November 2008 brings UTU local elections

September 5, 2008

Now is the time of year that UTU members and everyone else across the country are seeing and hearing messages regarding voter registration and upcoming elections. While many will be focused on the candidates running for the U.S. presidency, November 2008 also brings UTU members a chance to renew their union leadership at the local level.

A special circular and an informational guide were recently sent to local presidents and secretary-treasurers to help them conduct the upcoming elections. But calls and letters received at the UTU International indicate the average UTU member has questions about the topic.

Those with detailed questions about local elections are urged to check out Special Circular No. 27 and the informational guide by asking to see the copies mailed to their local officers. Both documents are also on the UTU Web site. (Directions for finding these documents on the UTU Web site appear at the end of this article.)

For those with a general curiosity, this article offers the “short course” on the UTU election process.

(Members are cautioned that this article offers a simplified overview. Those with questions about the election process should contact the UTU International. It’s better — and cheaper — to get it right so the election outcome isn’t contested.)


Article 57 of the UTU Constitution lays the basic ground rules for local elections. It provides dues-paying UTU members a chance every three years to vote on officers at the local level. Those officers, listed in Article 56, are president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and a three-member board of trustees.

In most locals, the offices of secretary and treasurer have been combined, and in a few instances, locals of 50 or more members maintain the office of collector. No member may fill more than one of these elective offices at the same time.

Elections for local committees of adjustment, legislative representatives and their alternates, and delegates and their alternates will not be held in 2008 unless there are permanent vacancies to fill.

Elections can be conducted in two ways: by secret ballot of those present at a November meeting of the local, or by referendum (mail) vote. In the absence of local bylaws that require a mail referendum, elections must be by secret ballot of those present at a meeting of the local.

Those in attendance at the last regular meeting in October set the time, date and place of the election, and specify when ballots are to be counted in a mail referendum election.


Before any voting occurs, members need to nominate candidates. They need to know when and how nominations will be taken and accepted, and who is eligible for office.

Nominations must be filed with the local’s secretary no later than the last regular meeting in October in the year of the election. They can be made in two ways: from the floor at the nomination meeting, or by petition. Nominations made on the floor do not need to be seconded.

If the nomination is by petition, at least five members eligible to vote must sign the petition. The local secretary is directed to promptly acknowledge receipt of such petitions and to read them at the last regular meeting in October.

When only one nomination has been received for an office, the member so nominated is declared elected “by acclamation” on the date set for the tabulation of ballots and election, and that particular post won’t appear on the ballot.


Generally speaking, any member paying full dues is eligible for election to any office in the UTU, but there are exceptions, noted in Article 7 of the UTU Constitution. For questions about eligibility for office, contact the UTU International.

Members eligible to vote are those who pay dues, as per Article 49 and 53 of the UTU Constitution. Retired members are not eligible to vote, nor are those relieved from paying dues and assessments (so-called “E-49” status).


Reasonable notice (not less than 10 days) must be provided all eligible members that nominations will be received at the last regular meeting in October. A sample of a so-called “special notice” is included in the election guide sent to local officers (and available on the UTU Web site). The notice should also advise that prospective candidates will be allowed, once prior to the election, to inspect a list of names and addresses of the local’s membership.

Locals not using the mail referendum ballot procedures also must use the “special notice” or a similar notification for mailing to each eligible member at his or her last known address not less than 15 days prior to the election.

Where election is by mail referendum ballot, the notice of the election can be included on the ballot, and must be mailed to each eligible member at his or her last known home address not less than 15 days prior to the date of the election.

Procedural details for holding a referendum (mail) election are beyond the scope of this article, but a general description is found in Article 57 of the UTU Constitution. Additional details are available in Special Circular No. 27 and its accompanying guide.


In general, the local secretary will prepare ballots showing the names of all candidates and offices for which they are nominated. Incumbent officers appear first, with name of other candidates following in alphabetical order. Write-in candidates aren’t permitted. If the election is by mail, the return address on the “Important Ballot Enclosed” envelope must be the same as the mailing address on the “Ballot” envelope.

When voting by mail, a leaflet with voting instrucitons (found in Article 57) is included with the voting materials. Pay close attention and follow the instructions, or your vote won’t be counted.


As noted earlier, candidates are allowed, once prior to the election, to inspect a list of names and addresses of the local’s membership. Candidates may send statements or circulars to members about their qualifications, but letterheads of a candidate’s local or office may not be used for this purpose.

Candidates also may have observers present during the counting and tallying process. In a mail ballot election, candidates may have observers present at the preparation and mailing of the ballots, their receipt, opening and counting.

Determining winners

The candidate receiving a majority of votes cast for a given office is declared elected. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, another ballot is created with the names of the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes.

If any number of the candidates for a given office are tied for the highest number of votes, another ballot is prepared with only the names of the candidates receiving the highest number of votes.

If one candidate receives the highest number of votes, but that number doesn’t constitute a majority,
and any number of candidates are tied for the second-highest number of votes cast, another ballot is submitted to voters, and that ballot will carry only the name of the candidate receiving the highest number and the names of the candidates receiving the second-highest number of votes.

Not Over Until It’s Over

Locals must, following each election or succession to office, promptly notify the International general secretary and treasurer, interested general chairpersons, and state, district and provincial legislative boards of the names and addresses of new officers.

All records pertaining to elections must be preserved for one year, as required by federal law.

One more detail: those leaving office must promptly transfer all property, funds, securities, equipment and other effects of their office to their successor.

Details count

The information above excludes some important details, especially where referendum (mail) ballots are concerned. Members are urged to check out Special Circular No. 27, as well as its accompanying guide. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor has information available on its Web site. Go to Google and type in, “DOL, conducting union elections,” to see the rules for election of union officers.

Constitutional provisions

Information from the UTU Constitution that members should read: Article 7 (Eligibility for Office), Article 56 (Officers and Locals) and Article 57 (Elections in Locals). Copies of the Constitution in Adobe Acrobat PDF format can be downloaded from the UTU Web site at Click on “Awards/Agreements” in the red area in the upper-left-hand side of the homepage. A link to the UTU Constitution can be found on the “Awards/Agreements” page, under the column labeled, “Important Documents.” The last page of the UTU Constitution includes a chart indicating which elections are held in a given year.

Special Circular No. 27

Special Circular No. 27 addressing local officer elections and a guide entitled, “How to Hold Elections for Local Officer Positions,” are available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format from the UTU Web site at Click on “Secretary/Treas. News & Tools,” in the blue area on the left-hand side of the homepage. Once on that page, click on “More forms…” at the bottom of the column labeled, “Forms and Documents.”