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Debate Continues on Amendments

September 23, 2011

Law Committee Chairman John O’Rourke of San Francisco Local 6 and Secretary Ross Galbraith of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Local 37 guided the delegation through discussion and debate continuing Thursday and Friday.

At the last convention, a decision was made prohibiting apprentices from serving as local union officers in most cases. A proposal was put forth by the International Officers to amend Article XVI, Section 11 to state that an apprentice shall also not serve as an election judge or teller. Advocating the need for experience and accumulated knowledge in decision making, the committee concurred with the officers’ proposal.

This prompted spirited debate from the floor. Leonard Rousseau of Victoria, B.C., Local 230 agreed with the committee’s recommendation, saying that the key responsibility of all apprentices was to become “the finest, most well-trained electricians they can be,” and that serving as election assistants could divert progress toward this goal.

Helena, Mont., Local 233 Business Manager Keith Allen suggested a compromise: allow members of any classification in good standing for at least two years to serve. Salvador Ventura of San Jose, Calif., Local 332 rose in support saying, “When our members are sworn in, to exclude them is not fair.” Additional discussion ensued, and the amended resolution to allow members with two years of service who are in good standing to assist in elections passed by a close voice vote.

Another proposal put forth would amend Article XVIII, Section 5 concerning local union expenditures and purchases. Currently, the International President provides guidelines and frameworks regarding local unions’ spending. A motion was made to allow for expenses under $5,000 to be approved more quickly and efficiently by an International Vice President, providing that any expenses above that figure be approved by the International President.

The committee, however, voted for nonoccurrence with the International Officers’ proposal, stating that the resolution is cumbersome and restrictive on local unions’ efforts to conduct business in a timely manner.

Vinny McElroen of New York Local 3 rose in support of the committee’s recommendation. He said that while he appreciated the intent of the leadership to ensure financial integrity, “this resolution could overburden our ability to fight for our 29,000 members,” he said, as unfair litigation costs periodically threaten to eat into the local’s funds. Discussion was then closed, and the delegation agreed with the committee’s nonconcurrence.

Other amendments were discussed by the committee Thursday.

As retired members are currently allowed to have a voice at local meetings but are not allowed to vote, an amendment to Article XI, Section 6(d) was proposed to revise the “prohibition of work” language in the constitution. The committee agreed that a retiree making a bona fide return to the trade should be allowed to vote only after 120 days back on the job to ensure integrity of elections. The amendment passed with voice vote.

As there is currently some confusion about members holding management positions in companies they work for, the International Officers recommended changes to Article XV, Section 5 and Article XXIV, Section 1. Proposals state that no local should allow any member who becomes an employer, partner, or manager of an electrical business to hold local office, attend meetings or vote in elections. The resolution further recommended that such members apply for a participating withdrawal card. The committee concurred with the amendment, highlighting the need for clarification in such situations. Delegates proposed, debated and then voted down two additional amendments before passing the amendment.

International Officers proposed a change to Article XV, Section 6, stating that no local shall enforce any bylaws, amendments or rules without the expressed approval of the International President. The officers recommend that bylaw amendments be forwarded to district International Vice Presidents, who will then forward them to the International President with any recommendations. The amendment now requires that the number of copies submitted shall be determined by the International President, instead of the previous requirement of multiple paper copies. The committee concurred, recognizing that additional assistance to local unions drafting potential bylaws is beneficial. Delegates passed the measure.

International Officers proposed an amendment to Article XVI, Section 1 to clarify that examining board members are not operating officers of the local union. The committee concurred, stating that the responsibilities of examining board officers differ from those of certain operational officers – such as business managers, financial secretaries, etc. This passed with no discussion.

A proposed amendment to Article XVI, Section 16 would require that vacancies in any local union office shall be filled by the local union Executive Board until the next regular election. The intent of the amendment was to treat any vacancies on the Examining Board in the same fashion as that of any other vacancy in the local. Delegates agreed with the committee’s concurrence.

