Summers's proposals to reinforce LMRDA


After testifying in May before the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations, Clyde Summers was asked to propose amendments that would strengthen enforcement of the LMRDA, the federal law which protects union democracy. In early July, he submitted the text of suggested statutory language to Harris W. Fawell, subcommittee chairman, that would deal with subjects covered in the first two hearing sessions. His proposals are summarized below:

 Election of district council officers: The committee heard testimony from unionists who complained that the right of members to elect officers, and related rights of locals, were being evaded by various reorganization plans which transfer power to delegated district councils and turn locals into powerless administrative shells. Summers proposes that the officers of all intermediate bodies, like district councils, which "engage in negotiation, administration, or enforcement of collective agreements or exercise control over the finances or other major functions of local unions" be elected by direct membership vote.

 Contract ratification: Members should have the right to vote on collective bargaining agreements.

 Trusteeships: Since trusteeships are often improperly imposed by international officers to suppress local opposition, the current LMRDA provision which gives trusteeships a presumption of validity for 18 months should be eliminated. When a trusteeship is lifted, the local officers should be reinstated or a new election held promptly. If a federal court orders a trusteeship lifted, it should supervise the election.

 Hiring halls: Protection of democracy requires protection of fair and honest procedures in the operation of hiring halls.

 Remedies for election violations: Current law makes it almost impossible to correct election misconduct before an election is completed. Moreover, only the Secretary of Labor is authorized to bring suit to void an invalid election. Changes in the law should provide clearly for pre-election remedies. Dependence upon the Labor Department should be alleviated by authorizing unionists, as well as the Secretary, to sue directly in federal court in election cases.

 Other proposals: In addition, other suggestions were made by Herman Benson in testimony in June. Some   time ago, the Association for Union Democracy had submitted, to the Dunlop Commission, an extensive list of proposed LMRDA changes. These proposals, too, have been placed before the Fawell subcommittee.

September 98