Let our people know!

The secret is being leaked, even by some rare labor leaders: the rights of members inside their unions are protected by federal law. But the full story is yet to emerge.
Section 105 of the LMRDA provides, briefly, clearly, and in full, "Every labor organization shall inform its members concerning the provisions of this Act." Period. Now, three members of the Machinists union, represented by attorney Andrew Rotstein, are asking a federal judge to compel their union to obey the law. The union resists. The case has been heard. The judge is thinking it over.
Back in 1960, a few unions did print the full LMRDA text in their publications. But since then not one single union, not one, has complied with the law. The problem is that this section of the law is not self-enforcing. No government administrative agency has the authority to demand enforcement. Private suit by union members is required. The IAM suit is the first of its kind.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department has prepared a one-page summary entitled "Union Member Rights & Officer Responsibilities under the LMRDA," and is asking internationals to provide the information to their locals. This single "outreach" sheet has been around for some time but, as far as we know, the Department has only now begun to promote it. Perhaps this novel outburst of energy was inspired by the Machinists' suit. Perhaps it is a coincidence.
So far, to our knowledge, two unions have responded. We'd like to think that this too was prompted by the suit. The Masters, Mates, and Pilots reprinted the DOL sheet in the May/June issue of its magazine. Tom Sever, Teamsters secretary treasurer, sent it to all local unions asking them "to make this publication available to their members."
The distribution of this handbill is much better than nothing, which is what unions have done before --- that is, nothing. But it is still quite inadequate, hardly enough to satisfy the requirements of Section 105.
It is difficult in a single 8 1/2 x 11 sheet to present a full-bodied explanation of the law. But this version omits one whole critical subject. It is not enough to list the rights which members are supposed to enjoy. It is essential to indicate how those rights can be enforced when they are violated, that is, what recourse the law provides against illegal acts by union officials.



Need union democracy information? In June, a reporter for the West Orange Chronicle in New Jersey was looking for information about the RICO suit filed against Teamsters Local 560 in 1988 but he couldn't get anywhere. He was sent to the Wagner Labor Archives at NYU where he found more than he wanted. He was able to consult the bulging AUD files which are on deposit at the Archives.
The Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Memorial Association is looking for an author to write a book on his life and times. For information call Christopher Erikson at Local 3, (718) 591-4000. Don't bother to mention our name.
In the Laborers Union: Robert Luskin, the attorney responsible for enforcement in the LIUNA self-reform process has written some strong words to the business manager of Local 294 in Fresno, CA warning that an investigation "disclosed that Local 294 routinely dispatches individuals who are not registered on the out-of-work list....Any repetition of this behavior will result in disciplinary action against the responsible officers and the imposition of a supervision over the local union....This letter should be conspicuously posted in...the local union's hiring hall and must be read at the next general membership meeting." We await word from local members on how it all comes out.
New York City is falling down! A big condominium apartment house collapsed because the builders had neglected to support the concrete floor with steel beams. Builders of 15 stories on one Trump structure used defective cement. A ton of bricks crashed on to the street from one Madison Avenue office building. Bricks falling off one school construction site killed a young woman. One man was killed and four rescued when a bridge scaffold collapsed. We are not up to date; all that was months ago. A giant crane in Times Square collapses killing a woman and shutting some mid-town streets for weeks.
Now add this: "Bid-rigging case engulfs an elite who built the interiors of offices," reads the big New York Times headline on March 27. "It's a cloud over the entire industry," said Richard T. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, a trade association. But we recall this earlier Times headline on December 21: "New York Relying on Construction Industry to Police Itself."
Teamsters Local 966 in New York, we reported in a recent issue of our $75+ Club News, was transformed from a racket into a real union after coming out from under a trusteeship imposed by the New Teamsters. Events in April underscore that story. Vincent Sombrotto, who had been removed as president under the trusteeship, and Bryan McCarthy, then a Local 966 attorney, were charged by Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau with fraud and grand larceny

September 98