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Landrum-Griffin Act

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The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (29 U.S.C.A. § 401 et seq.), commonly known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, is an important component of federal LABOR LAW. The act was named after its sponsors, Representative Phillip M. Landrum of Georgia and Senator Robert P. Griffin of Michigan. The provisions of Landrum-Griffin seek to prevent union corruption and to guarantee union members that unions will be run democratically.

The act resulted from a highly publicized investigation of union corruption and RACKETEERING chaired by Senator JOHN L. MCCLELLAN of Arkansas. The Senate Select Committee on Labor and Management Practices, popularly known as the McClellan Committee, was created in 1957 in large part because of the perception that the Teamsters Union was corrupt and under the influence of ORGANIZED CRIME. The McClellan Committee's investigation revealed that officials of the Teamsters Union and other groups had taken union funds for private use and that the union was clearly linked to organized crime. One result of the probe was the expulsion of the Teamsters and two other unions from the AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR AND CONGRESS OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS (AFL-CIO). The AFL-CIO is the largest U.S. labor organization, a federation of autonomous LABOR UNIONS that is dedicated to enhancing and promoting unionism.

The other result was the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act. To prevent abuses and acts of oppression, the act attempts to regulate some internal union affairs and provides for reporting to the government on various union transactions and affairs. Senator JOHN F. KENNEDY of Massachusetts was instrumental in inserting title I of the act (29 U.S.C.A. § 411 et seq.), which has been dubbed the union bill of rights. Title I mandates FREEDOM OF SPEECH and assembly in the conduct of union meetings, equality of rights regarding voting in elections, the nomination of candidates, and attendance at meetings. A secret ballot is required for voting on increases in dues or assessments. In regard to disciplinary actions, a member must be given written charges, time to prepare a defense, and a fair hearing. The act also guarantees that a member will not be subject to union discipline for attempting to exercise statutory rights. A member must have access to union financial records and has the right to recover misappropriated union assets on behalf of the union when the union fails to do so.

Title II (29 U.S.C.A. § 431 et seq.) deals with the management and reporting of union finances, a particular area of concern for Congress in the wake of the Teamsters Union's misappropriation of funds. The act requires unions to have constitutions and bylaws and to file copies of both with the U.S. secretary of labor. They must file reports that show dues, fees, and assessments; qualifications for membership; financial auditing; and authorization for the disbursement of funds and other types of spending. Unions must also file financial reports that show assets and liabilities at the beginning and end of the fiscal year, receipts, salaries, expense reimbursements, and loans to any officer, employee, member, or business enterprise. Officers and employees of unions may be required to disclose in written reports any personal financial interests that may conflict with duties owed to union members and any transactions or business interests that would present a conflict of interest with union duties.

The act also has provisions that apply when a labor organization suspends the autonomy of a union local and places the local or another unit under a trusteeship. This provision addresses a concern that corrupt national union leaders may take over control of union locals to maintain power. The law provides the conditions under which a trusteeship may be imposed and certain restrictions under which it may operate.

Landrum-Griffin also addresses the personal responsibility and integrity of union officers and representatives. Under the act, officers and representatives are held to common-law principles of trust relationships through express provisions that they occupy positions of trust in relation to the organization and its members as a group. This means that persons in union leadership positions must act in the best interests of the union. If a union official acts for personal gain, the official can be held accountable for breach of duty. EMBEZZLEMENT of union funds is a federal offense under the act. And persons who have been convicted of certain specified crimes are barred from serving as union officers, agents, or employees for five years after being released from prison.

The Landrum-Griffin Act provides the tools for union democracy, but it also provides greater government control over union affairs previously believed to be the province of the unions themselves.

FURTHER READINGS

Boetticher, Helene. 2000. "How to Hold a Union Election and Stay Out of Trouble." Labor Law Journal 51 (winter): 219–24.

Nelson, Michael J. 2000. "Slowing Union Corruption: Reforming the Landrum-Griffin Act to Better Combat Union Embezzlement." George Mason Law Review 8 (spring): 527–86.

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