Slate Listings Should Not Be Prohibited

Viewpoints: Bylaw Resolution

Volume C, No. 5May, 2000

Jack Gale

I believe that the bylaw proposal for 802’s June meeting which would deny candidates the right to be listed as slates on the local’s ballot for election of officers is a harmful idea. Far from providing more flexibility, as the proposal’s whereas clause states, banning slate listings would limit flexibility.

In my view, the fact that our union has been so greatly improved and democratized over the past 20 years has been largely due to a healthy emphasis on ideas and information in our political and legislative processes. Bylaw issues have been resolved through analysis and debate, and elections have been decided based on political records, platforms and philosophies.

The historic insurgent victory in the elections of 1982 was the product of a campaign in which both sides unified themselves behind their ideas, philosophies and platforms. Voters made their choices based on the incumbents’ record and the ideas and promises of the insurgent slate.

Of course, after 20 years, the insurgents are now incumbents. Perhaps the 2000 election will not deal with ideas or platforms – but, if it does, the voters would benefit from slate listings on the election ballot. Slate listings show voters who the candidates are and what they stand for. In any campaign of ideas they enhance to the democratic process.

Moreover, individual candidates (or officers) seldom achieve major goals without the unified political support of an organized group. I believe that 802 voters deserve to know more about candidates than just their names. Democratic, Republican and Independent party designations on ballots are extremely helpful to voters in civil elections, and similar information should be available in Local 802 elections.

If the proposal to eliminate slate designations from 802’s election ballots is intended to improve the prospects of potential opposition candidates, it is not likely to work that way. Simple alphabetical listing of board candidates tends to favor those candidates with the widest name recognition – i.e., incumbents, whose names are usually much better known among members.

Furthermore, in order to win an election, insurgent candidates need the votes of not only their supporters but also those among the general membership who might be generally dissatisfied for whatever reason or who are simply inclined to vote for anybody new. But for opposition candidates to fully benefit from these patterns, both groups of candidates have to be identified, not mixed together in an alphabetical listing.

Hopefully, if there is a contested election in 802 this year, the opposition candidates will offer criticism of the incumbents and outline their own vision for the union, while the incumbents will stand on their record and delineate their platform. With board candidates simply listed in alphabetical order, members who do not know the candidates personally are much less likely to know who (or what) they are voting for.

Denying candidates the right of association with other, similarly minded, candidates through slate designations in effect restricts freedom of speech and would harm the democratic process.