Union Member Legal Rights
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) and the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) guarantee certain rights to union members and impose certain responsibilities on union officers. The Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) enforces many LMRDA and CSRA provisions while other provisions, such as the bill of rights, may only be enforced by union members through private suit in Federal court.
Union Member Rights
Bill of Rights – Union members have: • equal rights to participate in union activities • freedom of speech and assembly • voice in setting rates of dues, fees, and assessments • protection of the right to sue • safeguards against improper discipline Copies of Collective Bargaining Agreements – Union members and nonunion employees have the right to receive or inspect copies of collective bargaining agreements.
Reports – Unions are required to file an initial information report (Form LM-1), copies of constitutions and bylaws, and an annual financial report (Form LM-2/3/4) with OLMS. Unions must make the reports available to members and permit members to examine supporting records for just cause. The reports are public information and copies are available from OLMS. Officer Elections – Union members have the right to: • nominate candidates for office • run for office • cast a secret ballot • protest the conduct of an election Officer Removal – Local union members have the right to an adequate procedure for the removal of an elected officer guilty of serious misconduct.
Trusteeships – Unions may only be placed in trusteeship by a parent body for the reasons specified in the LMRDA or standards of conduct regulations for CSRA employees.
Prohibition Against Certain Discipline – A union or any of its officials may not fine, expel, or otherwise discipline a member for exercising any CSRA or LMRDA right.
Prohibition Against Violence – No one may use or threaten to use force or violence to interfere with a union member in the exercise of CSRA or LMRDA rights.
Union Officer Responsibilities
Financial Safeguards – Union officers have a duty to manage the funds and property of the union solely for the benefit of the union and its members in accordance with the union’s constitution and bylaws. Union officers or employees who embezzle or steal union funds or other assets commit a Federal crime punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Bonding – Union officers or employees who handle union funds or property must be bonded to provide protection against losses if their union has property and annual financial receipts which exceed $5,000.
Labor Organization Reports – Union officers must: • file an initial information report (Form LM-1) and annual financial reports (Forms LM-2/3/4) with OLMS. • retain the records necessary to verify the reports for at least five years.
Officer Reports – Union officers and employees must file reports concerning any loans and benefits received from, or certain financial interests in, employers whose employees their unions represent and businesses that deal with their unions.
Officer Elections – Unions must: • hold elections of officers of local unions by secret ballot at least every three years. • conduct regular elections in accordance with their constitution and bylaws and preserve all records for one year. • mail a notice of election to every member at least 15 days prior to the election. • comply with a candidate’s request to distribute campaign material. • not use union funds or resources to promote any candidate (nor may employer funds or resources be used). • permit candidates to have election observers. • allow candidates to inspect the union’s membership list once within 30 days prior to the election. Restrictions on Holding Office – A person convicted of certain crimes may not serve as a union officer, employee, or other representative of a union for up to 13 years.
Loans – A union may not have outstanding loans to any one officer or employee that in total exceed $2,000 at any time.
Fines – A union may not pay the fine of any officer or employee convicted of any willful violation of the LMRDA.
The above is only a summary of the LMRDA and the CSRA. Full text of the LMRDA, which comprise Sections 401-531 of Title 29 of the United States Code, and the CSRA may be found in many public libraries, or by writing the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Room N-5616, Washington, DC 20210 or on the internet at www.dol.gov.
Our financial report is sent free to any member upon request. If you desire a copy please send a written request to: HUD/NFFE 1450 c/o Treasurer, 2201 N. Lakewood Blvd #D1866, Long Beach, CA 90815, with a stamped self-addressed envelope. Please include your name and union membership number.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT UNION MEMBER RIGHTS UNDER THE LMRDA AND CSRA
1. What is the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA)?
The LMRDA is a Federal statute that regulates certain aspects of internal union affairs. Labor organizations comprised wholly or in part of private sector or U.S. Postal Service employees are covered by the Act. The LMRDA includes a Bill of Rights for union members that guarantees union members rights such as the right to participate in union meetings and vote in union elections. The Act also contains reporting provisions that require unions to disclose information about their structure and financial condition, sets forth guidelines for conducting union officer elections, and provides safeguards for protecting labor organization funds and assets. The Department of Labor’s regulations that implement the LMRDA are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 29 CFR Parts 401-459
2. Who enforces the LMRDA?
The Secretary of Labor has delegated to the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) the authority to enforce certain provisions of the LMRDA. However, some provisions of the LMRDA such as the Bill of Rights and the fiduciary standards for union officers can only be enforced by union members through a private suit in Federal district court.
3. What are the standards of conduct provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA)?
Section 7120 of Title VII of the CSRA sets forth the standards of conduct for Federal sector labor organizations. The Department of Labor’s regulations that implement the standards of conduct provisions are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 29 CFR Parts 457-459. The regulations establish standards of conduct for Federal unions similar to provisions under the LMRDA. For example, the standards of conduct regulations include a Bill of Rights for Federal sector union members. The regulations also incorporate the LMRDA reporting and election provisions. When administering the standards of conduct regulations for Federal sector unions, OLMS is guided by LMRDA policies and principles. Unlike the LMRDA, the CSRA standards of conduct regulations are enforced entirely through various administrative actions depending upon the violation. This generally involves the filing of a complaint by an OLMS District Director, a hearing before a Department of Labor administrative law judge, the judge’s report and recommendations, and a decision and order by the Assistant Secretary for Employment Standards.
