<< How much difference does direct election of union leadership make?
well, since there is no such thing, to my knowledge, in a large, well- established union, any discussion is hypothetical, buuut.......
1. during direct elections the person running has to speak directly to the electorate. During indirect elections, those running may address an entirely different set of issues, usually to those in power, One of the problems with discussing opening up unions is the failure to recognize different agendas for those in power vs. those in the rank and file. During a direct election, those running for office have to address the agenda of the rank and file. During an indirect election, those running address the agenda of a group of people who may not give a damn about the rank and file. Example, in 1101, shop stewards are elected shop by shop, but chief stewards, who wield a lot of power (there are roughly 60 chiefs for 10,000 members) are elected by shop stewards. Frequently chief stewards are elected in the face of tremendous animosity by their own shops, but the stewards elect the chief who 'takes care' of them during the year. When I was in construction, the chief out there refused flat out to allow 'his' stewards to sit any grievances dealing with gender/racial discrimination or sexual harrassment. 2. Frequently the population electing upper level officials is carefully picked to maintain the status quo. When I was in 1150 and now in 1101, one of the greatest secrets on earth is who are the convention delegates. They are hand picked by the local leadership and vote 'properly'. (I would like to say that this is no longer the case in 1150 -- for the last ten years or so delegates are openly and popularly elected, but not in 1101). When delegates get to the convention, there is tremendous pressure placed on them to vote for incumbents. During a popular election, rank and file groups can get out and influence people where as in convention settings, rank and file groups simply don't exist. maggie coleman mscoleman at aol.com