Tuesday, November 10, 2009

AFSA 2009 Election Challenged

H/T to NDS on this item from elections past:

From AFSANET dated November 9: The AFSA Committee on Elections wishes to advise the AFSA membership that the recent 2009 Governing Board election has been challenged. The Committee on Elections had previously found one violation in the course of the campaign and had so notified the candidates. Three candidates filed complaints with the Department of Labor (DoL) alleging that other candidates or slates violated the Instructions to Candidates. The DoL conducted a thorough investigation and we are awaiting the results. If the DoL finds that violations occurred that could have impacted the outcome of the election, it may order that AFSA conduct a new election. The Committee will notify the membership accordingly once we have received a decision from the DoL.

Here is what the AFSA instructions for the 2009 election said on challenges concerning the conduct of the elections:

Such challenge must be received by July 15, 2009 and should be addressed to "Chair, AFSA Elections Committee" and mailed or delivered to either address stated above. The AFSA Elections Committee will respond in writing to the challenge within three months of receipt of the challenge. If the member is not satisfied with the AFSA Elections Committee's response, the member may file a written complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. Such complaint must be received by the Department of Labor within one month of receipt of the Elections Committee's response.

So I went and look up DOL’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. Below is an excerpt from its Complainant's Guide:

The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), establishes democratic standards for conducting regular elections of union officers and delegates who elect officers. These standards require use of a secret ballot, reasonable opportunity to nominate candidates and vote, mailed notice of election, and other safeguards to ensure a fair election. The LMRDA also gives union members who believe that a violation of the election provisions of the LMRDA or of the union's constitution and bylaws has occurred the right to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Labor, is responsible for investigating these complaints and taking appropriate enforcement action, including supervising new elections, if warranted. [...] The LMRDA requires that a member must first file an election protest with the union before filing a complaint with OLMS. The protest filed with the union must follow the procedures and time frames in the union's constitution and bylaws. Protest procedures differ from one union to the next but generally include requirements for filing the protest in writing, filing within a specified time period, and following specified steps in the protest and appeal process.

The requirement that a member must file a protest with the union before filing with OLMS gives the union a chance to look into the member's allegations and to correct any problems which may have occurred in the nomination and election process. Therefore, it is important that you review your union's current constitution and bylaws and follow the protest procedures carefully. [...] Failure to comply with your union's protest and appeals procedures may result in your complaint being dismissed. [...] If OLMS determines that either no violation occurred or a violation(s) occurred but did not affect the election outcome, no further action is necessary and OLMS closes the case. A "statement of reasons," explaining specifically why the case was closed, is sent to you, the local, and the national or international. [...] If the investigation reveals violations which may have affected the election outcome, OLMS will first seek to enter into an agreement with the union to obtain corrective action. If no voluntary compliance agreement is reached, OLMS may file suit to have a federal district court set aside the challenged election and order a new election under OLMS supervision. However, until a final decision is issued by the district court, the challenged election is presumed valid and the officers elected remain in office.

Read more here.

The DOL guidelines appear pretty clear that the election protest be filed with the union first before complaint is filed with OLMS. Makes one wonder if the three complaints submitted to DOL had been previously submitted to AFSA. This is the first time I’ve heard of these. Have you heard about these three complaints previously?

Of course, the real question at the back of our mind is really this – if a new election is ordered, how much more messy can it get given its contentiousness this past summer?

1 comment:

NoDoubleStandards said...

It'll all come out eventually, but your specualtion that complaints first went to the Committee on Elections in accordance with the Instructions is correct. And it's correct to say that the Committee then punted to DoL. From what I understand, this all began in May, even before the ballots were counted, so the Committee's silence over the last six months has been deafening. As a union member, I have a right to know what's going on in the organization, and I certainly have a right to know when I cast my ballot that a candidate or slate has violated campaign rules in the conduct of the election. The Committee made such a ruling prior to the close of voting and chose not to inform membership, for reasons that are unknown to me.