THE MONTROSE OPTION
Given this may be the most important check a local union has on its union’s national office, we were only too glad to help when one local union recently asked us to lead it through a Montrose process. They were not sure which national union they wanted to affiliate with, but they were positive they wanted to get away from the union they were with. The Montrose option permits local unions to easily and quickly disaffiliate from their national union and join another union or go independent. The steps in the process are discussed well in NAGE, 25 FLRA 728 (1987).
The local that approached us was upset at the kind of help it was getting from its national office to deal with the Trump Executive Orders. They did not like the staffer that was unilaterally assigned them, the staffer’s priorities were not theirs, the technical advice was what you would expect from a rookie staffer, etc. They told us “the national union was acting as if it was some kind of imperial power” and they had had enough. Moreover, as a single local with a bargaining unit of well over 1,000, they had some bargaining power when talking to other unions. (Sadly, their membership has bounced around between 20 and 30% for nearly a decade, but the Trump Administration treats their agency so poorly that there are more than enough issues starting to develop to organize and recruit around.)
When we had lunch with the three leaders of the local, it was easy to walk them through the typical factors a local considering an affiliation change should look at, e.g., quality of national staff, whether the national affiliates with the AFL-CIO, dues, Constitutional rules, etc. But what seemed to impress them the most—and which should be a major part of any affiliation decision, were our comments on the integrity of the leaders of the various national unions and the actual values of each union. There is no sense in trading one national union with an imperial complex for another, or throwing in with leaders whose word you cannot rely on, or even joining organizations whose values demand allegiance to the national no matter the circumstances.
In an ideal world a local should seek a national union that it can “partner with,” rather than just be “added to.” If unions have any hope of getting into a partnership relationship with agency leaders, they are going to have to treat their own locals as partners first.