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Landrum-Griffin Act Overview

Whether you work for a small business or the federal government, you probably have an opinion about labor unions. Some people believe unions improve conditions of employment and employee rights. Others believe they hinder economic growth.

There is no shortage of laws regulating the rights and responsibilities of unions. One of them is the Landrum-Griffin Act (LMRDA). The federal law is also known as the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

History of the Landrum-Griffin Act

Two and a half decades after the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) became law, the LMRDA became law.

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

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency created to administer the NLRA, had failed to stop abuses within the labor movement. This led to congressional investigations.

By the mid to late 1950s, Congress wanted to correct deficiencies in the Wagner Act and the Taft-Hartley Act.

The Landrum-Griffin Act became law to correct these problems. It sought to prevent improper practices by labor organizations and employers. It did this by establishing a Bill of Rights for union members. The act protected employees' union membership rights from unfair practices by unions. It also created standards for the election of union officials.

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. It includes the following rights:

  • Every labor organization member has the right to nominate candidates, vote in elections, and take part in membership meetings.
  • Every member has the right to meet and assemble freely with other members and to express views to others and at labor union meetings.
  • Unions must follow specific rules in establishing dues, fees, and assessments.
  • No union may limit the right of a member to file a lawsuit, although members may have to exhaust internal procedures first.
  • A union can't fine, suspend, expel, or otherwise discipline a member except for nonpayment of dues unless it has served the member with specific charges, given them a reasonable time to prepare a defense, and afforded them a full and fair hearing.

If someone violates a member's rights, they can file suit in federal district court for damages and injunctive relief.

Reporting Requirements Under the Landrum-Griffin Act

The LMRDA also spells out administrative and financial reporting requirements for unions.

Under the law, unions must file their constitution and bylaws with the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). OLMS is a division of the Department of Labor. Unions must also file financial reports setting forth their assets and liabilities.

The act requires employers to report payments or loans to union officers and their employees. Employers must also report any expenditures that affect employees exercising their rights to bargain collectively.

The Landrum-Griffin Act and Union Elections

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 representatives 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 about the dissemination of campaign materials and availability of member lists.
  • A labor organization can't use money that a labor organization got through dues and other similar fees, as well as money from an employer, to promote the candidacy of any person in an election.
  • The organization must preserve ballots and records about the election for at least one year.

The OLMS handles civil and criminal investigations into election fraud under the LMRDA.

Restrictions Landrum-Griffin Act Places on Unions

The LMRDA also places restrictions on labor unions. Examples of these restrictions on union activities include prohibitions on picketing. The law restricts secondary boycotts and picketing in recognition of a trade union not registered with a state agency.

The Act also lays out terms for trusteeships. Under a trusteeship, a union takes control over a subordinate union. This usually happens when the latter is experiencing financial and operational difficulties.

A trustee has a fiduciary obligation to fulfill a variety of duties. A trustee must use union funds for legitimate purposes and follow LMRDA reporting requirements.

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

Other Relevant Labor Laws

Several other labor laws and agencies play a role in shaping employee rights and working conditions. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces these laws. One of these laws is the Railway Labor Act. The act governs labor relations in the railway and airline industries. It established procedures for dispute resolution and collective bargaining agreements. There's also the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA focuses on maintaining workplace safety standards and enforces measures to protect workers. Lastly, there's the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA provides eligible employees with unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons.

Supreme Court decisions often shape the application of these laws. Familiarity with these labor laws is important for an employer and employee.

Protect Your Labor Rights With the Help of an Attorney

Given the sheer number of rules and regulations, labor laws are complicated. State 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. If you are in a labor dispute, consider seeking help from a local employment law attorney.

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