Federal law prohibits the use of union funds to promote the candidacy of any person in union officer and delegate elections. This is a broad provision that covers a multitude of sins. First of all, it applies to the use of any union funds, not just those of the union having an election. An affiliated local union that would like to see the incumbents in your union stay in office may not contribute funds to their campaigns. Similarly, the prohibition applies to all employers, not just those with whom your union has a collective bargaining agreement or those in your industry. It is a violation for an employer to support campaigns of those candidates it favors due to a perception that they will be easier to get along with. It is also a violation for a candidate to take advantage of a relationship with an employer of any kind who might provide free or discounted copies of campaign material.
Union funds are also broadly defined. The prohibition against using union funds applies not only to cash, but also to equipment, facilities, discounted union rates, assistance from other union employees while they are being paid by the union, and campaigning by candidates while they are on the clock. Although there is an exception for what is known as "incidental" campaigning, it is far safer for candidates to take time off from work to campaign.
Any expenditure of union or employer funds on behalf of a candidate, even if the amount is small, is a violation of federal law. The use of union or employer funds or facilities is a violation of federal law even if union officials or the employer do not know about or approve of the use.
Following are examples of practices that are not permitted:
- Use of union or employer-owned or leased equipment such as telephones, mobile communication devices, computers, fax machines, copy machines, and vehicles
- Use of union or employer supplies such as stamps, paper, and envelopes
- Use of union employees to prepare campaign literature while on union time
- Use of the union letterhead or membership list
- Use of union or employer property or facilities to conduct campaign activities or store campaign material
- Printing articles which support or criticize an individual's candidacy in a union newspaper or other publication
There are many more examples of practices that might cause your union's election to be overturned due to a use of union or employer funds. We'll tackle those another time.
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