4. I belong to a union that is comprised solely of state employees. Does the LMRDA or CSRA cover my union?
A union that represents only employees of state, county, or municipal governments is not subject to the LMRDA or the CSRA except that any “conference, general committee, joint or system board, or joint council” that is subordinate to an LMRDA-covered national or international labor organization is itself a labor organization under the LMRDA.
5. What rights are guaranteed to me as a union member under the Bill of Rights for members of labor organizations?
Title I of the LMRDA contains the Bill of Rights for members of labor organizations. The Bill of Rights guarantees union members equal rights to nominate candidates for union office, to vote in union elections or referendums, and to attend union meetings and participate in the deliberations and voting upon the business of such meetings. Under the Bill of Rights union members are also guaranteed freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to meet and assemble freely with other members, to express views, arguments or opinions, and to express at union meetings their views on candidates for union elections or upon any business properly before the meeting–subject to each organization’s established and reasonable rules regarding the conduct of the meetings. Additionally, the Bill of Rights guarantees members a voice in setting the union’s rates of dues, fees, and assessments. Members are also assured other basic rights including protection of the right to sue, safeguards against improper disciplinary action from the union, the right to view copies of collective bargaining agreements, and the right to be informed of the LMRDA. The standards of conduct regulations also provide a Bill of Rights for Federal sector unions similar to that provided under the LMRDA.
6. I believe my union has violated the Bill of Rights. What can I do?
It depends on whether your union is made up of private sector employees and, therefore, covered by the LMRDA or is a Federal sector union governed by the standards of conduct regulations that implement the CSRA. The Secretary of Labor does not have the authority to enforce the Bill of Rights under the LMRDA, except section 104, which guarantees each union member the right to view his collective bargaining agreement. Other provisions of the Bill of Rights are enforceable only by private action of a union member in United States district court as provided under section 102 of the LMRDA. Therefore, you should contact a private attorney for advice. The full text of the LMRDA is available on the OLMS web site.
If you are a member of a Federal sector union and believe your union has violated the Bill of Rights under the standards of conduct regulations, you may file a complaint with the nearest OLMS field office. As previously mentioned, the standards of conduct regulations are enforced through administrative action. For additional information on how to file a Bill of Rights complaint under the standards of conduct regulations see Bill of Rights of Members of Federal Sector Unions: A Complainant’s Guide.
7. My local union refuses to let me view my collective bargaining agreement. What can I do?
Under section 104 of the LMRDA a local labor organization must provide, upon request, a copy of any collective bargaining agreement that it has negotiated to any member and to any employee whose rights as an employee are directly affected by the agreement. If the parent body negotiates a collective bargaining agreement, the parent union is required to send a copy of the agreement to any local who has members directly affected by the agreement. The Secretary of Labor does have the authority to enforce section 104 by bringing suit in Federal district court if warranted. Any union member who believes his labor organization has violated section 104 may contact the OLMS field office in whose jurisdiction the union is located for assistance. A union member may also enforce his rights under section 104 by private suit in a Federal district court as provided under section 102 of the LMRDA.
8. Can I get a copy of my collective bargaining agreement from OLMS?
No. Labor organizations are not required to file copies of their collective bargaining agreements with OLMS. However, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains a “collective bargaining agreements file” for public use, which contains approximately 2,100 collective bargaining agreements from the public and private sectors. For more information about the BLS collective bargaining agreements file, including the procedures for obtaining agreements, go to the BLS web site. Otherwise you must obtain them from your union.
9. What are the LMRDA and CSRA reporting requirements?
In general, every union covered by the LMRDA or CSRA must adopt a constitution and bylaws and file two copies with OLMS along with an initial Labor Organization Information Report, Form LM-1, that provides certain information regarding the organization’s structure, practice, and procedures. Additionally, each covered union is required to file an annual financial report, which discloses the organization’s financial condition for the preceding year. There are also reports that must be filed by union officers and employees, employers, and labor relations consultants that engage in certain activities to persuade employees about their union activities as well as surety companies that issue bonds required under the LMRDA. Unions comprised solely of state and local government employees are not subject to these reporting requirements. For more information about the LMRDA and CSRA reporting requirements see Reports Required.
10. Is there software available to assist unions in meeting the LMRDA reporting requirements?
Yes. OLMS has developed software for completing the labor organization annual financial reporting forms. Information regarding how to obtain the software may be found on the OLMS web site.
11. What type of financial information does a union disclose in its annual financial report filed with OLMS?
Under the LMRDA and CSRA a labor organization is required to file an annual report with OLMS that discloses the union’s financial condition for the preceding year. If a union’s annual receipts are $200,000 or more, or the labor organization is under trusteeship, it must file a Form LM-2. Those unions with receipts less than $200,000, which are not in trusteeship, may file a Form LM-3. Labor organizations with total annual receipts less than $10,000, which are not in trusteeship, may file a short Form LM-4. These annual financial reports, which are due 90 days after the end of the reporting union’s fiscal year, contain information concerning the union’s assets, liabilities, receipts, and disbursements.
