about the wages and a few other things. Months later, when we finally got a copy of the contract, we found new language that weakened our seniority rights. Isn’t this illegal?
–Won’t Be Fooled Again

Dear “Won’t Be Fooled,”

The IBT constitution requires a secret ballot vote on contracts, and federal law (the Landrum Griffin Act), requires a “fair and informed vote.” A verbal review of select improvements that leaves out important language changes falls short of that standard. I don’t blame you for having a beef.

The problem is that once the contract signed, it is likely legally binding even if it was not properly ratified. Even if you sued your union leaders, your employer would surely claim a valid, signed contract. When it comes to fair contract votes, it’s easier to prevent abuses than to correct them afterward.

To prevent this in the future, you need to talk to other members who “won’t be fooled again.” When the next contract talks begin, get signatures on a petition or group letter asking the local to take the proper steps to protect members right to a “fair and informed vote” by:

 

  • providing advance notice of any contract ratification meeting;
  • making the complete text of all changes available to members before any vote;
  • providing members with time to review the changes, ask questions, and discuss the pros and cons before a secret ballot vote is held.

It’s up to us, the members, to enforce our right to a fair contract vote. For help, contact TDU.

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