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Employment law

labor unions

Labor unions—also known as labor organizations—represent millions of workers in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) is responsible for administering and enforcing most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). The LMRDA directly affects millions of people throughout the United States. The law was enacted to ensure basic standards of democracy and fiscal responsibility in labor organizations representing employees in private industry.

The major provisions of LMRDA are:

• A bill of rights for union members;

• Requirements for reporting and disclosure of financial information and administrative practices by labor unions;

• Requirements for reporting and disclosure by employers, labor relations consultants, union officers and employees, and surety companies, when they engage in certain activities;

• Rules for establishing and maintaining trusteeships;

• Standards for conducting fair elections of union officers; and

• Safeguards for protecting union funds and assets.

Other federal agencies listed below provide additional services outside the realm of OLMS in labor relations:

• National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

o The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency enforcing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees the right of most private sector employees to organize, to engage in group efforts to improve their wages and working conditions, to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative, to engage in collective bargaining, and to refrain from any of these activities. It acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions. Congress enacted the NLRA in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy. The NLRB has 26 regional offices and is headquartered in Washington, DC. Regional offices investigate and prosecute alleged violations of the Act under the authority of the General Counsel.

o The NLRB deals primarily with the private sector and administers the NLRA by (1) conducting elections to determine whether employees want union representation and (2) investigating and remedying unfair labor practices by employers and unions.

o The NLRA gives employees who are members of a union the right to bargain collectively with their employer through a representative chosen by the employees. The employees’ union and the employer must bargain in good faith about wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment until they agree on a labor contract or reach a stand-off or impasse. If negotiations reach an impasse, an employer can impose terms and conditions so long as it offered them to the union before impasse was reached. Once a contract is in place, neither party may deviate from its terms without the other party’s consent, absent extraordinary circumstances. If a contract expires before the next contract is in place, almost all the terms of the expired contract continue while the parties bargain—the exceptions being union security, management rights, no-strike/no-lockout, and arbitration provisions.

• National Mediation Board

o Provides guidance to the railway and airlines industries in regards to labor management.

o Provides an integrated dispute resolution process to effectively meet the Railway Labor Act's objective of minimizing work stoppages in the airline and railroad industries.

• Federal Labor Relations Authority

o Provides leadership in establishing policies and guidance related to federal-sector labor management issues such as the resolution of disputes and ensuring compliance with the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.

• Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

o Primary responsibility is to mediate collective bargaining negotiations and to otherwise assist in development of improved workplace negotiations.

In Texas, as in the rest of the United States, labor unions are governed by a combination of federal laws and regulations. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA) sets the foundation for union operations, providing a bill of rights for union members, requiring financial disclosures by unions, establishing rules for trusteeships and standards for fair elections, and implementing safeguards for union funds. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) is responsible for administering these provisions. Additionally, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforces the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the rights of most private sector employees to organize, engage in collective bargaining, and refrain from such activities. The NLRB oversees union representation elections and addresses unfair labor practices. Other federal agencies, such as the National Mediation Board, Federal Labor Relations Authority, and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, provide guidance and dispute resolution services in specific sectors or for federal employees. Texas does not have state-specific laws that significantly alter the federal framework governing labor unions.

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