Term Paper: Twa We Tend to Think

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[. . .] "

But yelling at people is not how you get them on your side. You get them on your side by showing them how a union helps them with everything from job security to childcare.

A understand that people have the right to join a union or not. And I understand that for a lot of people their image of a union is Teamsters bashing people over the head. And I understand that maybe a lot of people want to end up in management themselves and so their loyalties are already with the management and not with the other workers.

But I also know - from my own experience - that my life is better as a union member than it was without the union. I'm not paid to go around and recruit and say the union is a good thing. I'm doing this because I believe that it is the truth. And I think that when I talk to people that they can hear that in my voice.

Elections and Collective Bargaining

The TWA elects officers in much the way that other unions do. The top officers are all elected to three-year terms:

The President, Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the Union shall be elected separately by secret ballot of the delegates to the Convention following nominations made from the floor of the Convention. Beginning with the election of 1996 the term of office shall be three years or until their successors have been duly elected and qualified, except for the term of office of an Executive Vice President added by the Convention during a non-election year, such term of office shall expire at the same time as the terms of office of the other officers. For the 1992 Convention the Officers' term shall be extended for one year to the regular elections held at the 1996 Convention (http://ns1.cwa-union.org/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=733090&infobase=constit.nfo&softpage=Browse_Frame_Pg42).

The locals also hold elections that are governed both by the union's laws and those of the United States and Canada:

Locals shall adopt Bylaws or Rules to govern the nomination and election of officers, members of a governing body, delegates and alternate delegates; the appointment, selection or election of stewards and committee members; and the filling of vacancies. Locals shall select an election committee which shall conduct all elections and referenda in accordance with the Constitution, Local Bylaws or Rules, and Federal or Provincial Law. All questions concerning the conduct and challenge of elections shall be determined by the election committee subject to the right of appeal to the governing body and membership of the Local. The election committee shall tally the ballots in all elections and notify the membership of its tentative certification of the results. Absent a challenge to the election, the tentative certification shall become final ten days thereafter.

The union member interviewed for this project said that one of TWA's strengths is the fact that locals (along with individual members) have more say in the setting union-wide policy than in the case with many other large unions.

Of course, every union has reasons for doing things the way that it does, and I'm not sitting here trying to criticize the way that other unions run their organizations. But for myself - and speaking as someone who has been involved with the union at both the national and the union level - I am glad that each one of the locals has an important amount of say.

I think that there would be no way that we could be such a strong union if we didn't have such a relatively non-hierarchical approach to the process because there are so many different kinds of workers in the TWA. If we had some sort of central committee trying to represent the needs of all the different locals without really including them - it would be a disaster. Or maybe not a disaster, but a very weak union compared to what it is today.

Collective Bargaining and Negotiations

One of the primary functions of the TWA is to negotiate contracts for its members - just as one of the most important tasks for the members is carefully to consider and to ratify (or decline) those contracts, as described below:

Any contract entered into through collective bargaining, or otherwise dealing with wages, hours, terms of employment or other conditions of employment shall be subject to ratification by secret ballot of the members affected if the delegates to an International Convention representing such members, or representatives at a Bargaining Council meeting, or the members themselves determine ratification to be desirable. Procedures for ratification shall be established by each Bargaining Council, or by the Executive Board for those contracts for which a Bargaining Council has not been established (http://ns1.cwa-union.org/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=733090&infobase=constit.nfo&softpage=Browse_Frame_Pg42).

The shop steward interviewed stressed the fact that while "people think that unions are really just about negotiations and strikes when we don't get what we want" they are in fact more fundamentally about "everyday working conditions." union - it is really about solidarity. It doesn't mean going in and breaking heads. It means that they're always someone there to hold your hand, to guard your back - to laugh and cry with you.

References

Boeri, T. (2001). The Role of Unions in the 21St-Century. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Riccucci, N. (1990). Women, Minorities, and Unions in the Public Sector. Miami: Greenwood.

Stadelbacher, D. (2003). Interview,

Wheeler, H.N. (2002). The Future of the American Labor Movement. Cambridge: Cambridge University. [END OF PREVIEW]

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