Due to COVID-19 (also known as novel coronavirus) and other natural disasters declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) issues this advisory regarding the labor union officer election requirements under Title IV and the reporting requirements of Title II of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). OLMS recognizes that due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, as well as property damage inflicted by storms, floods, other natural disasters, and related evacuations from the affected areas, it may be difficult or impossible for some unions to conduct timely union officer elections. Similar difficulties may confront unions, union officers and employees, surety companies, labor relations consultants and employers faced with public disclosure filing requirements. OLMS issues this advisory for those unions, union officers and employees, surety companies, employers, or labor relations consultants whose principal office is located in the affected areas or whose reportable activities occurred in those areas.

Elections: Affected labor unions must make a good faith effort to conduct officer elections as required under the LMRDA. The failure to hold an election is an ongoing violation of the LMRDA. OLMS has jurisdiction to file a civil enforcement action concerning a failure to hold a timely election after receipt of a timely complaint from a union member who has first sought a remedy from his or her union. In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and their aftermath, OLMS provides the following guidance. The guidance is applicable when the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, or their aftermath, prevent a union from holding a timely election of officers.

  1. Written Agreement: No OLMS-Supervised Election. Prior to expiration of the period to hold a timely election (i.e., before the election is untimely), a union may contact OLMS with regard to reaching a written agreement concerning the need to delay its election. Unions may contact OLMS by emailing OLMS-Public@dol.gov, or by contacting the OLMS field office in their area. If such an agreement is reached, the agreement will:
    • document the date-certain by which the union will hold the election;
    • describe the reasonable steps the union is taking, and agrees to take in the future, to hold the election no later than the mutually agreed-upon date;
    • specify how the union intends to keep the membership apprised of the revised election schedule;
    • state that the election will not be supervised by OLMS;
    • state that – should OLMS receive a timely complaint raising solely the issue of the union’s failure to hold a timely election – OLMS and the union will execute a waiver of the statutory filing deadline until at least 60 days after the date of the union’s rescheduled election.
  2. Any member may protest the rescheduled election through normal protest procedures within the union’s governing documents. If, upon OLMS investigation of a complaint, the election has been held as agreed upon, OLMS will close the case regarding the sole issue of the timing of the union’s election.

  3. Election Complaint Filed with OLMS: No OLMS-Supervised Election. When a union has not entered into a written agreement, as described in Paragraph 1 above, if OLMS receives a timely complaint regarding solely a union’s failure to hold an election, OLMS will determine whether the union has taken affirmative, reasonable steps to conduct its regular election as soon as is practicable.
    • “Affirmative reasonable steps” include, but are not limited to: setting a new date for the election; developing a timetable for each stage of the election; selecting a polling site and determining polling hours (if a polling site election); developing a schedule for ballot mailing, return deadline, and counting (if a mail ballot election); updating the union’s membership list to ensure that member addresses are correct; preparing nomination notice and setting a date for nomination meeting; and notifying the membership of these developments.  
    • An election held “as soon as is practicable” means an election date that is within a reasonable amount of time, consistent with local pandemic guidelines and is embodied in a date-certain made known to the union members.
  4. When OLMS determines that the union has taken affirmative, reasonable steps to conduct its regular election as soon as is practicable, OLMS will agree to a waiver of the statutory filing deadline until at least 60 days after the date of the union’s rescheduled election. The waiver will document those reasonable steps, as well as the date-certain by which the union will hold the election. This election identified in the waiver would not be supervised by OLMS on the basis of an allegation that the election is untimely. Any member may protest the rescheduled election through normal protest procedures within the union’s governing documents but OLMS will not file a civil enforcement action or seek a voluntary compliance agreement with the union requiring that the election be set aside and a new election supervised by OLMS be conducted if the protest is based solely on the election having been untimely.

  5. Election Complaint Filed with OLMS: OLMS-Supervised Election. When a union has not entered into a written agreement, as discussed in Paragraph 1 above, if OLMS receives a complaint regarding a union’s failure to hold an election and the union has not taken affirmative, reasonable steps to conduct its regular election as soon as is practicable as described in Paragraph 2 above, OLMS will file a civil enforcement action or seek a voluntary compliance agreement with the union requiring that OLMS supervise the union’s regular election.

Public Disclosure Reports: Labor unions, labor union officers and employees, surety companies, labor relations consultants, and employers affected by COVID-19 or natural disasters must make a good faith effort to file required public disclosure reports. The failure to file a timely and complete report is an ongoing violation of the LMRDA. OLMS has jurisdiction to file a civil enforcement action concerning a failure to meet reporting requirements. OLMS will not, however, pursue a civil enforcement action with regard to a delinquent or deficient report when these reporting violations are attributable to COVID-19 or other natural disaster. Unions, union officers and employees, surety companies, employers, and labor relations consultants wishing to take advantage of this enforcement policy should contact OLMS at OLMS-Public@dol.gov before the report is due, describe the circumstances necessitating additional time, and provide a date certain by which the report can reasonably be submitted. Under these circumstances, OLMS will not lodge a civil enforcement action to obtain the delinquent or deficient report.

This advisory covers unions, employers, or labor relations consultants affected by COVID-19 or whose principal office is otherwise located in any area that has been identified as a Designated Area by FEMA to receive individual or public assistance (FEMA categories A and B). To determine whether your county is in a designated area, you may review your state site or FEMA's Disaster Declarations page.

 

Last Updated: 03-17-21