A labor union is supposed to be run like a democracy, with majority rule, elections, secret ballots, and the like. But the Teamsters Union has an odd interpretation of what that means - treating it like a Polish election.

Recently, the Polish government held a national referendum on a proposed economic austerity plan. Although the plan was defeated by Poland's voters, the regime put it into effect anyway.That's exactly what happened with the Teamsters.

After lengthy negotiations, the Teamsters Union leadership recently worked out a new three-year contract with the trucking industry. But when the pact was sent to the membership for ratification, 63.5 percent of eligible voters turned it down. It was the first time in the union's history that rank-and-file members had rejected a contract negotiated by the leadership.

Stunned by that turn of events, the Teamsters leaders ignored the vote results and signed the deal anyway. They interpreted a clause in the union constitution requiring a two-thirds vote to call a strike as negating the need for a "yes" majority to approve the new contract.

Some dissidents filed a lawsuit this week against the leadership, not only for ignoring the vote, but also for alleged vote-counting fraud.

In one peculiar explanation, a Teamster official said that although the contract was voted down 64,101 to 36,782, more than half of the pre-election ballots mailed out - 57 percent - were not returned, thus indicating those members were satisfied with the proposed contract.

How's that again? Everybody who doesn't cast a ballot is counted as having voted "yes?"

That kind of arithmetic certainly would have changed the outcome of a lot of presidential elections.

The Solidarity union in Poland has battled that nation's autocratic regime for years in an effort to win more freedom. It sounds as if a Solidarity local is needed in the Teamsters Union.