is an end run around the LMRDA provision for direct elections.
At this point in the discussion, the assembled audience of Carpenters burst into a round of sustained applause. The issue was obviously close to their hearts.
Is election by delegates good enough? In New York, council officers would be elected by some 150 delegates. McCarron insisted that this system afforded democracy enough because delegates would be themselves elected in the locals by secret ballot membership vote.
Not so, was the reply: The delegate system is no substitute for direct elections. A membership of thousands, armed with the right to vote, cannot be easily manipulated by the officers above. But a delegated body of 150 can readily be dominated by an officialdom which dispenses favors and perks to only 76 lucky delegates. Direct elections allow the member-voters to control the officers. Election by delegates allows the officers to control the delegate-voters.
Democracy and efficiency: In this case, it was argued, democracy must give way to efficiency. By centralizing power in the hands of an honest leadership, you eliminate the ability of small-time business agents to exploit members, you protect insurance funds, you end corruption.
The problem with seeking efficiency by undercutting democracy is that the cure creates the same kind of evils it is intended to correct. Once a centralized authority, even the most well-meaning and honest, cuts itself loose from membership control, corruption and irresponsibility follow, and not simply on a low level but at the very heights. Carpenters may be willing to arm McCarron with extensive powers because they trust him. But who will follow him?
In one classical case, authoritarian efficiency degenerated into autocratic corruption. While John L. Lewis, a great labor leader, ruled the United Mine Workers as an effective absolute dictator, sinister forces gathered strength within the union. When he died, Tony Boyle assumed his powers and used them to murder his rival, loot the insurance funds, and betray miners' interests.
Strengthen the LMRDA? At the June 25 hearing and at the first session a month before, unionists complained of abuses which went unresolved in their unions. McCarron insisted that it was not necessary to amend federal law to eliminate "impediments to union democracy" because unions themselves could remedy any defects. A subcommittee member asked me whether the labor movement had any effective appeals procedures for hearing the kind of grievances voiced by members at these hearings.
I said there is no such effective agency, certainly nothing resembling what we expect in normal public

 

September 98

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