Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)
April 7, 2008
District Court Grants Summary Judgment in Favor of Department in Alabama Education Association v. Chao
On March 27, 2008, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision in this case, holding that the Department has adequately explained and justified its change in interpretation of the definition of "labor organization" in the Labor- Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), as it applies to certain intermediate labor organizations. The court thus upheld the Department of Labor’s current interpretation that LMRDA coverage extends to an intermediate labor organization, even if it lacks private-sector members, so long as it is subordinate to a national or international labor organization that has affiliates with private-sector members. Alabama Education Ass'n v. Chao, 2008 WL 803670 (D.D.C. March 27, 2008).
This interpretation was proposed by the Department in a December 27, 2002 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed revisions to the forms that labor organizations use to file annual financial reports (Forms LM-2, LM-3 and LM-4) required by the LMRDA. On October 9, 2003, a final rule was published that stated that intermediate bodies will be covered by the LMRDA if they are subordinate to a national or international labor organization that includes a labor organization covered by the LMRDA, even if the intermediate body's constituents are solely public sector local labor unions not covered by the Act.
This interpretation was challenged in federal district court. See Alabama Education Ass'n v. Chao, 2005 WL 736535 (D.D.C. Mar 31, 2005) and Alabama Education Ass'n v. Chao, 455 F.3d 386 (D.C. Cir. 2006).
On January 26, 2007, the Department published a Policy Statement in the Federal Register (72 FR 3735) in response to the court of appeals’ remand order. The plaintiff unions renewed their objection to the interpretation, after which the district court issued its current decision, which upholds the Policy Statement as a "reasoned" explanation that is entitled to deference. The district court identified as reasonable two justifications forwarded by the Secretary, i.e., that the broader coverage implemented by the interpretation will further the congressional purpose of keeping union leaders honest and helping members choose leaders, and will allow a member of a private sector local to follow disbursements, which can include a portion of his or her dues, from a national or international labor organization to its state intermediate level affiliate.
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Last Updated: 04/16/08