International Officers proposed changes to Article XVII, Section 1(f) regarding local union independent audit procedures. The proposed amendment would either allow for the local to appoint an auditing committee of three members or employ a public accountant to reconcile the local’s finances every three months. In addition, the amendment would mandate the local union to employ a certified public accountant to perform internal audits in accordance with generally accepted standards annually, or if financially unable, to request a waiver from the International Secretary-Treasurer. The proposal was discussed and passed by the convention.

A motion was made to amend Article XX, Section 1 to ensure that no local union can admit an applicant for membership if he or she is already a member of another local. The only exception to this rule is if a member is a traveler, operating under the provisions of Article XXIII. The committee concurred, agreeing that no person shall be a member of more than one local at the same time.

A new section to the constitution (Article XXI, New Section 5) and a revision to Article XXV, Section 13 were proposed to clarify the good-standing status of members appealing trail board assessments. The proposals recommend that members making required monthly payments on an assessment may remain in good standing while protesting their assessment. The committee concurred, adding that it was never the intent to cause a member to lose his or her good standing status while appealing the decision of a trial board. The delegation passed the amendment with no discussion.

A proposal to Article XXV, Section 8 states that since stewards are not local union officers, clarification is needed regarding the filing of charges against them. International Officers proposed a systematic procedure for filing charges through the district International Vice Presidents. The committee agreed with the proposal. An amended resolution passed the delegation by voice vote.


The committee moved for nonconcurrence Thursday on one proposal put forth by a local union. Representatives of Hamilton, Ontario, Local 105 submitted an amendment to Article XI, Section 1(a) that would increase pension benefit payments from the current level of $4.50 per month to $6 per month for each year of continuous “A” membership. The committee moved for nonconcurrence, based on actuarial data, stating that the proposed amendment would jeopardize future PBF obligations. The delegation upheld the committee’s decision. At that point, the Law Committee adjourned for the day.

The committee reconvened Friday morning to discuss the following resolutions:

A proposal was put forth to clarify Article XII, Section 10 regarding military service cards. The resolution stated that any member voluntarily remaining in or re-entering national service shall not be entitled to the military service card. However, members in the National Guard or reserves may retain the card benefit if he or she is called to active duty. Recognizing the great sacrifices made by military personnel, the committee concurred. After discussion and clarification, delegates approved the resolution.

Since the last convention, several parties making trial board charges have attempted to appeal the board’s rulings. Amendments to Article XXV, Sections 12 and 17 clarify the constitution to ensure that only parties being penalized or disciplined may make appeals through the International Vice President. The committee concurred, stating that it was never intended that anyone other than a member penalized or disciplined by a local union trial board could appeal. The delegation passed the amendment with no discussion.

As the IBEW Journal ceased publication in 2009, a resolution was proposed to substitute the words “monthly publication” in place of all references to “Journal” in the IBEW Constitution. The committee concurred, and delegates voted for the amendment.

Two resolutions proposed Friday were met with nonconcurrence by both the committee and the delegation:

A proposal was made stating that the task of making particular reviews and recommendations to the IBEW’s structure and constitution can be too time consuming and cumbersome to be addressed exclusively at International Conventions. Leaders of Detroit 58 proposed to amend Article XXVII, Section 1 regarding the Select Committee on the Future of the Brotherhood. However, the Law Committee stated that the existing efforts of the original Select Committee, established in 1998, did not need alteration. Furthermore, expenditures for another committee to convene would be cost prohibitive, so the Law Committee nonconcurred. Sponsors of the resolution then withdrew their support of the proposal, and the delegation agreed with the committee’s nonconcurrence.

A final  amendment regarding pension department death benefit payments was submitted by leaders of St. Paul, Minn., Local 23. The proposal to revise Article XI, Section 4(a) called for raising the minimum death payment amount of $3,000 to $6,250. Citing actuarial studies, the committee nonconcurred, and delegates assented with the committee.

The Law Committee adjourned, concluding the discussion on amendments to the IBEW Constitution at the 38th International Convention.


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