Labor's Voice for Change (23) April 2, 2009

How the AFL-CIO Constitution Helps
To Perpetuate a Corrupt Leadership
(Fourth and Final Article)

By Harry Kelber

The craziest, but also the most damaging, provision in the AFL-CIO Constitution is contained in a single sentence under ARTICLE VI—ELECTIONS. It states:

"Each ballot must, to be valid, be voted for 43 candidates for Vice President and must cast the full voting strength of the delegate or affiliate."

Here is how the clause worked out in practice at the 1995 AFL-CIO convention, when I, as the only rank-and-file candidate ever to run for national office, forced the leadership to hold a printed ballot election. The instructions are clear and specific: "If voting for individuals, exactly 51 must be selected or ballot is voided."

You will note that the delegates could not vote for me, without also voting for 50 of my opponents. My objection to the structure of the ballot was disregarded. In one five minute period, I counted eight votes for me that were voided because delegates did not check the requisite number of boxes.

It's worth noting that "slate" voting has never been used in AFL-CIO elections until it was introduced by John Sweeney and his Unity ticket in 1995. Delegates should have the right to pick and choose their preferred candidates without being dictated to.