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Rank and File Organization for the Defense
and Promotion of Democratic Process at Camas (WA) PSE


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April 2010 

Bylaw Passed!
Assistant Classification Representatives
Bylaw Submission

The following bylaw amendment (in blue) was submitted with the purpose of helping representatives fulfill board duties and attend to member needs:

Article VII
Section 2.
  The board of trustees shall be composed of the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, immediate past president, and a unit representative elected by the unit from each of the following classifications of employees of the school district if represented by the local Public School Employees organization.  An elected assistant unit representative may act as unit representative at board meetings in the unit representative’s absence. 

Article IX
Duties of Officers
Section 6.
  Trustee.  A trustee shall represent the classification of employees which elected them and express to the board of trustees the needs, desires, and concerns of the members in their classification.

Section 6.A.  Assistant Unit Representative.  An assistant unit representative shall act for the unit representative at board meetings in the unit representative’s absence.  The assistant may perform other acts directed by the unit representative to assist the classification of employees which elected them. 


With growth in our chapter, unit representatives carry a much greater load today than in previous years.  This amendment will provide unit representatives a moderate level of assistance with board meetings and serving member needs.  It will not affect the desirable parity between classifications on the board as only one unit representative will be allowed to participate.  This amendment is meant to apply equally to all classifications and, with the assistant being an elected position, will assist in the training of future representatives and the promotion of leadership within the chapter.


June 2009
Co-Representatives are Best Solution

UDC Commentary: The well established principle in governments of divided power adds to organizational stability.  An example of this the separation of the US Congress into two groups, the House of Representatives and Senate.  Another principle used in democratic governments is to empower minorities.  This is seen in Congress where the House membership is proportional to the US population, while in the Senate membership is equal between the states.

The House corresponds roughly to our Camas PSE general meetings, and the Senate to our board of directors.  In general meetings voting is proportional to membership, while at  board meetings voting is equal among classifications.  This organizational structure provides a check to a serious weakness of democracies, that of majorities dominating minorities.  The equal vote among classifications on the board allows minority classifications, who are essential to the district's operation, the power they need to protect their interests. This is why board voting must stay equal between classifications and why allowing two reps for classifications over 50 members can not work.  In addition, the PSE state board may not approve such a by-law change.

There is though the real problem of growing union membership, with reps overburdened and membership unable to get the help they need.  A reasonable alternative to address this problem would be to allow co-representatives.  All classifications would be allowed to have co-reps with one board vote between them.   The rep elected by the majority of the classification would have first voting rights, while the minority rep could vote in the majority rep's absence.  Each of these reps would be elected independently to allow for broader representation of the classification.  Therefore, no team co-reps would be allowed.  In addition to providing more competent help for membership, co-reps would allow for the mentoring necessary to those willing to serve in this important voluntary office.

May 2009
Classification Rep Bylaw Proposal

UDC Commentary: The bylaw amendment below by bus driver Mary Williams addresses the problem of growth in Camas PSE.  The continuous expansion of Camas Schools makes the union's growth an unavoidable issue that needs to be attended to with care and competence.  With more employees demanding increased time of volunteer board members, we need more people to shoulder the load of representation.  The number of board positions now is nearly the same as when the chapter was first instituted.  It's time for change, it's time to add more classification reps.

Any proposed increase to the number of officers must be for fully vested positions, especially concerning the responsibility of voting on chapter issues.  The suggestion by some to make additional representatives nonvoting can not work.  This has been tried before and we know it doesn't work.  That's what the previous co-representatives essentially were: two people with one vote.  The reason it doesn't work is because the non voting rep doesn't have the core responsibility essential to the position.  They are less motivated to attend board meetings and stay informed of chapter business, and consequently less able to assist the membership.  Nonvoting rep's can never function as a true representative.

With an increase in chapter membership, we need more and fully functioning classification reps to handle union business and assist the membership.  All classification reps need to be able to vote.

Bylaw amendment as submitted by Mary Williams:

Article VII

Section 2. The board of trustees shall be composed of the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, immediate past president, and a unit representative from each classification listed below. The representatives are to be elected by the members within each of their perspective classifications. unit from each of the following classifications of employees of the school district if represented by the local Public School Employees organization. Each classification will be allowed one representative, except in the case of more than 50 members in a classification. In the case of classification with more than 50 members, two representatives will be allowed.


