Running for Local Union Office

A new edition of TDU’s definitive guide Running for Local Union Office brings members up to date on what you need to know to run a winning campaign in today’s Teamsters. 

Click here to order the latest edition of Running for Local Union Office! 

Running for local union office is a chance to do more than change the faces at the union hall. It can be a step to building a stronger Teamster local, improving representation, and electing officers who will mobilize members to take on employers.

Nearly one-third of Teamster locals have elections in any given year. Many of those races are decided by the steps that candidates take—or fail to take—to prepare and organize.

You can change your local leadership, but not with a last-minute effort. You need to be organized and know the steps that build successful campaigns.

Here are a few things to know just for starters. For the full story, order Running for Local Union Office and contact TDU.

Start Early 

If you wait until nominations to start getting organized, you’re going to be behind when the ballots come out.

The most successful campaigns start a year in advance. You do not have to start by forming a slate.

But you do need to start building a group of members who want change and will work together to achieve it.

Information and Action

Show members that you’re leaders before you ask them for their vote.

  • Inform members about the contract and how to enforce it.
  • Take on workplace issues and organize contract enforcement campaigns.
  • Distribute information on workplace and
    union issues.
  • Hold online or in-person workshops or an
    educational conference. TDU can help you
    get these organized.
  • Get a bundle of Teamster Voice and make a
    plan to distribute it at different worksites.
  • Use an app like WhatsApp or texting to build
    communication and spread information
    among members.

Focus on Issues

Every local has its own issues. But good campaigns have a few things in common:

They stress the problems that concern most members, not inside baseball or personal beefs.

They focus on positive solutions without over-promising. Their leaflets are short and to the point. Few members will read long statements.

They don’t spread rumors. They provide reliable, factual information that members can use.

Who’s Eligible to Run?

Members are eligible to run for office if they have paid their dues on time for 24 months prior to the month of the nominations meeting.

Members who are out of work for medical leave, workers’ comp, layoff, etc. for an entire calendar month during the 24 months before the election are not eligible to run unless they self-pay their dues.

If you’re on check-off, you are eligible, provided that you have at least one day of earnings each month for the 24 months before nominations.

Members on dues check-off cannot be made ineligible because their employer doesn’t pay on time.

Build a Contact Database

You can’t win a union election without a good database of member contact information.

A good rule of thumb is if you need 1,000 votes to win, you will need to collect 1,000 phone numbers from members.

You should put someone in charge of putting your contact data into a spreadsheet that you can use to get out the vote by calling and texting members when the ballots are in the mail.

Campaign Mailings

You have the legal right to send campaign mailings to every member of the local, and to targeted sections of the membership, at your own expense.

The local will not give you addresses. Instead they will send the addresses to a mailing house or have union staff do the mailing.

The local does not have to provide members’ phone numbers. You need to collect those yourself.

Budget & Fundraising

You will need a budget and fundraising plan.

Your budget should include funds for mailings to the membership. Fundraisers with low overhead like raffles tend to generate the most funds and the most member involvement, too.

Any person who is not an employer can legally donate to your campaign.

Getting Out the Vote (GOTV) 

When the ballots are out, the focus shifts from building support to getting out the vote. Schedule vacation time in advance so that you will have time off to campaign. Send campaign mailings at the same time as the ballots are mailed. Have a plan to phone and text your contacts when the ballots arrive in members’ homes.

Thinking about Running? Contact TDU

TDU has decades of experience in local elections. If you’re thinking about running for local union office, contact us today. We can advise you on the ins and outs and even schedule a workshop on legal and organizing strategies for building a successful local union election campaign.

Get the definitive guide on running for local union office. Topics include:

  • Election rules
  • Campaign planning
  • Mail ballot elections
  • Walk-in elections
  • Eligibility
  • Nominations
  • Forming a slate
  • Building support
  • Getting members involved
  • Literature do’s and don’ts
  • Free speech and legal issues
  • Dealing with negative attacks
  • Membership mailings
  • Social media
  • Digital organizing
  • Budget and fundraising
  • Getting Out the Vote (GOTV)
  • Getting a fair election
  • Violations and protests
  • Sample letters and materials
  • Making a plan after you win
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