Members Win Continue Notice of Landrum-Griffin Rights

U.S. Dist. Judge Peter J. Messitte in Maryland ordered the Int’l Ass’n of Machinists Sept. 19 to continuously post summaries of the Labor-Management Reporting & Disclosure Act, popularly called the Landrum-Griffin Act, following a ground-breaking U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Thomas v. Grand Lodge of Int’l Ass’n of Machinists, in Jan. that reversed the district court and held that a union’s obligation to inform members of their rights under the law is an ongoing one.

Messitte’s order stipulates that IAM must provide the summary of Landrum-Griffin to all new union members, publish the summary in three issues of the IAM Journal, and post the summary continuously on its Internet website. Landrum-Griffin, among other things, establishes a “Bill of Rights” for union members covering elections of officers, requires minimal union financial disclosures and criminalizes union embezzlement.

Three members of IAM Lodge 834 in Wichita filed suit in 1997 asking that the int’l union be compelled to provide all members with continuous and effective notification of their Landrum-Griffin rights, as required by Section 105 of the statute. Messitte initially held that IAM had met its Section 105 obligations by its 1959 distribution of the statute in a union publication and its rare “updates” to members.

The Fourth Circuit overruled Messitte stating that Landrum-Griffin’s “protections are meaningless…if members do not know of their existence.” The appellate court scoffed at the notion that a single notification in 1959 was adequate under Section 105, pointing out that the character and composition of a union’s membership are continuously changing. The Fourth Circuit remanded the case back to the district court for a determination of how often and in what context the IAM should be required to notify its members of their Landrum-Griffin rights.

IAM’s new Landrum-Griffin summary  states that members have: equal rights to participate in union activities; freedom of speech and assembly; a voice in setting rates of dues, fees, and assessments; protection of the right to sue; and safeguards against improper discipline. It also covers access to copies of collective bargaining agreements, elections of officers, removal of officers, imposition of trusteeships, and prohibitions against certain discipline and violence. It also sets forth the responsibilities of union officers and explains the Landrum-Griffin’s requirements with respect to filing annual financial forms. [BNA 9/25/00]