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Central Labor Body Governance

Constitution and By-Laws

The conduct of each central labor body was governed by its Constitution and By-Laws. This document, approved by the national parent labor organization, spelled out the body’s purpose, specified officers and committees, provided for elections and set per capita dues, prescribed representation schedules and voting procedures, established procedures for settling disputes between members, and identified means to amend the document itself, including approval by the national organization.

Efforts to amend the Constitution of the Central Trades and Labor Council (CTLC) were frequent and often occasioned spirited debate:

  • 1912: the amendment requiring delegates to wear four union labels was adopted
  • 1919: the By-Laws were revised
  • 1920: there was controversy over President Schaeffer appointing the labor paper’s Control Board, rather than their being elected; this led in 1921 to a referendum on revision, which was defeated, that defined all committees, including the control board, as elective.
  • 1923: the Council approved amendments creating both an Executive Committee of at least ten members and an Educational Committee
  • 1924: the CTLC adopted the AFL’s delegate representation schedule
  • 1933: an amendment was defeated to debar as a delegate any union member who had become “a contractor or employer of labor”
  • 1945: the offices of Financial Secretary and Treasurer were combined and two more Vice Presidents were added
  • 1949: an amendment was approved requiring delegates to sign a Loyalty Oath

In 1964 the procedure for amending the by-laws was articulated: a special committee was appointed and a hearing held, after which recommendations could be submitted in writing within 90 days. Proposed amendments had to be read aloud at two consecutive meetings before a vote to approve could be held. All amendments were subject to the approval of the AFL-CIO.

Officers

Throughout their history Rochester central labor bodies have been been led by officers elected at delegate meetings. (See Lists of CLC Officers). As early as 1863 the Monroe County Workingmen’s Assembly was headed by a President, while a District Master Workman led the KOL’s DA 44. CTLC officers have remained fairly consistent: President, 1st VP, 2nd VP, Recording Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, Sergeant-at-Arms, and 3 Trustees. In 1945 the two secretary positions were combined and 2 additional VPs were added. When the AFL and CIO Councils merged in 1959, the new Executive Board was expanded to 15 members (8 AFL, 7 CIO), with particular positions going to AFL or CIO (e.g., AFL got the presidency, while CIO got 1st VP, who chaired the Executive Board); the AFL got 3 members-at-large. 1964 amendments included a change in the composition of the Executive Board, from officers plus 5 at large and 6 alternates to officers plus 11 at large members; in 1970 the size of the E Board was increased from 21 to 23 members, with the new seats designated for the Building Trades.

Officers of Rochester’s central labor bodies, assisted by numerous standing and special committees, coordinated Council activities and implemented decisions made by the delegates. For the most part their efforts were unpaid.

Elections

While the offices themselves remained fairly constant, the frequency of elections changed dramatically. From their inception through 1902 Rochester central labor bodies elected officers every 6 months — in January and June. In 1918 the CTLC amended its Constitution and By-Laws to hold elections annually. 1969 amendments changed the term of office from one year to two years (the By-Laws committee had recommended the term be extended to 3 years) and stipulated that candidates for office must have served as a delegate for at least one year from a local in good standing. Also, that officers absent without reasonable excuse for three consecutive meetings would forfeit their position and the President would appoint a successor. In 1982 the term of office was extended to three years, effective in January 1983.

Officers were often re-elected by acclamation, but occasional contests for the privilege of serving could ensure a good turn-out at Council meetings. Such was the case in 1969 when Jack Cicotte from AFSCME beat the Laborers’ Tony Castagnaro for the presidency and Rudolph (Bud) Miller of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers soundly defeated Jimmy Colombo of the Retail Clerks for the 1st VP’s seat. In 1969 by-laws language was adopted that stipulated that “the choice of officers in regular elections must be by printed ballots. A plurality of all votes cast shall be necessary to elect.” (Colombo went on to win the RLC presidency from Jack Cicotte in 1972).

There was a line of ascension inherent in the Executive Board structure that usually led to the 1st VP succeeding the President when the President left office. The pace of ascension was stepped up in 1985 when Ron Pettengill moved in a two-month period from 2nd VP to President due to the successive resignations of 1st VP Mary Ann Benincasa and President Nicholas DelVecchio.

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