Review of Department of Labor's Program for Handling Union Election Complaints

HRD-81-158: Published: Sep 30, 1981. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the enforcement of the union election provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act by the Labor-Management Services Administration (LMSA) to determine whether the Act is protecting the union members' election rights and if LMSA is effectively administering and enforcing the Act. The Act gives union members the right to select their officers and representatives through democratic elections. It establishes the terms of office and the election procedures which unions must follow. If union members believe that their rights to a democratic election have been infringed, they can file a complaint with the union. However, if the member is not satisfied with the union's response, or has not received a timely final decision, the member can file a complaint with LMSA.

LMSA is not aware of many union members' election complaints because it acts only when a member files a complaint with it, and it does not have a program to monitor election complaints that are filed with, and resolved by, unions. LMSA investigates complaints only when the complainants have exhausted the remedies available through their unions. Thus, many election complaints filed with, and resolved by, unions go undetected. GAO found that the volume of complaints filed with LMSA represents only a small fraction of the complaints that members file with their unions. Furthermore, LMSA does not have a formal program to provide technical assistance to local union officials or their members. Thus, many union members are not aware of the Act or their rights under the Act. GAO found that LMSA needs to increase its technical assistance program at the local union level. A small number of unions account for a large percentage of the complaints filed with LMSA. Additionally, the Act provides that no person who has been convicted of a criminal act may serve as an officer of a union. However, LMSA does not have a program to screen newly elected union officers to determine whether they are serving in violation of the Act. LMSA also does not investigate complaints concerning election of certain union officials, such as shop stewards and committee representatives, and cannot include election violations which the complainant was aware of, but did not include in the protest, in requesting court ordered election reruns.

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