Association for Union Democracy

Can’t get the union constitution

A: There is more than one way to get the constitution & bylaws if the union officers resist. First, you can ask around, see if a coworker has one (make sure it’s up to date). Second, you can use government agencies to enforce your legal right to get a copy of the contract. Third, you can get a group of members together and petition the local to get copies to every member — or make a motion to that effect at a local meeting. Choose the one that fits your situation.

Here’s how to use the government agencies:

On this site (see link below) you can get a sample letter for getting a copy of your bylaws and constitution. A written request, sent by certified mail, return receipt requested often does the trick.

If the union still does not respond, you can try complaining to the Department of Labor (using the return receipt and letter to prove that the union did not respond). Unions that represent private sector members are covered by the federal Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) which requires unions to file a copy of the bylaws and constitution with the Department of Labor (DOL) [link: US Department of Labor (DOL)]. If you need them immediately you can always go down to the DOL and copy them there. If the DOL office is far away, they can copy the constitution and mail it to you at a nominal cost. If you are not in a rush to get it, however, you might want to force the union to provide you a copy as they are required to do.

One attorney who is very knowledgeable about this area of the law recently told us that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will enforce your right to a copy of the bylaws, but we have not heard of that being tested so far. Let us know how it goes.

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