New York union may gain by dropping members

One of New York's largest public-sector unions recently encouraged about 100 of its dues-paying members to seek representation elsewhere. The move may seem strange considering how difficult unions around the country are finding it to attract members, but it makes sense when the federal laws that govern trade unions are taken into consideration. The members who left the Public Employees Federation were the organization's only private-sector workers, which means that the union is now made up entirely of public-sector workers and is no longer subject to the provisions of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

The LMRDA was passed in 1959 to combat corruption in trade unions and curb racketeering. The law requires labor organizations to submit financial reports to the U.S. Department of Labor and tasks the federal agency with reviewing union elections. Union members are also guaranteed freedom of speech. Several current and former PEF officials have criticized the move and say that it will inevitably lead to malfeasance.

PEF officials deny allegations that they are seeking to skirt federal regulations and claim that the members were encouraged to leave to improve their collective bargaining position. The former PEF members are white-collar health care workers at an upstate hospital who will now be represented by the Service Employees International Union. According to a PEF representative, the move was first suggested by the DOL.

Labor organizations are expected to work in the best interests of their members, and attorneys with experience in this area may take legal action on behalf of workers who suffer injury, loss or damage when union representation fails to meet this standard. Attorneys might help unions to draft collective bargaining agreements that accomplish their stated goals, and they may also seek to avoid costly legal battles by providing assistance during mediation or arbitration proceedings.

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