Employment law, like other areas of law, evolves based on reaction to circumstances. Some of these reactionary measures are employer-focused while other measures are labor-focused.
One such reactionary measure as part of the labor law rubric is the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, or the LMRDA. In the 1950s, Congress scrutinized labor movements in general and unions in particular. At the time, the United States felt the fear of communism and socialism. It viewed Unions as socialist entities. At the time, it was found that there was significant amount of corruption and racketeering amongst unions. Specifically, Congress found corruption and racketeering amongst the International Teamsters Union, the International Longshoresmen’s Association, and the United Mine Workers. In addition, wrongdoing was found in other unions.
In response to the uptick in union corruption, Congress enacted the LMRDA. One part of the LMRDA acts as a sort of union member’s Bill of Rights, wherein a union member is entitled to the following:
- Right to nominate candidates for union office;
- Vote in union elections;
- Express opinions;
- Participate in union meetings.
In addition, the LMRDA imposes limits on how unions may impose dues and assessments.
Another provision of the LMRDA is imposing reporting obligations on the union. Title II of the LMRDA creates reporting obligations for unions, union officers and employees, employers, labor relations consultants, and surety companies. Unions must file information reports, constitutions and bylaws, and annual financial reports with the Office of Labor-Management Standards of the U.S. Department of Labor, or OLMS. Unions must make reports available to members. Certain union officers and employees, employers, and labor relations consultants must file annual reports regarding particular transactions, agreements, or deals relating to unions. Surety companies that issue bonds required by the LMRDA must also report certain data, such as premiums received, total claims paid, and amounts recovered. Any individual or party that is required to file a report with OLMS must retain the records that verify those reports for at least five years after the reports are filed. The Secretary of Labor has the oversight responsibility with respect to the reporting requirements of the LMRDA. The reports and other documents filed with OLMS are available online to the public.
Safeguards for Unions
Title V of the LMRDA provides safeguards for unions. Union officers have a duty to manage the funds and property of the union solely for the benefit of the union, which is in accordance with the Union’s constitution and bylaws. Officials who handle union funds or property must be bonded to provide protection against mismanagement and losses. As such, embezzlement, misappropriation or mismanagement of union funds or assets is a federal offense. It also statutorily precludes those individual found to have violated the law from holding union office for up to 13 years after a conviction or the end of a prison sentence.
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