Our Local Union Bylaws, the U.A. Constitution, and National Labor Law govern all of our official actions. In regards to our current situation, we need to be aware that any proposed contract must be ratified by the membership before it can signed by our representatives. The pertinent language can be found on page 7 of the Local Union Bylaws under Article III, Section 3, Paragraph (c)(3):
"The Conciliation Committee will only be able to sign an agreement between Local 602 and the Mechanical Contractor Association after they receive a majority vote from the body of the Local at a special called meeting. And prior to the special called meeting, the membership will have received a copy of any changes in the final agreement in time to read it before they vote on it."
Given the fluid nature of negotiations, I will continue to interpret that the last sentence allows for a printed copy of all changes proposed in our contract to be made available to every member in attendance at the time and place of our special called meeting. It is my opinion that any variance from this Bylaw and principle is open to challenge at the special called meeting, subject to charges, and subject to suit in court.
The next question that often comes up is who is entitled to vote on the proposed contract. The U.A. Constitution limits both debate and vote on any motion to journeyman and retired members. The U.A. Constitution (Sec. 148 b) limits the participation of apprentices in the following manner:
“…they will be entitled to attend meetings of such Local Unions but without voice or vote except where this is necessary to comply with federal, state and/or provincial laws.”
A question is often asked about whether a member who has a financial stake in one of our contractors’ businesses is entitled to vote. I can not find anything in our Bylaws or in the U.A. Constitution to prevent them from voting on a contract. However, I believe that they should think twice before they do so. I believe that the U.A. Constitution and National Labor Law restricts “owners” and “employers” from voting in a Union election. I would think it wise that they consult their attorneys about the legal impact of their voting on our contract.
The last question that must be addressed is whether a retiree is entitled to vote on a contract. The U.A. Constitution addresses the right of “members” of a Local Union. There is no distinction between active and retired members.
I would further add, God bless the retiree who would want to stay active and involved in the Local Union. They have paid their dues. They have put in their hours to build up our wages and benefits to where they are today. They probably also struck for wages that go into our paycheck each and every week. I know that my father did.
It is in my father’s spirit that I carry on, along with my brother Kevin, the business of this Local Union. I know that he would be incensed about the contractors’ call for cutting our wages and benefits. I remain confident that, if he were alive today, he would stand in Solidarity with his two sons. Yes, he would counsel us to be patient, to act rationally and with a purpose. No, he would not let us take a step backwards. I would welcome his wisdom and support his vote.