The Labor Management Reporting And Disclosure Act Election Protest Procedures
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) of 1959 protects union members from corrupt or unfair internal union practices and procedures by prescribing a number of rules and regulations with which unions and their affiliates must comply. In addition to setting forth a union member’s bill of rights, the LMRDA requires unions and certain affiliates to file regular disclosure reports.
It also sets forth the minimum set of protective procedures that must be followed during elections for union officials. The LMRDA provides that the Secretary of Labor has the authority to enforce these procedures to ensure the integrity of union official elections. This authority has been vested with the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), within the Employment Standards Administration of the United States Department of Labor. This article summarizes the process that union members must follow to protest the validity of an election, based upon allegedly improper procedures.
Election Protest Procedures
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
The LMRDA affords any union member the right to challenge the validity of an officer election. Before such a right may be exercised, however, the member must first pursue remedies available to him or her under the union’s constitution or bylaws. If the union’s constitution or bylaws do not provide for specific election protest procedures, the member must file a written protest with union leadership within a reasonable time after the election was conducted.
The member must be sure to include all allegations in his or her internal complaint. The complaint should reference any alleged violations of the union’s constitution or bylaws or any alleged violations of the LMRDA.
If the member does not receive the desired relief after following the proper internal complaint procedures, or if the union has not rendered its final decision regarding the complaint within three months of the filing of the complaint, the member may pursue election contest remedies under the LMRDA.
Filing a Complaint with the OLMS
Within one month of receiving an unfavorable decision by union officials or within one-month of a three-month period of inactivity by the union, a member may file a formal complaint with the Secretary of Labor. The employee should file the complaint with the nearest district office of the OLMS. The complaint must include a brief statement of facts supporting the member’s allegation that a union official election violated the LMRDA.
Federal District Court Action
Upon receiving a complaint, the OLMS investigates the charge and determines whether there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation occurred. If it finds reasonable cause and if the violation has not been corrected, the OLMS must file a complaint in a federal district court within 60 days of receiving the complaint. Before it can file such an action, however, the OLMS must determine that the violation may have affected the outcome of the election. The OLMS may not, for example, file a district court action to correct a union’s denial of the right to vote to one member if the election was decided by a margin greater than one vote.
If the federal district court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that the election violated the LMRDA and that the violation affected the outcome of the election, it must declare the election void and order a new election.