Union Constitution and Bylaws

Key Fact

The UFCW Constitution allows the union to discipline members for speaking out against the union, or trying to remove it. Members put on trial by the union do not have the right to a lawyer. 

Instacart prioritizes your flexibility. The UFCW prioritizes rules and control over its members, as these sections from the UFCW’s Constitution demonstrate.

For many years, the UFCW sought to keep its Constitution secret from the general public. The union even went to court to try and keep it secret:

“The UFCW International had joined with UFCW Canada and Local 777 (now re-organized as Local 247) in an earlier lawsuit charging a UFCW shipping clerk with defamation and with copyright infringement for posting the union’s constitution on his web site.”

Today, the Constitution can be viewed through the Labor Department’s Office of Labor Management Standards portal. The UFCW International Constitution is 29 pages with 39 separate articles that set numerous rules and regulations for members to follow. If you value flexibility and control over your own life, the UFCW may not be for you.

Under Article 25(A), members may be disciplined for:

“1. Violating any provisions of the Constitution or laws of the International Union or the approved bylaws or established rules of the member’s Local Union”;

This rule is written so broadly that it covers just about anything the union says. Any rules created by the union simply restrict you and your freedoms.

“2. Advocating or attempting to bring about the withdrawal from the International Union of any Local Union or any member or group of members, and/or working in the interest of or accepting membership in any organization dual to the International Union”;

If you are unhappy with the union and try to get rid of them, you can be disciplined. This is why any shopper should wait and see if the shoppers who voted in a UFCW local in Skokie get anything positive before they lock themselves in with the UFCW.

“3. Deliberately and improperly interfering with any officer or representative of the International Union or any Local Union in the discharge of the officer’s or representative’s duties, or with the performance of the legal or contractual rights or obligations of the International Union or any of its Local Unions”;

If you speak out against a union boss or officer, you can be disciplined.

“4. Deliberately engaging in conduct in violation of the responsibility of members toward the Union as an institution.”

Again, another “catch-all” to say if you do anything the union doesn’t like, you can be disciplined.

Union officials have even threatened members with discipline for violation of membership oaths.

Almost three full pages of the Constitution set out the procedures for internal UFCW trials of members. Art. 26(A)(2) states any union member can file a charge accusing any other union member. Trials are held by the UFCW and the charged member does not have a right to a lawyer. Rather, an “accused member may be assisted, advised, or represented by another member of the Local Union” under Art. 26(A)(12). If found guilty, members can be disciplined, fined and expelled from the union. UFCW can go to court to collect such fines from members.

Example of Internal UFCW Trial

UFCW Local 81 included a provision in its bylaws that prohibited any member from resigning union membership during a strike against an employer. After the union announced a strike against the employer, several employees resigned membership and crossed the picket line to continue work. The union directed them to appear before the Executive Board, threatened fines, and then directed them to appear before a Trial Committee — with no attorney present.

The employees were subsequently suspended and/or fined for crossing a picket line, and for failure to pay dues. An Administrative Law Judge subsequently ruled that the UFCW had illegally restrained and coerced these employees from rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB subsequently upheld this decision and ordered the union to change its bylaws and to rescind fines. Read more.

Here are some additional highlights from the Constitution:

  • Contracts– The UFCW International’s President in Washington, D.C. has the power to veto any contract. Art. 23(A) states that the “terms of proposed collective bargaining contracts . . . shall be submitted to the International President, upon his or her request, for review prior to any membership action thereon.” The International President also can block members’ right to vote on a contract.
  • Ratification/Strike Approval– If members are allowed to vote on a contract proposal, contracts are approved or rejected only by “a majority vote of those present and voting,” Art. 23 (D)(3).  What if the union conducts a “vote,” but you cannot attend or participate?
  • Also, Art. 25(D)(5) states that if 2/3 of those members who vote reject the contract proposal, that authorizes a strike. But, even if the members reject the contract proposal, the International President has the “authority to accept or reject such offer” in his sole discretion under Art. 23(D)(6). Art. 23(D)(6) means the International President can accept a contract proposal even if members reject it.
  • Strikes/Picket Lines– If there is a strike, Art. 23(E)(5) prohibits any member from crossing or working behind such picket line. This means that if you do not agree with the strike – or need or want to work to earn a paycheck – you violate the UFCW Constitution and will be put on trial or fined.

Read the Constitution and get all the facts for yourself – and your family. If the UFCW Constitution does not have enough rules, the local unions have their own rules in their bylaws.  You may want to read these bylaws, too.

Shopper’s Question: If I follow all the rules, do I get a say in how the union spends my money?

Instacart’s Answer: You don’t. However, union members do have some recourse if they think their union is breaking the rules or mistreating members. Read on to see how UFCW members have tried to hold their union accountable.

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