Local Union Elections: "We Might Have Won If..."

Every year a third of all Teamster locals are required to conduct officer elections. Some, too many, go uncontested. But many are contested. TDU candidates run, and win, in many of these elections.

But each year there are a percentage of reform campaigns that fall short. Some take place under difficult conditions and fail to win for understandable reasons. Some are first tries, campaigns that help establish name recognition and experience but are not able to prevail.

There are also a number of campaigns each year that fall into the category of, “We might have won if only we had ...” The most common if only — failing to start a campaign early enough to build momentum.

For fall 2002 elections, work should be underway now. Waiting until the last minute nearly always fails.

If you are planning on running for office this fall, here are some things that should be be done in the next few months. This article is just an overview. For more information webmaster [at] tdu.org (contact TDU) to talk to an organizer.


You will need enough money to conduct at least one first class mailing to the membership. Funds also will be needed for flyers, phone banking, telephone bills, t-shirts or other promotional items.

The slate will probably contribute a good share. But you will also want to reach out to supporters. An early raffle or petition fundraiser is also an excellent way to build up your contact list.


What are the issues you are running on? What makes your slate different? A good platform is critical. Otherwise, members will be inclined to see the election as a personality contest.

The platform can be developed early. It can also be used in early campaign literature, even if the full slate is not worked out, so members have time to get familiar with what you stand for. One possibility is to circulate a member survey on issues first. It is an excellent way to learn and to develop a platform that meshes with member concerns.

Charting the Local and Setting Goals

You will want to look carefully at each worksite in the local to decide how much support you have and how much you need to win. Start early and set target vote goals for each worksite (or shift or area). Develop these goals with key supporters and then review them regularly to monitor progress.


This is also a good time to set up workshops for yourself, the slate and key supporters. A workshop on running for office is a must. It is also advisable to arrange at least one workshop on union administration and organization. This way, you have a better picture of what to expect if you win. This will be reflected in your confidence and the way you are able to talk to members.

Finally, by starting early you are showing that you are serious about running a good campaign and about winning. This will boost member confidence in your campaign.

TDU can help arrange workshops and assist with campaign organization. webmaster [at] tdu.org (Contact us) for more information. And get a copy of the TDU booklet Running for Local Union Office for all of your slate members. (Download the order form here).

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