1. Transportation

2. Food Service

3. Custodial

4. Maintenance

5. Paraprofessionals

6. Grounds Maintenance

7. Professional Technical

8. Crossing Guards

9. Mechanics

10. Other units requesting further affiliation



Area School District Wage Information and Comparisons

2007-2008 Camas Wages, Alpha Sorted 2007-2008 Evergreen Wages, Alpha A - L
2007-2008 Camas Wages, $151K - $45K 2007-2008 Evergreen Wages, Alpha M - Z
  2007-2008 Evergreen Wages, > $40.8K
Area School District Wage Comparison 2007-2008 Evergreen Wages, < $40.8K

Candidate Statements Bylaw Proposal
Result: The Camas PSE board recommended "Do Not Pass" to the membership.  Bylaw was passed with a minor amendment.

(Sept. 2007) In order to assist candidates to effectively communicate their qualifications for an elected office in Camas PSE, the following bylaw is proposed by Camas PSE Union Democracy Caucus: 

Addition to Article VIII, Sec 1: “Candidate statements may be submitted for distribution with the notice of election and posting on classification bulletin boards. Statements must be submitted as a computer document no later than 20 days prior to the election, be 250 words or less, and may include a picture.”

This proposal is being made for the February Camas PSE meeting.

Candidate Flyers To Be Allowed On Camas PSE Boards

January, 2007 - At the chapter meeting of Camas PSE, it was agreed that allowing candidates to post flyers on union bulletin boards would be helpful in enhancing the election process.  Candidates could post information such as the reason they are running for office, their agenda or platform, and their qualifications.  Posting this information will give members more time to consider the qualifications of candidates before the election.  A bylaw will be formulated to formally incorporate this permission.


We Need A Chapter Assisted Forum for Candidates

Posted 6/13/06. This forum doesn’t need to be anything more than allowing and assisting candidates to post an explanation of their qualifications and campaign ideas on PSE bulletin boards. It could also include ensuring candidates as little as one single minute at the election meeting to briefly state their qualifications and ideas if they want to.

Whatever forums are approved need to be extended fairly to all candidates. It might be advantageous to include a bylaw that assures candidates of the chapter’s willingness to extend to them the means necessary to communicate their ideas.

Since Camas PSE usually has to scrape for candidates to run for office, it would seem very much to our chapter’s advantage to implement these guarantees of support to candidates and thus encourage more to run for and serve in elected office.


Election Reform Proposal

Posted 6/1/06.  During our recent chapter election, there was an irregularity, certainly unintentional, but still a situation that significantly impacted the democratic election process which Camas PSE ascribes to, and which this Union Democracy Caucus strives to promote.

As we were beginning the election, Chapter president Kathy Duley asked if anyone would like to hear the presidential candidates, Ivan Frey and herself, speak and/or answer questions. Given that these meetings are long, the chorus response she got of “NO!” may be understandable. But how then do presidential hopefuls effectively communicate their ideas and plans to the chapter members? Presently there is no chapter assisted way for candidates to communicate their ideas to the members as a whole. This is not a good situation given that it’s in Camas PSE’s interest to assist these candidates in the election process. Doing so will encourage a greater participation of members as candidates and ultimately in serving as chapter trustees.

A discussion of how this can be done will be for a future post. 


Bylaw Meeting Results

April 25, 2006 - Bylaw amendment was changed from "ten days" to “ten working days,” which with weekends is roughly equivalent to 15 days, especially for our typical Monday or Tuesday evening meetings.  Even though we lose one day notification, given the preference for simplicity of language in the bylaws, this is a suitable outcome.



Monday, April 24, 2006, 6:30 pm, Trans Center

 Vote NO on Election Notification Bylaw 

Proposed amendment: change “at least fifteen (15) days advance notice shall be given the membership prior to the holding of the election” to “at least ten (10) days advance notice …”

 Fifteen days notification for officer elections is already a very minimal amount of time.  The qualifications of candidates need to be discussed and people need notice to schedule the date and time to be there.  The “ten working days” provision of Sec. 1 is necessary to prevent notification during vacations.  If PSE finds it hard to recruit candidates to post a slate with the notice, then it should instead address disrespect of trustees and candidates.  The bylaws state that “Members shall have the right to fair and democratic elections at all levels of the chapter” (Article VIII, Sec. 1).  Reducing Section 6 notification to 10 days is not sensible, and 15 days notification is not an undue burden on the union. 

Sec. 6:  “Members of the board of trustees shall be elected by secret ballot vote, and the balloting shall be so conducted as to afford all members a reasonable opportunity to vote.  At least fifteen (15) days advance notice shall be given to membership prior to the holding of the election.” 

Sec. 1: Members shall have the right to fair and democratic elections at all levels of the chapter.  This includes ten (10) working days notice of nominations and elections, and equal opportunities for competing candidates to state their qualifications and reasons for seeking office to the chapter membership.  Elections shall be conducted by secret written ballot and certified by the chapter secretary.


