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Landrum-Griffin Act Overview

Whether you work for a small business, run your own company, or are employed by the government, you probably have an opinion about unions (also known as labor organizations). You might think they improve working peoples' lives, or you may believe that they hinder economic growth.

Whatever the case may be, there is no shortage of laws regulating the rights and responsibilities of unions.

One such law is the Landrum-Griffin Act. Read on to learn more.

Purpose of the Landrum-Griffin Act

Roughly two and a half decades after the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was signed into law, the Landrum-Griffin Act, also known as the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), was enacted.

The LMRDA protects employees' rights to organize, engage in processes related to the drafting and solidifying of collective bargaining agreements, and select their own representatives.

According to congressional investigations conducted in the 1950s, there had been significant problems with corruption, racketeering, organized crime, and other wrongdoing by and in the labor movement.

At the time, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency created to administer the NLRA, had not been successful enough in curtailing abuses within the labor movement. As a result, additional measures were required, leading to the congressional investigations.

By the mid to late 1950s, and as a result of the investigations, Congress was determined to correct deficiencies in the Wagner Act and the Taft-Hartley Act.

The Landrum-Griffin Act was meant to correct these problems. It sought to prevent improper practices by labor organizations and employers by establishing a Bill of Rights for union members, implementing reporting and disclosure requirements, and creating standards for the election of union officials. It also laid out other rules and procedures, as well.

The Landrum-Griffin Act and the Rights of Union Members

Title I of the Landrum-Griffin Act details a Bill of Rights for members of labor organizations. The following five rights are found within the Bill of Rights:

  • Equal Rights: Every member of a union/labor organization has equal rights to nominate candidates, vote in elections, and attend and participate in membership meetings.
  • Freedom of Speech and Assembly: Every member has the right to meet and assemble freely with other members, and to express views to others and at meetings of the labor union or organization.
  • Dues, Fees, and Assessments: Unions must follow specific rules in establishing dues, fees, and assessments.
  • Protection of the Right to Sue: No union may limit the right of a member to bring a lawsuit, although members may be required to exhaust internal procedures first.
  • Safeguards Against Improper Disciplinary Action: No member may be fined, suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined except for nonpayment of dues, unless the member has been served with specific charges, given a reasonable time to prepare a defense, and afforded a full and fair hearing.

Any member whose rights have been violated can bring a civil action in federal district court for damages and injunctive relief.

Reporting Requirements Under the Landrum-Griffin Act

Signed into law 12 years after the Labor Management Relations Act, the Landrum-Griffin Act also spells out administrative and financial reporting requirements for unions, their officers and employees, and employers.

Under the LMRDA, unions must file their constitution and bylaws and reports containing basic information about the union with the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), a division of the Department of Labor. Unions must also file financial reports setting forth their assets and liabilities, receipts and expenses, and any loans they have made to their officers, employees, or members, or to any businesses.

Under the Act, union officers and employees are required to report certain interests in, and transactions with, employers whose employees the union represents or is actively seeking to represent.

Employers are required to report payments or loans to unions, their officers, or their employees. Employers must also report any payments or expenditures designed to affect employees in the exercise of their rights to organize or bargain collectively.

The Landrum-Griffin Act and Union Elections

To guard against corruption and protect members' rights to elect their union representatives, Title IV of the Landrum-Griffin Act specifies rules and procedures for union elections. These rules include the following:

  • Every national or international union (except federations of those labor organizations) must elect its union officers at least once every five years by secret ballot of members in good standing or delegates chosen by secret ballot.
  • Every local labor organization must elect its officers at least once every three years by secret ballot among members in good standing.
  • Labor organizations must not discriminate between candidates for office within the organization with regard to the dissemination of campaign materials and availability of member lists.
  • Money received by a labor organization through dues and other similar fees, as well as money from an employer, may not be used to promote the candidacy of any person in an election.
  • Ballots and records pertaining to the election must be preserved for at least one year.

The OLMS, a division of the Department of Labor, handles civil and criminal investigations into election fraud and other violations of the Landrum-Griffin Act.

Restrictions Landrum-Griffin Act Places on Unions

While the LMRDA strengthened protections for labor unions, it also placed certain restrictions on these organizations. Examples of such restrictions on union activities include prohibitions on certain types of picketing, such as secondary boycotts and picketing for the purpose of recognizing a trade union that is not registered with state agencies. It also laid out terms for trusteeships.

Under a trusteeship, a union takes control over a subordinate union when the latter is experiencing financial and operational difficulties.

A trustee has a fiduciary obligation to fulfill a variety of duties, examples of which are making sure that union funds are used for legitimate purposes and that the struggling union complies with the reporting requirements of the LMRDA.

When further complaints arise despite the trusteeship, any member of the trustee union may submit a complaint to the Secretary of Labor. Any member of the union under the oversight authority of the trustee union may do the same.

As the head of the Department of Labor, the Secretary of Labor will ultimately decide whether enforcement action is required.

Protect Your Labor Rights with the Help of an Attorney

Given the sheer number of rules and regulations, labor law can be complicated. State labor laws can also be very different depending on where you live. The rights and practices that these laws protect can have a big impact on your life and career. Whether your rights are in jeopardy, you are in the midst of a labor dispute, or you're attempting to comply with laws like the Landrum-Griffin Act, consider seeking help from a local labor law attorney today.

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