For more information about the LMRDA and CSRA reporting requirements see Reports Required.
12. How can I get a copy of a report that has been filed with OLMS?
Reports and related documents that have been filed with OLMS in accordance with the reporting provisions of the LMRDA or CSRA are public information. Any person may examine reports and related documents, including union constitutions and bylaws, free of charge at the OLMS public disclosure room in Washington, DC. Also, the OLMS field offices have reports for organizations and individuals within each office’s geographic jurisdiction.
You may purchase copies of the reports for 15 cents per page. Submit requests for reports in person, by mail, by telephone, or by fax.
Individuals may now examine reports free of charge via the Internet at the OLMS Public Disclosure Website. From this website you can search and access key informational and financial data from union annual reports filed for year 2000 and after.
You may order online copies of LM-1 union information reports; LM-2, LM-3, and LM-4 union annual reports; and union constitutions/bylaws from this site. Reports cost 15 cents a page; requests for 30 or fewer pages are provided free of charge.
For more information on examining or obtaining LM reports see Public Disclosure Under the LMRDA.
13. I believe an officer in my union is misusing union funds. What can I do?
It depends on whether your union is comprised of private sector employees and, therefore, covered by the LMRDA or is a Federal sector union governed by the standards of conduct regulations that implement the CSRA.
Title V of the LMRDA governs the fiduciary duties of officers in unions covered by the Act. Section 501(a) of the Act provides, among other things, that officers must spend union funds in accordance with the organization’s constitution and bylaws and any properly adopted resolutions of the union’s governing body. However, the Secretary of Labor has no authority to enforce section 501(a), which is only enforceable by private suit by a union member under section 501(b) of the Act.
The Secretary of Labor does have the authority to enforce section 501(c) of the LMRDA, which prohibits the embezzlement of union funds by union officers and employees. If you have evidence that section 501(c) has been violated you should contact the nearest OLMS field office.
The standards of conduct regulations prohibit certain activities by officers or agents of a Federal sector union that would conflict with their fiduciary obligation to the organization. Any member who believes activities prohibited under the standards of conduct regulations have occurred may file a complaint with the nearest OLMS field office setting forth specific allegations.
14. What are the guidelines for conducting union officer elections?
Title IV of the LMRDA sets forth minimum requirements for conducting union officer elections for all labor organizations covered by the Act, regardless of whether their constitution and bylaws contain the same requirements. The election provisions under Title IV apply to national and international unions, intermediate bodies such as joint councils, and local unions. The provisions do not apply to State and local central bodies.
The LMRDA election provisions require, among other things, that officers of national and international unions and intermediate bodies be elected by secret ballot among the members in good standing or by delegates chosen by secret ballot and that local union officers be elected by secret ballot among the members in good standing. Additionally, the LMRDA election provisions state that national and international unions must hold officer elections at least every five years, intermediate bodies at least every four years, and local unions at least every three years. The LMRDA election requirements also grant every union member in good standing the right to be a candidate subject to reasonable rules uniformly applied and the right to nominate and vote for the candidates of their choice.
The standards of conduct regulations, which govern Federal sector unions, incorporate the election provisions contained in Title IV of the LMRDA.
For a more detailed discussion regarding union officer election requirements under the LMRDA and CSRA see Conducting Local Union Officer Elections: A Guide for Election Officials.
15. I do not believe my union has been conducting its union officer elections properly. What can I do?
Any member who believes his union has violated the LMRDA election requirements may file an election complaint with OLMS. However, before filing, the member must exhaust internal union remedies.
The Department of Labor cannot, under law, accept any complaint unless it is filed within one month after the member has completed the process of internal appeal available within the union or has invoked that process for three calendar months without receiving a final answer. It is important for a member to follow the time frames and other rules specified by their labor organization for internal union protests. The Secretary then has the authority to investigate and commence a civil action if there is probable cause to believe that a violation occurred which may have affected the outcome of the election and that it has not been remedied. For additional information see Union Officer Elections – A Complainant’s Guide.
Members of Federal sector unions may also file an election complaint with the nearest OLMS field office [link to list of offices] provided, as under the LMRDA, internal union remedies have been exhausted. However, as previously mentioned, unlike the LMRDA, the standards of conduct regulations will ultimately be enforced through administrative action.
16. I do not believe my union has represented me adequately. Can I file a complaint with your office regarding the matter?
No. OLMS does not have the authority to address concerns regarding a union’s failure to provide adequate representation. You should contact the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concerning the matter. The NLRB is a separate Federal agency that administers certain provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which, among other things, prescribes rules and procedures regarding unfair labor practices and labor-management relations in the private sector. The Secretary of Labor has no authority to intervene in NLRB matters. You can obtain additional information regarding the NLRB and the laws that Agency administers as well as a list of NLRB field offices on the NLRB official web site.