Association for Union Democracy

Union Member’s Bill of Rights

The Union Member’s Bill of Rights, Title I of the LMRDA, guarantees the following democratic rights to all union members:

Equal rights and privileges to nominate candidates, to vote in elections or referendums, and to attend and participate in union meetings and vote on the business of the meeting, subject to reasonable rules in the union constitution and/or bylaws;

Freedom of speech and assembly, including the right to:

  • criticize union officials;
  • express any viewpoint at union meetings (subject to reasonable rules of conduct);
  • distribute literature outside the union hall or inside the hall if members cannot reasonably be reached from outside;
  • hold separate meetings without interference from union officials;

The right to secret ballot vote on rates of dues, initiation fees, and assessments;

The right to sue the union, without reprisal, if internal appeals do not produce a satisfactory result within four months, or if you disagree with the union’s decision;

You are protected from improper union discipline. Due process is required in internal union disciplinary hearings, including:

  • the right to specific, written charges;
  • the right to confront and cross-examine accusers;
  • adequate time to prepare a defense;
  • the right to a full and fair hearing and a decision based on the evidence.

Note: The union may not discipline you for exercising protected rights, however you may be disciplined for the following activities:

  • participating in wildcat strikes,
  • advocating decertification of the union,
  • nonpayment of dues or agency fees, and other acts which interfere with the legal or contractual obligations of the union or which threaten the existence of the union as an institution,
  • crossing picket lines.

You have the right to receive a copy of your collective bargaining agreement (union contract) along with all riders and supplements, and to inspect copies of all contracts that your local union administers. (This may include hiring hall rules.)

Notification of Rights: A recent appeals court decision supports what AUD has long argued, that, under Section 105 of the LMRDA, unions are obligated to inform members of their rights under the LMRDA and how to enforce those rights. This applies to Federal Employees as well. (Note: In order for this important decision to become the norm in every part of the country, it is important that union members try to enforce Section 105. Please contact AUD if you are interested in helping enforce this important part of the LMRDA.)

In most cases, you must exhaust internal union procedures before you can take the union to court. The internal procedures are described in the Union’s constitution and/or bylaws. If you do not agree with the result, or if the process takes more than four months, you may file a lawsuit in federal district court for injunctive relief, restoration of your rights and money damages. You must hire your own attorney to represent you in a lawsuit. Check with AUD for more information and advice. If you are denied a copy of your contract, you may file a complaint with the Department of Labor which will investigate and has authority to bring a lawsuit on your behalf.

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