Number: 15-05

August 29, 2005

Request for Information from the Public Regarding Union Officer Fiduciary Responsibilities Guidelines

The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) today published a Request for Information in the Federal Register. The purpose of this Request for Information is to assist the Department of Labor in determining whether to issue guidelines concerning the fiduciary obligations of union officers, agents, shop stewards and other representatives under section 501(a) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). The Department also seeks comments on the nature and scope of such fiduciary obligations. Section 501 states in general terms that officers, agents, shop stewards, and other representatives of a labor organization occupy "positions of trust" within their labor organizations and must act in the best interests of their union. While the LMRDA does not describe in complete detail the nature and scope of the fiduciary duties as applied to union officials, the legislative history indicates that a broad duty should be applied to these persons.

To date, the Department has not, as a matter of policy, addressed the question of what constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty under section 501. The Department has focused on investigations of embezzlement and theft made illegal under section 501(c) of the Act, and investigations of delinquencies of reports by union officers and employees required by section 202 of the Act, among other matters relating to the conduct of union officers and employees. The Department, however, has an interest in ensuring that breaches of fiduciary obligations not be permitted to occur or remain undisclosed. As the agency that has the principal role of enforcing the LMRDA, the Department has a particular interest in ethical and responsible union governance. Under the LMRDA, for example, the Department regulates union elections, the imposition of trusteeships, reporting by unions of their financial conditions and operations, and reporting by union officers and employees of certain financial holdings, payments, or transactions. In addition, under section 601(a) of the Act, the Department has the authority to investigate instances where violations of the LMRDA may have occurred or may be about to occur, including breaches of the fiduciary relationship established in section 501, and to report to interested persons or officials any matter resulting from an investigation.

The purpose of this Request for Information is to seek public comments from interested parties, including unions, union members, union officers, agents, shop stewards, and other representatives, public interest groups, and the public concerning whether the Department should issue specific guidelines describing the minimum standards officers, agents, shop stewards, and other union representatives must meet to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities under section 501 of the LMRDA. In addition, the Department also requests information on what issues concerning the fiduciary responsibilities of union officials should be addressed, if it is decided that the Department should issue such guidelines, and what specific standards should be included in the guidelines.

Comments must be received on or before October 28, 2005.

You may submit comments, identified by RIN 1215-AB52, by any of the following methods:

  • E-mail:
  • Fax: (202) 693-1340. To assure access to the fax equipment, only comments of five or fewer pages will be accepted via fax transmittal, unless arrangements are made prior to faxing, by calling (202) 693-0123 and scheduling a time for fax receipt.
  • Mail: Mailed comments should be sent to Kay Oshel, Director of the Office of Policy, Reports and Disclosure, Office of Labor-Management Standards, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Room N-5605, Washington, DC 20210. Because the Department continues to experience delays in U.S. mail delivery due to the ongoing concerns involving toxic contamination, you should take this into consideration when preparing to meet the deadline for submitting comments.

Comments will be available for public inspection during normal business hours at the above address.

For additional information and links to the Federal Register Notice, please visit the Fiduciary RFI page on the OLMS Web site.

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Last Updated: 1-11-19