Bylaw Proposal (this Bylaw was passed)

The following bylaw proposal will be considered at the January 27th, 2004 (Tuesday) PSE General Meeting:

"The election of the Classification Representative for Transportation will be held each year at a classification meeting at the transportation center and will occur within thirty days before the May General Election Meeting."

Having 20% of union membership handling the common affairs of the union at the general meetings is plenty satisfactory, but having 20% of the bus drivers voting on their representative is not. We need to elect our rep on site with maximum participation.


About Union Democracy Caucus

This is a rank and file organization that defends and promotes democratic processes in the Camas Chapter of Public School Employees Union of Washington.

Contact this caucus by email at:


From the Association For Union Democracy Website:

Questions and Answers -- Forming a caucus

Q: "I need information on the caucus I have started. I have questions such as: does a caucus have a formal internal structure? Must a caucus be formally registered with the union, or any other body? Who determines qualifications for membership? And on and on. Sorry, I can't find the answers to my questions on your site, and I'm not sure which books to order from AUD. I would also like to contact rank and file groups to see what they have done and how they do it. Thank you for any help you can give."

A: Great question. Forming a caucus is one of the best ways to organize for democracy, member control, and reform of your union.

What is a caucus? Most caucuses start out (and many remain) small informal groups of like-minded members of a union who wish to pursue some common goals. Most caucuses are independent of the union and they are certainly not subject to control by the union leadership. Nor do you have to register your caucus with the union.

There may be several caucuses in a union, including one or more organized by the union officers, themselves, for example, to promote their candidacies in an election or to advocate some point of view. (These are not to be confused with official union-sponsored caucuses, like a women's caucus or people of color caucus. These official caucuses may be governed by the union bylaws and subject to control by the union leadership.)

Is a caucus different from a committee? No. Call it whatever you want. Some call their caucus a committee -- for example: "The Committee for A Just Contract." The name you pick may tell people what you are fighting for. You will probably want to make it clear in your literature that your caucus is independent of the union to avoid confusion about whether you are speaking as official union representatives. (Again, be careful not to confuse an independent committee with an official union-sponsored committee.)

Who can belong to a caucus or committee? That's up to you and your fellow caucus organizers and members. Usually, a caucus will accept anyone who supports its goals and is willing to work to achieve them.

Do caucus members have to be members of the union? No. One of the larger union reform caucuses, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, accepts into the caucus not only union members, but also their spouses or significant others. Who is eligible to belong is up to the caucus members.

What kind of structure does a caucus have to have? Whatever works best for you. Some activists create a structure that resembles their union's structure, with officers, bylaws, etc. Others are more informal, with an elected steering committee, or just a committee in which everyone participates equally. As time goes on, you may find that you need to formalize your structure and create bylaws. But at the beginning, don't worry about structure. Focus on your goals and strategy -- what it is you want to accomplish, and how you plan to get there -- and get to work.

Do we need to incorporate into a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization or 501 (c) (5) labor organization? No. You can be an unincorporated membership association. Again, don't waste your time and energy on the creation and administration of some elaborate legal structure. Do only what's necessary to accomplish your objectives.

Of course, you will eventually need to raise funds, for example, to print leaflets, t-shirts, or send mailings, etc. You may want to charge yourselves dues or hold a raffle. You'll want to be very careful with money. This is particularly important when it comes to union elections where there are often strict rules about use of funds. If you decide to open a bank account in the group's name, your bank may require you to provide it with bylaws designating some officer who is authorized to handle money and sign checks. O.K. Now the time has come to adopt bylaws. But don't write a book, just stick with the basics: what is the name of your organization, what are its goals, who is eligible for membership, how do you make decisions, who in your group has what authority, how can members change the bylaws.

Once your group has been around for a while, and you've decided to go for the long-haul, you may then find it helpful to set up a parallel, not-for-profit educational organization and perhaps seek funding from foundations. For example, Teamsters for a Democratic Union teams up with a related not-for-profit organization, the "Teamster Rank and File Research and Legal Defense Fund." O.K. Now we're talking about getting lawyers involved, incorporating, and filing for tax-exempt, Section 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Generally speaking, however, less is more: less structure usually means more participation and greater flexibility.

To recap: the most important considerations when establishing a caucus in your union are going to be your mission and your strategy for implementing it. What do you want to change and how do you propose to make those changes. These are far more important than bylaws or tax considerations. Only after your caucus has gotten off the ground and started fighting big battles will you need to address such legal considerations.

