Education News

Alice O’Brien: Trump Administration Targets State Education Associations

Alice O’Brien is NEA’s general counsel.

In a nakedly political move, the Trump U.S. Department of Labor has announced its plans to force all NEA state affiliates to comply with the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”). For more than 60 years, that statute has been enforced only against private sector unions. Suddenly, the Trump administration has decided that certain public sector unions–primarily, NEA state affiliates–should be subject to the LMRDA.

Here are six things you should know about this burdensome regulation change and what you can do about it.

 

Why is the Trump administration targeting NEA state affiliates?  

The Labor Department has explained in its proposed rule that extending LMRDA coverage to NEA state affiliates makes sense given “[t] he increased prevalence of public sector unions and their use of substantial monies affecting matters of great public interest, like state spending[.]” In other words, the Labor Department wants to extend LMRDA requirements to public sector unions because they are powerful and exercise significant influence on important public policy.

Is the Labor Department proposing that all public sector unions be subject to the LMRDA? 

No. The Labor Department is proposing to extend LMRDA coverage only to what it terms “intermediate labor organizations,” which are defined in the LMRDA as “any conference, general committee, joint or system board, or joint council.” The LMRDA’s legislative history demonstrates that this provision was intended to sweep into the LMRDA certain private sector associations of labor unions, like the Western Conference of Teamsters, whose activities prompted the enactment of the LMRDA. To remedy that deficiency, the “conference” language was added to the LMRDA to make sure that these types of “associations of labor unions” would be covered by the LMRDA even though they did not otherwise qualify as labor organizations under the statute.

Even though NEA state affiliates are not these types of “associations of labor unions” but are organizations in which employees directly participate and hold membership, the Labor Department is still proposing to subject NEA state affiliates to the LMRDA.

Why does it matter if NEA state affiliates are subject to the LMRDA?

NEA state affiliates are already subject to extensive safeguards ensuring member voice and financial transparency as specified in the state affiliate’s governing documents, state labor and other laws, and federal tax laws. Subjecting state affiliates to the LMRDA as well will require affiliates to divert union resources and staff time from important union priorities to LMRDA compliance. Even by the Labor Department’s own estimates, merely filling out the required annual LMRDA financial reports will take 530 hours of time. And NEA has determined, based on analyses performed by several of its state affiliates, that the Labor Department has vastly underestimated the compliance costs involved. When all is said and done, if NEA state affiliates are subjected to the LMRDA on top of the state and federal law requirements with which they already comply, affiliates will have to divert significant resources to LMRDA compliance at the expense of advancing those affiliate’s priority work in other areas.  

What would NEA state affiliates have to do to comply with the LMRDA? 

NEA state affiliates would need to change their financial and timekeeping systems to comply with the LMRDA’s extensive annual financial reporting requirements. In addition, NEA state affiliates may also need to change their internal governing documents, their internal union election procedures, and more in order to comply with the LMRDA. The significant compliance costs involved will come at the expense of work supporting other union priorities.

Has the LMRDA ever been applied to public sector unions? 

No.  By its terms, the LMRDA applies only to private sector unions. And since 1959 the Labor Department has only enforced the LMRDA against private sector unions (meaning unions that represent or seek to represent private sector employees). In fact, when the LMRDA was initially proposed in the U.S. Senate it would have covered public sector unions, but the bill was quickly amended to restrict its scope purely to private sector unions. On one prior occasion, during the Bush administration, the Labor Department did attempt to stretch the LMRDA to reach certain public sector unions (including NEA state affiliates), but that effort was subsequently abandoned.  The fact is that only Congress, not the Department of Labor, has the authority to amend the LMRDA to reach public sector unions.

What can I do to encourage the Labor Department to abandon its proposal to subject NEA state affiliates to the LMRDA? 

The Labor Department has asked for the public to comment on its proposal. So far, hundreds of individuals have weighed in, many of them Trump supporters who support the proposed rule as a way to “drain the swamp” and take down public sector unions. You can see the comments filed to date here.

Make sure that the Labor Department hears from you too about why the proposed rule is unnecessary and will come at too high a cost to the priority work of your union.  You can file a comment below. Please be sure to edit the draft letter to include information about who you are and why you oppose the change to the LMRDA.

Tell the Labor Department to Stop its Proposed Rule Targeting State Education Associations

In general, comments that are personalized carry more weight. Please change the letter below to say a little about yourself.

58 responses to “Alice O’Brien: Trump Administration Targets State Education Associations

  1. Attempting to tie the hands of Education Unions through a law that was never intended to regulate (specifically) public education unions or any public union for that matter is a low blow. Interesting to note that this was attempted under W. in 2004 but was successfully beat back for overwhelming public outcry against it, don’t mess with education or educators. Educators need support, when you mess with that support you undermine the students and you weaken an already challenged education system. The attempt to apply this law to public education needs to be STOPPED!!!

  2. It is far easier to comply with requests when the technology functions. My personal addition was completed but disappeared after the ‘signature; section was not working.

