Labor's Voice for Change (67) September 4, 2009

AFL-CIO Election Officer Issues Rules
That Raise Questions About Fairness

By Harry Kelber
Candidate for AFL-CIO Executive Council

Edward McElroy, the former president of the American Federation of Teachers, has been appointed as AFL-CIO Election Officer to set the rules for the election of national officers at the AFL-CIO's 2009 convention in Pittsburgh on Sept. 14-17.

Brother McElroy sent me a long letter on September 1, in which he offered his decisions on several issues governing the election. In the interest of transparency and a strong belief that members must be ’kept informed about important events, I shall summarize McElroy’s views and mine on five issues pertaining to the elections.

1. On the list of convention delegates. On August 3, I wrote to Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka that I would need to use the list of convention delegates, which would be made available August 24, as the only way I could communicate my campaign message to the delegates. I pointed out that I had a letter from former AFL-CIO President Tom Donahue, who said I could use the list, as well as a letter from Trumka himself, in 1997, that the list could be made available, with proper safeguards.

Nevertheless, McElroy stated “I have decided that no candidate for AFL-CIO office may be given a copy of the list, even under a pledge not to disseminate it or use it for non-campaign purposes.” However, he said I could “make arrangements to “inspect” the list of convention delegates.

2. The nominating order. I was the first and only union member to announce his candidacy as early as June 1, 2009, in a registered letter that I sent to Secretary-Treasurer Trumka. I have an obvious claim to be the first candidate to be nominated.

McElroy’s reply: “I will not know the order of nominations until they occur , , , Accordingly, I cannot determine the ballot order of nominees for Vice President, until they are nominated.” I wanted to know who would be determining the order of nominations.

3. The listing of the candidates on the ballot:

The AFL-CIO Constitution states: “Candidates for Vice President will be listed on the ballot in the order in which they were nominated.” On that basis, my name should be listed near the top of the ballot. It should not be left to the arbitrary judgment of either the Election Officer or some unknown individual without prior consultation and agreement with me, who thus far the only V.P. candidate.

McElroy stuck to his original position that the order of the candidates on the ballot would be determined after nominations were completed. But he would not say who would decide the order.

4, On preview of the ballot. McElroy said he would “strive to make the ballot "simple and clear” and plans to create the ballot in the hours between the end of the nomination and the start of the election, the next day. That would make it impossible to examine the ballot for inaccuracies and signs of unfairness, because it would be a done deal.

The ballot that the AFL-CIO used in the 1995 election was ridiculously unfair to a challenging candidate, as I pointed out to McElroy. I strongly urged him to let me and some objective observers review the ballot before it is printed. If the ballot proved grossly discriminatory to my candidacy, I would ask my lawyer to seek legal action to cancel the results of the election.

5, I am hopeful that McElroy and I can work out our differences within the limited time before the start of the convention. If not, I reserve the right to appeal my case before the convention of delegates.

I have entered this race because I believe that union members want to see change, after enduring three uncontested elections and an abysmal 14 –year record of failure by the incumbent leadership.

We are determined to help in restoring the AFL-CIO as a democratic organization, in which union members have a voice and are treated with respect.

Article 68 of "Labor’s Voice for Change" will be posted on Tuesday, September 8.