Union democracy has long been a core value for the attorneys at Despres, Schwartz, & Geoghegan, Ltd., even throughout the labor movement’s most fallow periods.
With a resurgent labor movement in the United States and with unions reasserting their power and place in the country’s future, ensuring that unions faithfully represent their members is more important than ever.
Attorney Thomas Geoghegan has a long and storied history with union democracy, working early in his career with the Mineworkers for Democracy and a reformer-led United Mineworkers of America. Since then, our firm has represented Teamsters for a Democratic Union at crucial moments in its history, including the successful fight to bring direct elections of national leadership to the Teamsters. More recently, our firm has served as legal counsel for the United Auto Workers (UAW) reform caucus Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD). Our attorneys have counseled UAWD in their successful fight to win a “One Member One Vote” in the UAW and provided legal support to the Members United slate of candidates for the UAW board, which won every seat they contested.
Who We Represent
Counsel to individuals, worker’s collectives, class action groups, and unions
As part of our flexible and results-oriented approach to obtaining justice for workers, we represent a wide variety of clients at different scales. Depending on the needs of our clients and their concerns, we serve as counsel to individuals, worker’s collectives, class action groups, and unions.
Supporting Union Democracy
Our work supporting union democracy continues to this day in several different forms:
- Representing reform caucuses at all stages of development. Our attorneys help provide reform groups within unions to understand federal and state law, as well as their own union’s constitution, and work with them to come up with creative ways to take on the challenges they face. We also represent reform caucus members to strategically advance the mission of the caucus, including in internal union hearings, in administrative processes, and in litigation.
- Defending the rights of union members—in court if need be. Union members are entitled to their rights under Title I of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), and our firm represents union members in enforcing those rights.
- Representing candidate slates for union elections. At both the local and national level, our attorneys help reform advocates navigate the rules of their local election and the federal statute that regulates them, Title IV of the LMRDA. We protect the rights of union members to campaign and quickly respond to encroachment on those rights.
- Representing unions after the reformers win. When new leadership comes in, remaking and reorienting the institution around the new democratic mandate from the members can be overwhelming. Our attorneys provide legal support and counsel in transforming unions to align with the policies voted in by members.
- Helping unions end unlawful trusteeships. When International Unions take over a local union or remove its elected leadership for illegal political reasons, we help the members restore democracy to their union. In 2021, we have won a rare reversal of a trusteeship during a presumption of validity, returning member control to the local.
- Serving as union election officers. Lawyers at our firm have been tapped by unions to supervise and administer their officer elections. We bring our longstanding commitment to union democracy to this work, ensuring that when it comes to the work and vision of labor unions, the members decide.
Let’s work together
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We welcome the opportunity to advocate for a more democratic labor movement and ensure a healthy labor movement for workers of all backgrounds.