    1. Sorry you ran into problems! If you can let me know if you were on mobile or desktop and what browser you were using, it will help me figure out the issue.

      In solidarity,
      Tim Reed
      NEA Center for Communications

      1. Hi! I submitted a version of the letter given. The personalized portions were not fillable with my android mobile phone. I could fill in my name, etc…before the letter box, but not my rep, or my signature spot after-I included it body if letter. I hope that works ok!

      2. The article states that Congress specifically excluded public sector unions in the 1959 law, and only Congress can change the law. So how can DOL legally implement this change?
        Please tell me NEA would immediately file court actions to stop this.
        Seems to me we should be writing to our representatives
        Submitting comments to a Trump lackey director seems futile as they will be dismissed immediately. Especially so if educators embarrass themselves by leaving in the [fill in your information here] text in their “personal comments”
        I am a 44 year member of NEA, WEA, and my local EA. I believe in our right to organize, bargain for pay and work conditions, and withhold our services if necessary.

    2. Not sure what happened but I want my representatives to know enforcing the private sector labor union rules onto us in Public Education is wrong and show considerable bias against us in public education. Thank you – Julie

    1. No it isn’t. It’s to ensure organizations like these don’t fail to report their actions if state/federal funds are received for educational purposes. There have been investigation such as these in 2010 where NEAs failed to report their disbursements. If they fail to do that, where does the money go? Can you answer that?

      1. There are better things teachers need to be doing than redundant paperwork that only wastes teachers precious time. No wonder there is a national teacher shortage!!!!

    1. I m a retired teacher from Ohio. How can a President and his party put so much disstress on public school educationers. It s not bad enough their not paid, so now lets go after their representation. This ia another
      stabb in the back.

      1. They are not being stabbed in the back. He’s making sure the money received is going where they are supposed to go.

    2. Great observations here, but I hope everyone is actually using the form above to submit their comments to the Department of Labor instead of just leaving comments on the article. Have you seen the “comments filed to date” already? (Link above.) It sounds like a Trump rally. We must get more teachers to file their own formal comments with this form.

  3. I have taught in the public schools, and have been a member of the TEA for thirty two years. This action is a ploy to undermine public education , and will, in the long run, hurt teachers and students alike. Our union works with teachers, students, and community members to better education in our state. These proposed rules will only burden our union, and waste time and resources needed to focus on the real task at hand, which is to educate our young people, and give teachers the tools they need to do their jobs.

    1. This is to ensure the money goes where it’s supposed to. Organizations such as these fail to report where huge amounts of money go. That is truly serving the community. You all have personal vendettas against that president and don’t research the facts. NEA have been under investigation for years for improperly reporting huge amounts of money goes. Research it before you open your mouth.

      1. Please, sir, enlighten us with your infinite wisdom? I am sure everyone is awaiting explanation of your conspiracy theory with bated breath.

  4. As a retired teacher and current member of NEA and ISEA, I see this proposed rule change as just another proverbial “brick in the wall” in an effort to shut down unions. My union has supported me for over 20 years. My union has advocated for me, my students, my profession, and my public schools. It has helped provide professional development, legal services, and support. Here in Iowa, our legislators enacted rule changes to try to stymie our supportive public unions. It’s not working. This is just another attempt with no factual basis for the change. As a voting citizen and strong union member, I recommend this proposed change be dropped.

  5. These rules are not needed and create a large unnecessary burden on our state association, the opposite of the current administration’s pledge to streamline government regulation. What gives?

  6. This is a transparent attempt to punish teacher associations for tending to disagree with the lack of support the Republican party gives to Public Education. nationwide. Please think twice before you encumber educators and distract them from their task.. Is it patriotic to further endanger the education of those who hold America’s future in their hands? I was a teacher and teacher educator for 36 years and have made contributions to education in America and other countries. My colleagues and I have improved the learning environment for children. What are you improving by this swipe at unions?

    Frank T. Lyman, Jr. PhD.

  7. This proposed change to make my union subject to the requirements of the LMRDA would impose a large burden on my union in terms of financial costs and the time of union officers and staff to comply with the reporting and other requirements of a federal law that has never before been applied to our union. I want my union to be able to continue to use its resources – my dues money –as much as possible toward supporting our educator members, their students, public schools and the profession as a whole, rather than complying with unnecessary government regulations. The description of the proposed rule claims that it is necessary to provide “financial transparency,” but I have not seen any evidence that financial transparency is lacking in my union. The union finances are already carefully monitored and reported upon. Our elected officers are held to a high standard by our membership and our union’s governing documents. In addition, the NEA bylaws provide additional protections for members by requiring that my union have an annual independent audit, the results of which must be shared with the union’s governing board, as well as regular and fair elections to ensure a healthy democratic union. I do not believe this rule is necessary. And the costs imposed on my union by having to comply with a complex federal law would divert resources away from the work of the union that I care about and rely on. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed rule, and I urge you to continue to exclude all wholly public-sector labor organizations from LMRDA coverage.

