New Rule Proposed For Federal Employee Unions
By David S Farkas
As our loyal readers know, we at the labor news bureau of RB&S keep an ever-vigilant eye out for new decisions that might affect how our clients conduct business. In the closing quarter of 2004, this task did not prove to be difficult, as the output of the Labor Board was frankly disappointing. Major legal issues were left unresolved, and the Board failed to address some of the more novel issues of labor law that have developed. In an effort to remove the bottleneck, this intrepid reporter traveled to Washington, D.C. for a face-to-face confrontation with two of the five Board members, plus the Board’s General Counsel. (All right, I was an attendee at an attorney’s conference. But the aforementioned were there, and I did get to speak personally with at least some of them.) Alas, the Board output continues to be slow.
In that light, it is refreshing to see that the Department of Labor has stepped into the breach created by the Board’s lack of performance. In a recent notice published in the Federal Register, the DOL published a proposed rule that would require federal employee unions to inform new members of their rights to inspect collective bargaining agreements, participate in officer elections and other union activities, and exercise free speech rights without fear of retaliation. In addition, the rule would require unions to inform existing members of their rights in writing once every three years. According to the DOL, the proposed rule would make it more likely that members would monitor their unions and take action to remedy breaches in the integrity of the union.
The rule, proposed by the DOL’s Employment Standards Administration, would cover federal employee unions subject to the standards of conduct provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. Thus, while the bill would not have any direct impact on unions not concerned with federal employees, it would still be a strong affirmation to employees everywhere of their rights to both join and refrain from joining unions.
Interestingly, the new rule would also establish a new enforcement authority which would allow the DOL to investigate and prosecute violations of the rule on its own initiative, rather than waiting for complaints from union members. The Department feels it should not have to wait for member complaints to begin enforcement action, since it is unreasonable to expect the union members who have not been informed of their rights in the first place to exercise those rights to bring matters to the Department’s attention.
Sounds logical to us.
Questions or concerns about labor? Alan Ross and David Farkas are prepared to take your call.