Code of Ethics
In 1999, the DC 37 Constitution (PDF format)* was amended to add a new Article XIII, Code of Ethical Practices. The Code sets out specific prohibitions and requirements, creates an Ethical Practices Committee and the position of Ethical Practices Compliance Officer, and provides a mechanism for investigating possible violations of the Code.
The overall requirement of the Code is that all officers and managerial employees of DC 37, any Local Union, or any Fund must honestly and faithfully serve the best interests of the membership.
The Code specifically prohibits these officers and managers from:
1. Having any personal financial interest that is inconsistent with his/her fiduciary duties to the membership or to any benefit fund.
2. Accepting any gift that is greater than nominal value from any employer or Union vendor.
3. Converting Union funds or other property to his/her personal use or advantage.
4. Serving as an officer or managerial employee if ever convicted of certain felonies.
The first prohibition is intended to ensure that officers and managers act in the best financial interests of the membership, not in their own personal financial best interests. It provides that an officer/manager may not have a “significant financial interest” in any firm that bargains collectively with the Union, or that does business with the Union or any of the Funds (or wants to do business with the Union or a Fund).
For example, an officer cannot own (or have a significant ownership interest in) a catering business that is then chosen to supply food to a Union event. A Trustee of the Health and Security Fund cannot have a significant interest in an insurance company that applies to do business with the Fund.
This section of the Code also prohibits an officer or manager from making a decision or causing a decision to be made concerning a business relationship between the Union and a firm in which a close family member of the officer/manager has a significant financial interest. So if the officer’s wife or son-in-law owns the catering business, the Union could do business with the firm, but the officer could not be involved in the decision to choose that caterer.
The second major provision prohibits any officer or manager from accepting any gift (of greater than nominal value) from any employer that bargains with the Union (e.g., the City) or from a firm that does business with the Union or the Funds (or wants to). So an officer may not accept money or a lavish gift or trip from a bank that wants the Union to give the bank its business. The purpose of this section, similar to the previous section, is to ensure that the officer makes a business decision solely on the basis of what is best for the members and not because s/he expects to gain personally or because the business has given her/him a gift to influence the decision (or in a way that might appear to influence the decision).
A third important provision of the Code forbids an officer or manager from taking any money or property from the Union. This does not apply to money or property that rightfully belongs to the officer or manager (e.g., salary). It means, for instance, that the officer cannot use a Union credit card to buy personal items.
Contacting the Ethics Officer
It is not always clear what is a violation of the Code and what is not. All members, including officers and managers, are encouraged to ask for an advisory opinion from the Ethics Officer when any question arises. Better to ask in advance than make the wrong decision and face liability after the fact. All inquiries will be confidential.
If any member has reason to believe that a violation of the Code has taken place, s/he may file a charge with the Ethics Officer. The charge should be filed within 90 days of the time the charging party knew or should have known of the violation. The names of all charging parties and any materials or information obtained during or as the result of any investigation will be kept confidential to the extent possible.
If after an investigation the Ethics Officer finds reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the Code has occurred, the Officer will issue a report to the DC 37 Executive Director, the Ethics Committee, the AFSCME International President, the charging party and the subject of the investigation. The Ethics Committee or any Union member may bring charges under the International Constitution on the basis of the findings of the Ethics Officer.
DC 37 Ethical Practices Compliance Officer
45 Broadway Atrium, New York, NY 10006
Tel: (212) 883-4951
Fax: (212) 656-1447