How do you know who can run for office in your union? Federal law provides that every union member in good standing is eligible to be a candidate and hold office subject to reasonable qualifications in the union's constitution and bylaws. A member in good standing is any person who has fulfilled the requirements for membership and who has not voluntarily withdrawn nor been expelled or suspended by your union. Any qualification which restricts a member's right to seek or hold office must be in your union's constitution and bylaws or other union rules. Qualifications must be applied uniformly to all candidates. Unwritten requirements may not be used to disqualify a candidate. Similarly, an eligibility requirement may not be applied retroactively if it would result in members having no opportunity to satisfy the requirement.
Requirements that members be working at the trade or be in continuous good standing for a specific time period are commonly used by many unions.
If your union has a continuous good standing qualification based on the timely payment of dues during a specified time period, you must provide a reasonable grace period during which members may make up missed payments without losing eligibility. Thirty days is an example of a reasonable grace period.
If your union has a working at the trade qualification requiring a member to be employed in the industry in which you have collective bargaining agreements, you should consider an unemployed member who is actively seeking employment in the trade to be working at the trade.
Some unions have meeting attendance requirements. To determine whether a meeting attendance qualification is reasonable, consider the following factors: the frequency of meetings; the number of meetings which must be attended and the period of time covered by the requirement; the nature, availability, and extent of excuse provisions; whether members have an opportunity to attend meetings; and the impact of the qualification. If a meeting attendance rule disqualifies a large number of members from candidacy, that large antidemocratic effect alone may be sufficient to make the requirement unreasonable.
A requirement that candidates for office have some prior service in a lower office is not considered reasonable.
Candidate eligibility requirements based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or a maximum age may not be imposed.
We have only scratched the surface on this topic. Remember to check your constitution and bylaws to see what qualifications are included. These qualifications must be reasonable and must be uniformly applied to all candidates.
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