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Department of Labor proposes rule requiring mid-level public-sector unions to disclose finances

On Dec. 17, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a regulation that would require mid-level public-sector unions (i.e., state, regional, or district affiliates of national-level unions) to disclose their finances to the federal government if their parent organizations represent private-sector workers.

What are the current regulations? Since 2010, mid-level unions representing public-sector employees exclusively have not been subject to federal financial reporting requirements, even if their parent unions do represent some private-sector workers. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act requires all unions representing private-sector workers to file regular financial disclosure reports with the U.S. Department of Labor.

What is the proposed regulation? The proposed regulation would restore a 2003 rule that required intermediate public-sector union affiliates to disclose their finances if their parent unions represented some private-sector workers. The 2003 rule was enacted by the Bush administration and later rescinded by the Obama administration. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the proposal would result in expanded disclosure filings by mid-level affiliates of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the International Association of Firefighters. Membership and financial figures for these unions are as follows:

What are the reactions?

  • In July 2018, the Department of Labor indicated it was considering the rule change. At that time, NEA general counsel Alice O’Brien said, “Given the strength of the pedigree of the current rule, any attempt by DOL to proceed with the proposed rule would be another attack on unions by this administration.”
  • Also in July 2018, Glenn Spencer, vice president of employment policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, “The [Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act] is meant to be construed broadly and it’s meant to extend coverage as widely as possible.”

What comes next? The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 17. The Department of Labor will accept public comments on the proposal until Feb. 18, 2020.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 107 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map December 20, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart December 20, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart December 20, 2019.png

Recent legislative actions

No legislative actions have occurred since our last issue.



Four Oregon public school employees sue union over resignation restrictions

On Dec. 5, four Oregon public school employees filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging that their union has unconstitutionally denied their resignation requests, continuing to collect dues against their wishes.

Who are the parties to the suit? Plaintiffs Dori Yates, Claudia Strickland, Tonya Sevilla, and Linda Newton work for Hillsboro United School District. They are being represented by attorneys from the Freedom Foundation. The defendants are the American Federation of Teachers, the Oregon state chapter of the AFT, AFT Local 4671, and the school district.

  • The Freedom Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose self-described aim is “to reverse the stranglehold government unions have on our state and local policymaking.”
  • According to a report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Oregon state chapter of the AFT had 9,085 full dues-paying members as of Sept. 28, 2018.

What is at issue? The union’s membership agreement states that members may only revoke their dues deduction authorization during a 30-day period in June each year. The membership agreement also states that members must pay dues for a minimum of one year before resigning. The plaintiffs allege these provisions constitute compelled speech and association, a violation of the First Amendment and the precedent established last year in Janus v. AFSCME.

  • In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court ruled that unions cannot require non-member employees to pay agency fees covering the costs of non-political union activities. This overturned an earlier precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held that non-members could be required to pay fees to a union if those fees were not used for political purposes.

What are the reactions?

  • In a press release, Rebekah Millard, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “The issue is the union isn’t even following the terms of their own cards, which are contradictory. Instead of letting members out either a year after they signed a membership card or every June, they’re saying both rules apply and keeping people in for the maximum amount of time, which can be months longer than would be the case if they applied just one ‘window.'”
  • As of Dec. 12, neither union representatives nor school officials have publicly commented on the lawsuit.

Case information: The case name and number are Yates v. American Federation of Teachers, 3:19-cv-01975-SB. The case has been assigned to Judge Stacie Beckerman, a magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 107 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map December 13, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart December 13, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart December 13, 2019.png

Recent legislative actions

No legislative actions have occurred since our last issue.