All You Need to Know about the History of Labor Union Law

By Fazzi, Cindy | Dispute Resolution Journal, May-July 2004 | Go to article overview

All You Need to Know about the History of Labor Union Law


Fazzi, Cindy, Dispute Resolution Journal


All You Need to Know About the History of Labor Union Law Labor Union Law and Regulation. William. W. Osbornejr., editor-in-chief. Washington, D. C.: BNA Books (www.lynabooks.com), 2003. Hardcover. 850pages. $225.

The law pertaining to the relationship between labor unions and union members has evolved substantially since the precarious beginnings of the U.S. labor movement in the 180Os. As you can imagine, doing research on the subject can be quite daunting. In fact, it took the American Bar Association's section of Labor and Employment Law six years to develop this treatise, which covers pretty much everything a reader needs to know about the historical development of union laws and regulations.

From the 180Os to the late 1950s, legal disputes involving the affairs of unions were resolved mainly by reference to common law decisions in state court interpretation of union constitutions. That changed in 1959, with the enactment of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (also known as the Landrum- Griffin Act)-the first comprehensive regulation by Congress of the conduct of internal union affairs.

The LMRDA covers judicially enforced protections for certain rights of union members, including the following:

* freedom of speech and other participatory rights,

* mandatory secret-ballot election of officers, and

* civil and criminal prohibitions against the misuse of union funds.

The LMRDA was originally applicable only to private-sector unions, but Congress expanded the legislation to cover public employee unions in 1978.

Union supporters and critics have long debated whether workers in "union-security" states are better off than those in "right-to-work" states, or vice versa. This book does not make any judgment on the issue, but it provides ample background information for researchers.

Twenty-two states have enacted right-to-work laws that place statutory or constitutional restrictions (or both) on union-security arrangements. These laws ban agreements requiring membership or non-membership in any labor union.

The other states allow "union-security" clauses, which permit unions to charge all employees for the cost of union representation. "Thus," the book explains, "a union and an employer may agree to require employees to pay union dues and initiation fees as a condition of employment, but they cannot require employees to be full members. …

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