The election of union officers is governed by Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”). The major themes of the LMRDA are union democracy, free speech, fair elections and the unfettered ability of the membership to participate.
Section 401(g) of the LMRDA prohibits the use of any union or any employer funds to promote the candidacy of any candidate for union office (29 U.S.C. §481(g)). The law prohibits both direct contributions and indirect financial support by a union or employer to a candidate for union office. (29 C.F.R. §452.73; Donovan v. Local 70 Teamsters, 661 F.2d 1199, 1202 (9. Cir4. 1981)).
Of note, the LMRDA’s prohibition against the use of union and employer funds applies to ALL unions and ALL employers, including those not affiliated or connected with the union holding the election.
The following are examples of campaign activity that are prohibited by law:
- Campaigning on work-time paid for by the Union or the Employer;
- Use of Union or Employer communication systems such as websites, social media, or email;
- Use of Union or Employer supplies, such as stamps, paper, stationery, or envelopes;
- Use of Union or Employer letter-head or logo;
- Use of or access to Union membership or Union and Employer mailing lists (except that the LMRDA and UFT Election Rules permit candidates to inspect, but not copy, the official membership lists at the UFT Headquarters);
- Use of Union or Employer property or facilities for campaign activities;
- Printing articles which support or criticize an individual’s candidacy in the Union newspaper, bulletin, newsletter or other publications;
- Giving free services or a special discount to a candidate, such as printing, photocopying, or web-design.
There are two limited exceptions to the general rule prohibiting the use of Union and Employer funds in an election campaign.
- First, it is permissible for a Union to allow candidates to use their resources (e.g., facilities, publications, and equipment) so long as equal use is provided to all other candidates and no preference for one candidate over another is expressed or shown in any way.
- Second, campaigning by Union representatives that is “incidental to regular union business,” does not violate the law.
Union officers and representatives are free to engage in campaign activities on their own personal time, the same as any other union member. This includes meal-hours or breaks in the day.