The term “rank-and-file” is defined as “those who form the major portion of any group or organization, excluding the leaders and officers.” In UE, we use the term “rank-and-file unionism” to describe how our union operates: it simply means it’s the members who run our union … in a democratic and collective manner. The members set the policies of the union and make all of the decisions of importance that affect their own local unions.
Long-time UE officer and organizer Ernie DeMaio defined UE’s unique style of rank-and-file unionism this way: the members elect the union’s officers (local, district and national) who, in turn, are required to report on their stewardship of the union concerning its “policies, program, expenditures and contract negotiations which must have the prior consent of the members and their approval on all of the actions taken, and contracts negotiated, on their behalf. The essence of rank-and-file unionism is not democratic rhetoric, but democratic practice. The members run the union.”