What Is the Landrum Griffin Act?

The Landrum Griffin Act, also known as the labor management reporting and disclosure act of 1959, is a labor law that sets regulations for the internal affairs of labor unions, and their official's relationships with employers. The main intention of this act is to ensure that union practices are just and fair, and do not exploit members or use the union as a tool for criminal activity.

A History of the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act

The main events in the timeline of the act are outlined in order below:

  • After the Taft-Hartley Act was passed, the number of union victories in elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board declined.
  • The Wagner Act saw a 12-year administration with a strong percentage of victories by unions documented in elections. However, in the first year after the Taft-Hartley Act was passed, there was a 10 percent reduction in victories (from 80 to 70 percent).
  • The 1950s arrived and saw the U.S. labor movement under intense scrutiny by congress for several matters of misconduct, including racketeering, corruption, and other matters.
  • The scrutiny placed on the labor movement, the decline in union victories, and other cracks in the laws of the Taft-Hartley Act and the Wagner Act were all alarm bells for congress who decided in 1959 that extra reforms were necessary.
  • Later that year, President Eisenhower signed the Landrum-Griffin Act, which changed many details of the Taft-Hartley agreement.

The 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act and Amendments to Taft-Hartley

Following the 1959 introduction of the Landrum-Griffin Act, several changes were introduced. The number of amendments was extensive, but perhaps some of the most notable involved the U.S. state labor boards and courts being given jurisdiction over cases that were rejected by the board and any unethical, unlawful processes that involved one business manipulating another into acting a certain way (hot cargo agreements and secondary boycotting for instance) were outlawed.

The new laws aimed to protect the rights of employees from unfair practices by either their union or their employer. To this end, the Landrum-Griffin Act protects the union membership rights of employees from unions, and the National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees from unfair practices by unions or employers.

This topic is quite extensive and not all points are relevant to all businesses. For further reading on the changes introduced by the act, and the industries affected, refer to the National Labor Relations board breakdown.

The Landrum-Griffin Act

The Act covers matters relating to the relationship between a union and the members within it. It protects the rights of union members against potentially corrupt or exploitative unions and employers.

The Landrum-Griffin Bill of Rights

Under a separate area of this new legislature, a code of conduct was established which guaranteed union members certain rights within their union and set reporting requirements for the involved parties (union officers, unions, consultants, and employers). The administration of these provisions was assigned to the Department of Labor.

The Landrum-Griffin Act established a Bill of Rights for union members. This bill outlines:

  • The reporting requirements that labor-relations consultants, employers, employees, union officers, and surety companies should follow.
  • The standards to be followed when union officers are elected.
  • What the safeguards are for protecting labor organization funds and assets.

Actions Against Unethical Behaviors

Following offenses of corruption, and the uncovering of ties between labor and organized crime, President Eisenhower and Senator John. L. McClellan were insistent that the new law was needed to help ensure that unions were more honest and democratic in their operation. New actions to promote honesty included issuing penalties against:

  • The misuse of union funds.
  • Officials who commit crimes.
  • Labor officials who use violence to prevent union members from exercising their rights.

A strict ban on secondary boycotts was also introduced.

Title I of the Act

Title I of the Landrum Griffin Act mainly discusses the fair treatment that the Act expects, and enforces, for employees and union members. This treatment includes:

  • Equal rights when voting in elections for all individuals.
  • Freedom of speech during union meetings.
  • Freedom to attend meetings.
  • A secret ballot voting method used when voting on increases in dues or assessments.
  • Individuals subject to disciplinary procedures must be given written notification of charges, time to prepare for the hearing, and a fair trial.
  • No disciplinary methods for individuals exercising statutory rights.
  • Members meeting and assembling freely with other members (provided they follow the rules related to meeting conduct, etc.).
  • Not disciplining, fining, or suspending members without following the correct procedures and being given a fair hearing.
  • Labor organizations not doing anything to prohibit or limit the right of members to take legal action or try to intimidate or influence their behavior in any way.
  • No fees or rates amended, and no special entry criteria introduced unless such actions are introduced and approved by national or international labor organizations.

Title II of the Act

The second title of the Landrum Griffin Act deals with the union's management of finances, and mainly exists to prevent any incorrect use of monies or criminal behavior. It states that unions must have constitutions and bylaws and should file copies of each of these with the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Any potential conflicts of interest between a union officer or employee's personal situation and the union duties must be disclosed.

The title specifies several reports that unions must file:

  • Dues, fees, and assessments
  • Financial auditing
  • Qualifications for membership
  • Authorization for the disbursement of funds and other spending

Other reports must be filed that lay out the financial position of the union. These should include:

  • Assets and liabilities at both the start and end of the fiscal year
  • Receipts, salaries, and any reimbursements for expenses
  • Details of loans given to any employee, union member, union officer, or business.

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