As regular readers know, the US Department of Labor will be making a decision on the CHALLENGES to the last ATU757 election. That ruling will come at the end of this month at the latest.
Below the break is the Dept Of Labor guidelines for their investigations. The last time there was a new election ordered for our union it was Heitnzmen vs Fiest. Heinztman ended up winning that new election which was ordered by the ATU International. I put that story below the break also
If you as an election official have a role in resolving an election protest, one of the first steps that you should take is to closely review those provisions of your constitution and bylaws which deal with election protests. Many unions require that certain actions be carried out within a specific time frame by any candidate or member who wishes to challenge an officer election. For example, a complaining member may have to file a written protest to election officials within 10 days after the election, stating the specific reasons for the protest. Election officials may also be required to respond to an election protest within a specified time period. You should closely follow the protest procedures and time frames in your union’s constitution and bylaws. To avoid misunderstandings, you should also request that any oral protests to election officials be put in writing. Any questions concerning the proper method for protesting the election should be directed to your union’s parent body.
After confirming that a member has followed the union’s required protest procedures, election officials should review the allegations raised in the protest and discuss what information will be needed to resolve the protest. You should realize that in some instances a member may raise an allegation which even if true is not an election irregularity. In such cases election officials may decide that they do not have to pursue the allegation further. However, in most instances you will probably need to take further action (such as reviewing union records or talking to individuals who can provide necessary information) in order to resolve the protest. For guidance on resolving election allegations, see “Seven Steps for Resolving Protests” below.
While carrying out your responsibilities in connection with an election protest, you should take notes and keep them along with copies of any pertinent correspondence or other records. These records will be important in developing your findings and recommendations and will serve to refresh your memory if you are asked to explain your decisions at a later time. Again, remember that it is important for election officials to work as a team to handle and resolve any election protests.
Seven Steps for Resolving Protests
Election officials should generally follow seven steps in resolving each election allegation that is properly raised. As an example, if a protest alleged that retired members were improperly allowed to vote, the election officials should:
1. Review the election protest thoroughly to decide what information is needed to resolve the allegation that retired members were improperly allowed to vote.
2. Talk to the protesting member in order to clearly understand the allegation and to obtain any specific information needed, such as the names of any individuals who allegedly should not have been permitted to vote and the reasons they should not have voted.
3. Review the constitution/bylaws and the election rules to determine the voting status and rights of retired members.
4. Review election records, such as the voter eligibility list and voter register, to determine if the retired members cited by the protesting member and any other retired members actually voted in the election.
5. Interview members and other persons, as necessary, such as the employer or the retired members themselves, to verify retirement dates of the retired members alleged to be ineligible to vote.
6. Decide if the allegation is true by reviewing all the information gathered by the election officials and discussing the findings as a team.
7. Determine how many votes may have been affected if the allegation is true, which in this example would be the total number of retired members who improperly voted in the election.
These seven basic steps can be used to resolve any allegations which may be raised during the course of the nomination and election process as well as any protests filed after the election is over. However, election officials should recognize that it may not be necessary to complete each of the seven steps in order to resolve every issue. What is most important is for election officials to obtain and rely on the facts, not speculation, hearsay, or rumors. At this stage your role is that of a fact finder and you must determine if an allegation is true.
Determining Appropriate Action
After all allegations have been reviewed and the facts determined, election officials must decide what action is appropriate. If an allegation has no merit, no corrective action is necessary and election officials should deny the protest. Any allegation which has merit should be closely analyzed to determine the number of votes affected and the possible impact on the election results. For example, if 16 ineligible retired members voted, then 16 votes were affected. Consequently, any race decided by 16 or fewer votes should be rerun. Of course, many times the impact of a specific irregularity on election results is not as easy to measure as in this example. Two points should be stressed: 1) since it is unfair to force winning candidates to undergo a rerun election without a substantial reason, the impact of any irregularity on the election results must be carefully considered before a decision is made to rerun the election and 2) if an irregularity affects only one race or some races, only the affected race(s) should be rerun.
Election officials should notify the protesting member of their decision in writing regardless of whether a protest is denied or a decision is made to rerun the election or take other corrective action. If a protest is denied, election officials should also advise the protesting member of the basis for the decision and the procedures and time limits in the constitution and bylaws that must be followed to appeal the decision, such as an appeal to the parent body president or executive board.
