Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act

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The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (also "LMRDA" or the "Landrum-Griffin Act"), is a United States labor law that regulates labor unions' internal affairs and their officials' relationships with employers.[1]

Background[edit]

After passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, the number of union victories in NLRB-conducted elections declined.[2] During the 12-year administration of the Wagner Act, unions won victories in over 80 percent of elections.[2] But in that first year after passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, unions only won around 70 percent of the representation elections conducted by the agency.[2]

During the middle and late 1950s, the labor movement was under intense Congressional scrutiny for corruption, racketeering, and other misconduct.[2] Enacted in 1959 after revelations of corruption and undemocratic practices in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Longshoremen's Association, United Mine Workers and other unions received wide public attention,[2] the Act requires unions to hold secret elections for local union offices on a regular basis and provides for review by the United States Department of Labor of union members' claims of improper election activity. Organized labor opposed the act because it strengthened the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.[3]

It was sponsored by Democrat Phil Landrum and Republican Robert P. Griffin. The drafting was assisted by Clyde Summers.

Content[edit]

Important provisions of the law were as follows:

  • Unions had to hold secret elections, reviewable by the Department of Labor.
  • Union members are protected against abuses by a bill of rights that includes guarantees of freedom of speech and periodic secret elections of officers.
  • Bar members of the Communist Party and convicted felons from holding union office. The bar on Communist Party members was ruled unconstitutional in 1965.[4]
  • Require unions to submit annual financial reports to the DOL.
  • Declare that every union officer must act as a fiduciary in handling the assets and conducting the affairs of the union.
  • Limit the power of unions to put subordinate bodies in trusteeship, a temporary suspension of democratic processes within a union.
  • Provide certain minimum standards before a union may expel or take other disciplinary action against a member of the union.

The LMRDA covers both workers and unions covered by the National Labor Relations Act ("Wagner Act") and workers and unions in the railroad and airline industries, who are covered by the Railway Labor Act. The LMRDA does not, as a general rule, cover public sector employees, who are not covered by either the NLRA or the RLA. The LMRDA likewise does not displace state laws governing unions' relations with their members except to the extent that those state laws would conflict with federal law.

Congress also amended the National Labor Relations Act, as part of the same piece of legislation that created the LMRDA, by tightening the Taft-Hartley Act's prohibitions against secondary boycotts, prohibiting certain types of "hot cargo" agreements, under which an employer agreed to cease doing business with other employers, and empowered the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to seek an injunction against a union that engages in recognitional picketing of an employer for more than thirty days without filing a petition for representation with the NLRB.

Union members may enforce their LMRDA rights through private lawsuit or, in some cases, through the US Department of Labor.

Subsequent operation[edit]

Twenty years after the passage of the Act, co-sponsor Senator Robert Griffin wrote,

Today, nearly two decades after enactment, it is undeniable that the Landrum-Griffin Act has played a significant role in enabling union members to participate more freely in the affairs of their unions. On the other hand, it cannot be said that union corruption and abuses of union power have disappeared. But such conduct in the union movement is not as common as it was twenty years ago; and, in large measure, that can be credited to the existence of the Landrum-Griffin Act.[5]

Senator Griffin acknowledged the shortcomings, particularly with regard to the Teamsters. However, Griffin argued that these violations were contrary to the Act, placing the blame instead on the Department of Labor for failing to pursue action against the Teamsters union for its corruption.[6]

Voting[edit]

The Act stressed that union members be guaranteed, as part of a Bill of Rights, the right to a secret ballot on certain issues facing the union at large.[7] However, in naming certain aspects of union function – such as dues, constitution, bylaws, membership [7] – and not others, the Act opened the door for abuses thereunder. For instance, a vote on the union constitution would require that each member have the right to see the proposed changes, distribute information in support or opposition thereof, and have their union bound by the result of the election. However, if a ratification vote were not under one of these named clauses, then these protections did not apply under the Act, and union officials could act as they saw fit, regardless of the sentiment of general membership.[8]

Collective Bargaining[edit]

Likewise, the Act did address the issue of collective bargaining, but only in externalities such as reporting thereof. It did not address the question of whether such agreements required any consent from the union members or locals.[9] Furthermore, in allowing for trusteeship in such instances, the Act allowed for union officials to exert greater control over the will of their members. In one court case on the matter, an Oklahoma City local attempted to leave one union body to affiliate with another. The original union put them under trusteeship to block the transfer, and the court upheld the move as legal under the Act.[10] As law professor Alan Hyde put it, “the courts advance democratic bargaining only when assured that such democracy will not disadvantage more fundamental policy interests, such as harmony between employers and 'unions' (read union elites) or control of inflation”.[11]

Pensions[edit]

With regard to retiree pensions, among other secondary issues, the Act did nothing to close the loophole created by the National Labor Relations Act to allow such 'permissive', or 'not mandatory', items from being dealt with by a union employer unilaterally,[12] a right which was upheld by the Supreme Court as late as 1971 in Allied Chemical Workers Local 1 v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company.[13] Likewise, in 1980, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of union international offices to negotiate a pension plan in conflict with that supported by the members, when union bylaws allow for approval by international.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bellace and Berkowitz (1979).
  2. ^ a b c d e http://www.nlrb.gov/75th/1959landrumgriffinact.html
  3. ^ Lee (1990).
  4. ^ U.S. v. Brown, 381 U.S. 437 (1965).
  5. ^ Bellace and Berkowitz, iii.
  6. ^ Bellace and Berkowitz, v.
  7. ^ a b 29 U.S.C. §411 (1959).
  8. ^ Alan Hyde, Democracy in Collective Bargaining, 93 Yale Law Journal 793, 795 (1984).
  9. ^ Hyde, 807.
  10. ^ Gordon v. Laborers' Int'l Union of North America, 490 F.2d 133 (10th Cir. 1973). See also Hyde, 826.
  11. ^ Hyde, 795.
  12. ^ Katherine Van Wezel Stone, The Postwar Paradigm in American Labor Law, 93 Yale Law Journal 1509.
  13. ^ Allied Chemical Workers Local 1 v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, 404 U.S. 157, 187-88 (1971).
  14. ^ Vincent v. IBEW, 622 F.2d 140, 143 (5th Cir. 1980). See also Hyde, 39.

References[edit]

  • JR Bellace and AD Berkowitz, The Landrum-Griffin Act: Twenty Years of Federal Protection of Union Members' Rights (1979). 363 pp.
  • H Benson, 'The Fight for Union Democracy' in SM Lipset, ed. Unions in Transition: Entering the Second Century (1986), pp 323–370
  • A Cox, ‘The Role of Law in Preserving Union Democracy’ (1959) 72(4) Harvard Law Review 609
  • A Cox, ‘Internal Affairs of Labor Unions under the Labor Reform Act of 1959’ (1960) 58(6) Michigan Law Review 819-854
  • AR Lee, Eisenhower and Landrum-Griffin: A Study in Labor-Management Politics (1990) 202 pp.
  • SM Lipset, ‘The Law and Trade Union Democracy’ (1961) 47(1) Virginia Law Review 1-50
  • CW Summers, ‘American Legislation for Union Democracy’ (1962) 25 MLR 273

External links[edit]