Timing of Request
Unions are required to comply with all reasonable requests of candidates to distribute campaign literature to the membership at the candidates' expense. A member need not be formally nominated to be entitled to distribute campaign literature. Federal law requires a union to distribute campaign literature for a bona fide candidate seeking to be nominated who makes such a request, even if a union rule prohibits campaign mailings prior to nominations. Federal law does not define "reasonable request," but you should consider a variety of factors such as the size of your union, the geographic distribution of the membership, and the extent to which members recognize individuals as likely candidates for office.
Unions may not regulate the content of campaign literature and may not require that they be permitted to read the literature before distribution. You may not censor campaign literature in any way, even if the literature includes derogatory remarks about other candidates. A concern that mailing certain campaign literature may constitute libel does not justify a refusal to distribute the literature because the union is under a legal duty to distribute the material.
You may require candidates to pay in advance for distribution of campaign literature, if such a requirement is applied uniformly to all candidates. There is no requirement that a union distribute campaign literature free of charge for a candidate who cannot bear such expense. If a union distributes any candidate's literature without charge, all other candidates must be notified that they are also entitled to have their literature distributed without charge.
You may not refuse to distribute campaign literature on the basis that your union has a small staff that cannot handle such distribution for all candidates. If necessary, you should hire additional staff or contract with a professional mailer to satisfy the request and charge the candidate for the cost of distribution.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
You may not limit the number of mailings which a candidate is permitted to make. You must honor reasonable requests to distribute campaign literature to only a portion of the membership if it is practicable. To avoid charges of unequal treatment, notify all candidates in advance of the conditions under which the union will mail campaign literature, including to whom candidates should direct a request for distribution, the payment required, and any other rules which apply. Do not impose unreasonable deadlines for submitting requests.
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