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Employee’s Rights and Collective Bargaining

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Horace Blake
November 24, 2015

fist-424500_640The right to collective bargaining is a politically charged issue. In the public sector, the notion of public service unions is designed to recruit and sustain a very professional workforce to carry out the business and goals of governments. However, as the political climate takes on a more austere tone, political leaders are selling anti-union sentiments to businesses that would prefer not to be concerned with unions.

The Labor Management Disclosure Act

In 1959, one of the most sweeping labor management, reporting and disclosure acts was amended to grant certain rights to union members and protect their interests by promoting solid democratic procedures. This act established:

  • A bill of rights for union members
  • Reporting requirements for labor organizations, union officers and employees, labor relations consultants and surety companies
  • Standards for the regular election of union officers
  • Protections and safeguards of the financial assets and funds of the said labor organization

The Secretary of Labor enforces this law and has delegated authority to the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), which is within the Department of Labor. With this in mind, provisions in this act may only be enforced by union members through a private suit in a U.S. District Court.

The Civil Reform Act

According to the Department of Labor, the Civil Reform Act of 1978 applies to labor organizations that represent employees in most agencies of the executive branch. The regulations implementing the standards-of-conduct provisions incorporate many LMRDA provisions, including those related to labor organizations’ reporting requirements.

Recently in 2006, the Office of Labor Management published a final rule that requires federal sector labor organizations to inform members of their democratic rights, including the right to inspect collective bargaining agreements, participate in officer elections and other union activities and exercise free speech without fear of retaliation. It also stated that notice must be given by U.S. mail, email or any combination of the two as long as the chosen method is reasonable to reach all members. Notice to new members must be given within 90 days of their joining the labor union organization. In addition, all members must be given notice of their rights in writing every three years.

Purpose and Policy of the Public Law

The U.S. Congress entertains that it is in the public interest that it take responsibility (through the federal government) for protecting employees’ rights to organize, choose their own representative, bargain collectively and otherwise engage in activities for their mutual interest, aid or protection. Congress also values and seeks to protect relations among employers, labor organizations and the millions of public-sector employees. These constituencies have a substantial impact on the commerce of the nation and its objective of the free flow of commerce.

It is particularly essential that labor organizations adhere to the highest standards of responsibility and ethical conduct in administering the affairs of their organizations, particularly as they affect labor management relations. With the enactment of OLMS Act of 1959, Congress sough to eliminate and prevent improper practices on the part of labor organizations, employers, labor relations consultants and their representatives that distort and defeat the actions of the Labor Management Relations.

Union Continues to Suffer Defeat

Recent media coverage has highlighted how Wisconsin’s governor garnered enough support to defeat the unions at the local level. Large sums of money were spent to recall the governor, only for him to win another term. How? Because the governor was able to convince the voters that it was in their best interest, from a variety of perspectives, to vote anti-union.

As a wave of Midwestern states continues to experience budget shortfalls, they view unions as a thorn in the side of local employers and look for opportunities to weaken unions’ political influence. So far, 25 states have joined the tide of local anti-union sentiments and for those regions that are challenged by decades-old collective bargaining agreements, politicians echo the call for change.


Author: Horace A. Blake has been involved in public service for more than 25 years. He currently serves on the city’s storm water management committee and previously served for three terms as co-chair HOA Commissioner and on the City Charter Committee. Horace is certified by The Red Cross as an Instructor of First Aid/CPR/ AED.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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