Sunday, February 25, 2001

Bill Of Rights

Union Member Rights and Officer Responsibilities Under the Labor-Management Reporting Act of 1959, more commonly known as the Landrum-Griffin Act.

HISTORY- To protect democratic rights of union members, Congress passed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). It included as its first title a union member "Bill of Rights." The LMRDA was intended to protect and promote democratic processes and democratic rights of union members, including the freedom to vote at meetings, to express any argument or opinions and to voice views upon union candidates and union business.

ORIGINS OF THE LMRDA- The LMRDA was signed into law on September 14, 1959. The Act passed in the House and Senate earlier that year following congressional investigations, led by Sen. John McClellan of Arkansas.

THE ROOTS OF THE STATUTE- When the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) was passed in 1935, the declared national policy was to "encourage the practice and procedure of "collective bargaining." One of the basic purposes of the statute, often lost from view today, was to give workers an effective voice in determining the terms and conditions of their employment. It echoed historic declarations that political democracy should be matched by industrial democracy. Senator Wagner in explaining the under-girding philosophy of the statute, stated:

"The principles of my proposal were surprisingly simple. They were founded upon the accepted facts that we must have democracy in industry as well as government; that democracy in industry means fair participation by those who work in the decisions vitally affecting their lives and livelihood; and that workers in our great mass production industries can enjoy this participation only if allowed to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing."

Union Members Bill of Rights

Free Speech and Due Process
The Union Member’s Bill of Rights, Title 1 of the LMRDA, guarantees the following democratic rights to all union members:

Equal rights and privileges to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums, and to attend and participate in union meetings and vote on the business of the meeting, subject to reasonable rules in the union constitution and/or bylaws.

Freedom of speech and assembly, including the right to:

  • Express any viewpoint at union meetings
  • Hold separate meetings without interference from union officials
  • Voice in setting rates of dues, fees, and assessments

You are protected from improper union discipline. Due process is required in internal union disciplinary hearings, including:

  • The right to specific written charges
  • The right to confront and cross-examine accusers
  • Adequate time to prepare a defense
  • The right to a full and fair hearing and a decision based on the evidence

Note: The union may not discipline you for exercising protected rights, however you may be disciplined for the following activities:

  • Participating in wildcat strikes
  • Advocating decertification of the union
  • Nonpayment of dues or agency fees, and other acts which interfere with the legal or contractual obligations of the union or which threaten the existence of the union as an institution
  • Crossing picket lines

You have the right to receive a copy of your collective bargaining agreement (union contract) along with all riders and supplements, and to inspect copies of all contracts that your local union administers.

Due process in union disputes, including the right to specific, written charges; the right to confront and cross-examine accusers; adequate time to prepare a defense; and a full and fair hearing. The union may not discipline you for exercising protected rights;

Reporting Requirements

Title II of the LMRDA. Unions must file with the US Department of Labor copies of their constitutions and bylaws, and financial reports, called "LM-2," "LM-3" or "LM-4" forms (depending on the case). These documents are available to the public. The LM forms give you information about officers’ salaries and expenses, union loans, expenditures and investments. The reports are public information and copies are available from OLMS.


Title III. A trusteeship imposed by an international union on a local or other subordinate body is presumed by the courts and the Department of Labor to be valid for the first eighteen months. The presumption of validity may be overcome by showing that the imposition of the trusteeship violated union procedures or that the trusteeship was imposed for improper purposes, such as punishing a dissident local leadership. After the first eighteen months, a trusteeship is presumed by the courts to be invalid.


Under Title IV of the LMRDA, international unions must elect officers, either by a direct vote of the members or by a vote of delegates to a convention, at least every five years. Local unions must hold secret ballot elections of officers at least every three years.

Any member in good standing is eligible to run for office, subject to reasonable and equitable rules.

Candidates are entitled to mail campaign literature, as often as they are financially able, to the union’s entire membership list or to reasonable selected portions of the list, such as members in one company or geographical area. Unions may not abridge this right by restricting it to the time period after nominations. Candidates may inspect the membership list once during a campaign.

All members must be allowed to vote, nominate candidates, run for office and campaign without interference or retaliation. Candidates are entitled to have observers present at each stage of the election process, including literature mailing, balloting, and counting.

Union officials cannot use union resources for their campaign. Unions and all employers, not only interested employers, are prohibited from contributing money and resources to any candidate.

Fiduciary Duties

Under Title V, union representatives are obligated to manage union business for the sole benefit of the members. Individuals who embezzle or steal union funds or assets commit a Federal crime punishable by fine and/or imprisonment.

Note: The information presented on this website is general and intended for educational use. The above is only a summary of the LMRDA the full ACT, may be found by following the links below. The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) enforces many LMRDA provisions while other provisions, such as the bill of rights, may only be enforced by union members through private suit in Federal Court.

For more information about your rights, follow the links to Department of Labor and Congress

United States Department Of Labor

Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959

U.S. DOL View Union Annual Financial Reports

Democratic Rights for Union Members Act of 2000 Bill Number H.R. 4963

Committee on Education and the Workforce - 106th Congress

Bill of Rights of members of labor organizations

National Institute for Labor Relations Research

The Association for Union Democracy


New York State Department of Labor

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