Monday, January 16, 2023
108 Iowa L. Rev. 981 (2023)

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Abstract

In 1959, Congress passed the Labor–Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”). Title I of the LMRDA guarantees union members equal rights to vote in union elections and referendums. The Supreme Court case Calhoon v. Harvey interpreted voting rights under Title I to protect union members only from discrimination. Subsequently, federal courts diverged over how exactly to apply equal voting rights under Title I. Some interpreted Calhoon to find no discrimination when unions provided members with universal suffrage to vote, notwithstanding behavior that dilutes the power of votes or undermines members’ ability to vote in the first place. Other courts found Title I protects against discrimination that undermines a meaningful vote, which covers a broader stratum of behavior than denying a vote outright. This Note contends federal courts should more aggressively adopt a meaningful vote standard. The federal judiciary can prohibit an expansive set of discriminatory behavior under Title I and still avoid excessive interreference in internal union affairs. Also, in protecting a meaningful vote, courts would not have to transgress Calhoon’s statement that Title I only protects against discrimination. Title I case law could also function as a potential road map for legislative action.