The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) helps ensure that workers have a voice in the workplace. OLMS promotes labor-management transparency by making available reports showing unions’ financial condition and employer expenditures for their activities in persuading workers during union organizing campaigns. The transparency created by these requirements is designed to promote union member self-governance and to better inform workers in making determinations regarding the exercise of their rights to organize and bargain collectively.
Additionally, OLMS also promotes labor union democracy and financial integrity through adopting and enforcing standards for union officer elections and union trusteeships and safeguards for union assets. The vast majority of union officials and employees do their work diligently and without incident. Unfortunately, civil and criminal violations do sometimes occur and, when they do, the union is typically the victim.
OLMS also administers DOL responsibilities under the Federal Transit Act by ensuring that fair and equitable arrangements protecting mass transit employees are in place before the release of Federal transit grant funds.
OLMS Mission and Purpose
The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) in the U.S. Department of Labor is the Federal agency responsible for administering and enforcing most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, as amended (LMRDA). The LMRDA directly affects millions of people throughout the United States. The law was enacted by Congress primarily to ensure basic standards of democracy and financial integrity in labor organizations representing employees in private industry. Unions representing U.S. Postal Service employees became subject to the LMRDA with the passage of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. Additionally, the LMRDA promotes labor union and labor-management transparency through reporting and disclosure requirements for labor unions and their officials, employers, labor relations consultants, and surety companies. The major provisions of the 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.
OLMS also administers provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and the Foreign Service Act of 1980 relating to standards of conduct for Federal employee organizations, which are comparable to LMRDA requirements. OLMS does not have jurisdiction over unions representing solely state, county, or municipal employees. In carrying out its responsibilities, OLMS performs four types of activities.
I. Public Disclosure of Reports
While enacting the LMRDA, Congress expressed the belief that the labor-management process and union members, officers, and the public in general would benefit by having access to information about labor unions, their officers and employees, employers, labor relations consultants, and surety companies. As a result, Congress required that these individuals and entities file reports which are public information and available for disclosure at OLMS offices.
Each union subject to the LMRDA is required to file an initial information report (Form LM-1) and copies of their constitution and bylaws. In addition, unions must file annual financial reports (Form LM-2, LM-3, or LM-4) with OLMS each year.
Other entities and individuals — employers, labor relations consultants, union officers and employees, and surety companies — are required to file reports under certain circumstances specified by the LMRDA.
II. Compliance Audits
OLMS has responsibility under the LMRDA to conduct audits to determine if unions are complying with the law. The Agency's policy is to conduct all audits in an expeditious manner, and with the least possible disruption to normal union operations.
OLMS uses a streamlined audit approach called the Compliance Audit Program (CAP) to audit local unions which utilizes specialized records review and investigative techniques to verify LMRDA compliance.
CAP allows OLMS to provide compliance assistance to union officials to help them correct problems detected during the audit and to help prevent future violations. The programs also increase communications and cooperation between OLMS and local, national, and international labor unions.
OLMS staff conduct investigations to determine if violations of the LMRDA provisions have occurred. Investigations are initiated based on various sources such as complaints from union members; information developed by OLMS as a result of reviewing reports filed; information developed during an OLMS audit of a union's books and records; and information obtained from other government agencies. Investigations may involve civil matters (such as an election of union officers) or criminal matters (such as embezzlement of union funds).
OLMS initiates investigations of regularly scheduled union officer elections upon receipt of a timely filed complaint from a union member protesting the election. If an investigation discloses violations of the LMRDA which may have affected the outcome of the election, OLMS gives the union an opportunity to correct the violation through voluntary compliance, usually by rerunning the challenged election under OLMS supervision. If warranted, OLMS may take legal action to set aside the challenged election and order a new election under OLMS supervision.
OLMS conducts embezzlement investigations to protect and safeguard union funds and assets. OLMS must refer information it uncovers regarding possible embezzlement violations by union officers or employees to the U.S. Attorney who decides if criminal prosecution is warranted. Persons who have been convicted of embezzlement or certain other crimes specified by the LMRDA may not hold union office or employment for up to 13 years after the conviction or after the end of imprisonment.
IV. Education and Compliance Assistance
OLMS has an active education and compliance assistance program to promote voluntary compliance with the LMRDA by informing union officers and others affected by the law of their responsibilities and by encouraging members to exercise their rights under the LMRDA. Each year OLMS conducts many educational activities from one-on-one meetings with union officers to statewide seminars for hundreds of union officials. Assistance is also provided to meet the special needs of union members, employers, consultants and the general public. Specifically, OLMS:
- Publishes and distributes explanatory pamphlets which emphasize voluntary compliance with the LMRDA and outline the law's requirements;
- Conducts seminars and workshops about the law in general or about specific areas such as election procedures or completion of reporting forms required by the LMRDA;
- Works with international union officials to correct or prevent LMRDA violations such as delinquent reporting and inadequate bonding by affiliates;
- Participates in union conventions by providing displays, giving speeches, taking part in panel discussions, and conducting workshops for those attending; and,
OLMS encourages union officials and members, as well as others affected by the LMRDA, to contact OLMS to discuss problems, file complaints if necessary, or seek information about the LMRDA.
V. Public Transit Employee Protections
When federal funds are used to acquire, improve, or operate a transit system, federal law requires arrangements to protect the rights of affected mass transit employees. These arrangements must be approved by the Department of Labor (DOL) before the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) can release funds to grantees. The terms and conditions of the protective arrangements are included in the grantee's contract with FTA.
The requirement to protect mass transit employees is contained in Section 5333(b) of Title 49 U.S. Code (formerly Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Act). Section 5333(b) specifies that arrangements must include the following: preservation of rights and benefits under existing collective bargaining agreements, continuation of collective bargaining rights, protection of individual employees against a worsening of their position related to employment, assurances of employment to employees of acquired transit systems, priority of reemployment, and paid training or retraining programs.
An employee who believes that he or she has been adversely affected as a result of Federal transit assistance may file a claim under the procedures set forth in the certification approved by DOL.
Last Updated: 2-26-21