Monday, December 9, 2013

Union Democracy and the IAM

IAMAs we recently noted, Boeing employees rejected a proposal that was offered by Boeing, and seemingly supported by IAM union officials, to give job guarantees for current employees in exchange for significant cutbacks for newer and future employees.  Today, the Washington Post's Wonkblog examines recent challenges to the current IAM officials and gives some more background to the Boeing offer.

Apparently, the Department of Labor is forcing IAM to re-run its leadership elections for failure to adequately notify members--the only re-run for union top officials in 2012.  The disagreements between the challengers and incumbents reflect many other internal union discussions in this difficult environment, so this issues will likely be more familiar to readers of this blog than average readers of the Post.  That said, the internal strife at IAM seems serious--serious enough to help prompt Boeing workers spurn the offer.  There also appears to be open resentment against the union's spending and salaries of top officials.  Again, not a new issue, but one that we might expect to surface more as unions struggle to keep members.  This is where the democracy issue seems most relevant.  Although, at times, LMRDA union requirements can appear harassing more than anything else, the need to maintain some level of union democracy is important for unions themselves.  Obtaining buy-in from members and allowing for new officials, and the ideas they bring, are but a few of the benefits that democracy can bring to unions. It's not surprising that some unions--just like other organizations, as the article notes--have entrenched officials, but the fewer instances of this, the better the labor movement will be.

-JH

 

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