Questions to consider: Where are you going and how will you get there? How are your goals related to the concerns of your coworkers? Do you just want new faces in the top positions? Or do you have a plan for changing the way the union works? Say you win office, what will make the new officers different from the people they replaced? What will you do differently? Do you want to change the union's orientation toward management? Do you want to reorganize the union to make it more democratic? Will you make it easier for the members to vote you out than it was for you, when you were the opposition? Where do you plan to begin? Should you run for office or focus on organizing at the workplace? What role will members play? Will you educate your coworkers and get them involved in actions? How will you help members get hold of the information they need to be in control and hold their leaders accountable? All of this needs to be sorted out in your caucus if you want to be successful.

Remember, most caucuses start in someone's kitchen, a restaurant, or a bar, just a convenient meeting place where you start sharing ideas with like-minded union brothers and sisters. The activists usually begin by tackling some manageable project, not reshaping the world overnight. As new members come on board and their talents are recognized and tapped, the caucus can then afford to become more ambitious. Successful caucuses usually start small and build through action and discussion.

AUD's Union Democracy Benchmarks

Q: I have a very basic question. What do you at AUD think is a democratic union? How do you judge -- what are the benchmarks? Is it enough to have elections and union meetings? Is a union democratic if it just obeys the legal requirements, even if those requirements are minimal? Do you have a list of unions that you consider democratic?

A: We do not maintain a list of "AUD-certified" democratic unions. We feel that judgment is best left in the hands of union members themselves, the people most familiar with the real workings of the institution. Visit the rank-and-file sites on our links page to see how various unions measure up in the eyes of some of their members.

But, we like the idea of union democracy benchmarks, so we put together the following checklist. Warning! This list has many limitations; we welcome your feedback.

AUD's Union Democracy Benchmarks

  • Fair elections that promote participation. Union goes beyond the minimum DOL requirements for elections (see links below): provides more time for nominations and campaigning, union representatives encourage members to run for office. All members in good standing eligible to run; no continuous good standing or meeting attendance requirements. No ban on non-member contributions (except employers and unions) to candidates for union office. Officers back members' right to time off for campaigning. If necessary, elections run by legitimate outside agency.
  • Frequent, contested elections. More than minimum required by law; members regularly challenge incumbents; there is turnover in officers and representatives.
  • Access to membership list. In elections, candidates have access to membership list (name, work location, phone, e-mail) for campaign purposes, including right to copy the list.
  • Open publications. Local newsletter/website publishes members' views, including those critical of officials, representatives, or union policy; union encourages debate and discussion of issues and candidates. In elections, all candidates have equal use of union publications and means of communication (website, newsletter, e-mail list) to put out their campaign material.
  • Member ratification of contracts. All contracts and side agreements between the union and management subject to ratification by secret ballot by members covered by the contract.
  • Strike votes. Members vote on striking, on return to work, and on other decision during strike; strike votes not used to force members to ratify contracts ("either you vote "yes" or you vote to strike").
  • Informed vote. Complete text of proposed contract changes, amendments, referenda, etc. distributed to members prior to ratification with sufficient time for meaningful membership review and discussion. Union circulates different opinions about the contract offer.
  • Elected representatives. Shop stewards and business agents elected, secret ballot, by members they represent, subject to recall by members they represent; stewards and active members trained in legal rights and organizing; stewards council that meets to plan and coordinate action.
  • Grievants' bill of rights. Workers participate fully in the grievance process at every step, with full information about their case and its progress.
  • Access to information. Union representatives give members current and complete copies of the contract and the union constitution/bylaws. Contract and Constitution are published on union website. Members have easy access to information on officers' salaries, budget, and expenses. Union representatives regularly inform members of their rights under federal and state law, and how to enforce them, including rights and responsibilities under the LMRDA.
  • Regular local meetings. At least quarterly; announced ahead of time; time and place convenient to members; agenda circulated in advance; real business conducted, not just a pep rally; members encouraged to speak, make proposals, vote, and ask questions. Reasonable quorum (not so high as to prevent member meetings). Minutes available to members.
  • Independent organizing and communication. Members organize in independent committees and caucuses, publish rank-and-file newsletters and websites, run candidates for union office. Union officers encourage this.
  • Inclusion and equality. All members are treated fairly; union fights discrimination by management and among members; officers and representatives reflect membership in terms of gender, race, language, craft, seniority, etc. Contracts, Constitution, meetings, publications translated into languages spoken by members.
  • Education for members. Union trains members in legal rights and organizing, including how to participate effectively in the union and how to organize on the job.


This website is sponsored by the Union Democracy Caucus at the Camas Public Schools Employees (PSE) Union, in Camas, Washington