Decisions about how to remedy election irregularities and whether to rerun elections are often difficult and may involve many different factors. You may also feel pressured by time deadlines or by candidates from both sides who want a favorable decision. Election officials should seek advice from parent body union officials or OLMS as necessary.
If a rerun election does become necessary, the same procedures and requirements which applied to the initial election should be followed. Of course, special precautions should be taken to insure that the problems which caused the need for the rerun do not happen again.
A union member has the right under federal law to file a complaint with OLMS regarding the conduct of a union officer election within one calendar month after meeting certain conditions. Before filing an election complaint with OLMS, a member must have either exhausted internal remedies within the union or pursued them for three months without obtaining a final decision from the union.
Therefore, a union always has the first opportunity to review and resolve any officer election protests while the government (OLMS) is in essence the “last resort” — the final appeal for a complaining candidate or member.
If a timely election complaint is filed with OLMS, an OLMS investigator will examine the allegations which the complaining member made to the union and generally follow the same seven steps suggested earlier for resolving a protest. The investigator also acts as a fact finder and will review provisions of your union’s constitution and bylaws and any other union election rules; interview the complaining member(s), union officers, and others; and review nomination and election notices, eligibility lists, ballots, tally sheets, and other election records.
In most cases the investigator will also talk to election officials since they have the most knowledge about the procedures used in the election. Any information which you can provide, including notes and copies of election materials, as well as your viewpoint, will be very helpful in resolving the complaint. If any problems occurred, explain to the OLMS investigator what happened and why. We realize that unintentional mistakes are sometimes made and that some factors may have been beyond your control. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of OLMS to determine if the election was conducted in accordance with the requirements outlined in Title IV of the LMRDA.
In order to resolve election controversies in a timely manner, OLMS is required by the LMRDA to complete its investigation promptly. If an investigation discloses unremedied violations of the LMRDA which may have affected the outcome of the election, OLMS will attempt to remedy the violations through voluntary compliance by the union. Corrective action may include rerunning all or a portion of the challenged election under OLMS supervision or, in some cases, installing properly elected officers. If necessary, OLMS may file suit to have a federal district court set aside the challenged election and order a new election under OLMS supervision.
Your cooperation and assistance in any OLMS investigation will help resolve your union’s election dispute, minimize government involvement in your union’s affairs, and allow your union to get back to its normal day-to-day operations as quickly as possible.
Heintzman back at helm of ATU 757
Ron Heintzman is back at the helm of Portland-based Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757.
Heintzman was re-elected president and business representative Oct. 24, capturing 58 percent of the 2,733 votes cast in a special election ordered by the international union. A previous election on June 27 - in which Heintzman lost to challenger Wally Feist by 21 votes on 2,333 ballots cast - was invalidated by the national office when it was discovered that 127 union members did not receive ballots. In question, according to Heintzman, who talked to the Labor Press a day after winning re-election, was whether or not the 127 persons were eligible to vote as "members in good standing" with Local 757.
Many of those who did not receive ballots were new hires whose union dues had yet to be received by Local 757. At Tri-Met, for instance, new hires are required to join the union and dues are deducted from their paychecks. Others, according to Heintzman, had not been at work because of injury, illness, family leave, or other matters.
"The Department of Labor has relaxed its interpretation of a 'member in good standing' and now considers new hires as union members in good standing even if the union hasn't received a dues payment," Heintzman said.
As long as an individual has a contractual right to return to their job and the union has the opportunity to recoup back dues, that individual is considered a union member in good standing, Heintzman explained.
Local 757's Election Committee became aware of the voter irregularities when some members who fit into the aforementioned categories called the local saying they had not been permitted to vote. The Election Committee, the local's Executive Board, a majority of union members, and the international union all agreed that any race in the June election that was decided by fewer than 127 votes should be redone. The president's race was the only race affected.
Mail ballots were sent out Oct. 6 and counted Oct. 24. The process was overseen by Federal Mediator Paul Stuckenschneider. Local 757 determined that 4,451 members in Oregon and portions of Washington were eligible to vote. A total of 2,733 members cast ballots, with Heintzman winning by 399 votes.
Heintzman, who has held the post of president and business representative for the past 12 years, said he is now looking to heal the wounds of the union after a tumultuous six months. He said he will visit members at all of the 22 properties where the union has contracts, including Tri-Met, Lane Transit, Rogue Valley Transport and Valley Transit in Walla Walla.
Heintzman will be officially sworn into office Monday, Nov. 20, by ATU International President James LaSala.