This should explain union democracy to an unfamiliar but pro-labor reader, in context of labor renewal. It should reinforce
Use triangle tool here to show union democracy as laws and procedures, culture, and participation.
Maybe include checklist of democratic organizing?
Links to AUD, quote material from AUD site.
Is Democracy Good for Unions? Is Democracy Good for Intellectuals? exchange
The Union Democracy Triangle
(The Triangle Tool is from Educating for a Change.)
I find it helpful to think of union democracy as having three main aspects:
- The institutional or legal aspect (the institutions, laws, procedures, enforcement mechanisms).
- The cultural and ideological aspect (what people say about democracy and unionism, how members, officers, and staff talk and think about democracy and the union -- this is reflected in union publications, in slogans, in the way meetings are run, in jokes people tell, in many ways).
- The participatory aspect (what people do, what roles they play, who does what, knows what, controls what...).
The union constitution, election procedures, office policies, staff structure, finances, meetings, publications, contracts, grievance procedures... all of these make up the union's institutional aspect.
The union as an institution is related to many external institutions, such as the legal system, the Department of Labor, the EEOC, and other government agencies, the courts... Union democracy activists often talk about these institutional features because they play such an important role. When IBEW members call for One Member One Vote or fair hiring halls, they are pushing for institutional changes that will make their union more democratic.
But union democracy is not only a question of rules and institutions. There is a cultural or ideological aspect that is equally important. What makes up the culture or ideology of a union? What people say, how they interact, how they explain what they do and why they do it, the jokes people tell and the ones they don't, the ways they celebrate and argue. The union newspaper that promotes the incumbent officers and provides no space for criticism is contributing to the union's culture. The rank-and-file blog that exposes corruption and calls for honest elections is contributing to the union's culture. The official slogans chanted at rallies and the common refrains heard on the shopfloor are part of that culture. Just like the more formal institutions, the union's culture can promote or hinder democracy.
Finally, when we talk about union democracy, we are always talking about how people are doing things. Members speaking up in a union meeting or running for office, officers sharing information with members, officers stealing from the treasury, members voting with their feet by staying out of union meetings or other activities, in each case the participation of the members, officers and staff help make the union more, or less, democratic.
Both the union's institutions and its culture depend on the final aspect, the participation of the officers, members, and staff (external -- community).
side to union democracy that is found not in the official documents and structures, but in the day to day interactions of the union.
Interelate: BA's full time unelected creates diff cult than officers who stay ont he job... RWDSU grievance proc
The three are very much interrelated. Sometimes they reinforce each other: anti-democratic union rules or structures are often accompanied by an anti-democratic ideology and a passive or discouraged membership. Sometimes they are contradictory: a union with undemocratic structures and rules may nonetheless have a thriving democratic culture with leaders who promote member participation and control, and members who are involved and active.