    Sincerely,
    Kathy Charland

  8. The Administration is feeling even more emboldened to squash our advocacy efforts because of the recent events in Washington. This is obviously the next step in their attempt to destroy Public Education in favor of privatizing it so that big business can make a profit off of our students and their parents via charter schools.

    1. So true. I am quite disillusioned right now with what our future will bring if this current administration is still in power

  9. The children of America depend on their teachers to protect and support them in addition to teaching them. The Educators of America know best how to do this, not politicians. Our voices are critical to helping them attend public schools that have all the necessary resources. The union is how we have a voice in the room when important educational decisions are made. Otherwise, they’re left to people for whom the children take a back seat to money and power. We can’t let this happen. This change will only serve the interest of politicians and their donors, not the children. Keep the children in mind, especially the 90% who attend public schools as you contemplate this change

  10. I am a retired public school educator and a life member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association. This proposed change is just another subversive move to undercut public education and break unions. The proposal has absolutely no benefits for students or public schools in general.

    What this type of proposal will do is weaken public school systems so that private firms can lobby “to save education” and swoop in to steal public money for themselves. They don’t care about educating our students. They simply see dollar signs to line their pockets!

  11. This is an awful and unjust practice that shows that government is trying to break the unions in the United States from not focusing on serving students and educators to develop and continue to improve the quality of our professionals and the public education for the students.
    We need to take a strong stand and say proudly NO to this burden that the Labor department is trying to establish.

  12. As a former teacher and NEA member I agree that this is a terrible idea and should not be put into practice. Educators have so many more valid and important ways to spend their time rather than taking over 500 hours to complete a useless form.
    Why isn’t the WH concerned about really helping those students and educators in public education rather than wasting time on these efforts?

  13. I am a retired High School biology teacher who taught for 37 years; 2 years in Newport, KY 30 years in Council Bluffs, IA and 5 years IN Omaha, NE.

  14. This is a terrible idea! It is quite apparent that this is a political move to hinder unions in their effort to protect educators and students. Since your Secretary of Education can’t even spell e-d-u-c-a-t-I-o-n, it is equally apparent that you have no idea what you’re doing nor do you have any advisors to aid you in your ignorance. STOP hurting educators, students and working class people with your politically motivated vendetta against people who dare to disagree with you. Because YOU DID NOT make America great! What makes America great is our diversity, including diversity of opinion!!!

  15. I am a retired public school teacher and taught in Minnesota and Wisconsin during my thirty-nine-year career. I have been a member of the Minnesota Education Association for four years and of the Wisconsin Education Association Council for thirty-five years. I have been retired fifteen years and currently am a WEAC-Retired and NEA-Retired member.

    Also, as a retiree, I am actively involved in support of public education at the local and state level, which is under attack by those who want to privatize education for their personal financial benefit. As a public school advocate, I reach out to my community and state as a director on the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools board.

    As a taxpayer and citizen, I support high-quality education for all students and demand that public school educators be treated fairly and with dignity and respect. This includes the right to negotiate for better working conditions and being provided with the training and support to advance in their professions.

    I am opposed to the proposed LMRDA to apply it to purely public sector labor organizations. Local and state union resources should be used in support of tis educator members, students, public schools and the profession.

  16. I was my buildings’ union rep for 20 years. I know what it does and I know what it stands for. That is why I believe in it.

  17. Josh is spot on with his comments that this extra requirement will burden the union from doing its number one job: advocating for the best decisions to support students regardless of their zip code.

  18. Republicans simply do not like unions. Well thank God I am a union member. If it were up to Trump & that other Bozo- Christie, teachers & other public workers would be working for them. Also, this so-called Education commissioner has got to go. Another non-supporter of Public School teachers.

  19. It has been quite clear for some time that many of the wealthiest Americans want the rest of us to be uneducated, poor, and thereby powerless to stand in the way of their exploitation of the earth, labor, children, and life itself. This effort, led by Donald Trump, to diminish the power of the NEA, is just another scheme in that process. It is time to plainly accuse the oligarchs involved with malicious treachery—indeed, with treasonous plans to nullify the Constitution because the freedom guaranteed therein invokes the power and legality to stand in the way of their gluttony and greed.

  20. I am Kathren O’Brien, a Resource Room Teacher in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District. I have been a member of Michigan Education Association since 1988. I count on my union to advocate for high quality education for all students, support all of our educator members to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect, negotiate for better working conditions and resources for our students, and provide me with training and support to advance in the profession and better serve my students.

    I want my union to be able to continue to use its resources – my dues money –as much as possible toward supporting our educator members, their students, public schools and the profession as a whole, rather than complying with unnecessary government regulations.

    I do not believe the LMRDA needs to be imposed on the NEA and its affiliates. The costs imposed on my union by having to comply with a complex federal law would divert resources away from the work of the union that I care about and rely on.

    Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed rule. I urge you to continue to exclude all wholly public-sector labor organizations from LMRDA coverage.

  21. It would help in arguing against the rule change if locals such as UTLA would follow financial reporting requirements directed by their own governing bodies.

  22. I am a teacher in Des Moines. I have been a member of Iowa State Education Association since 2003. I count on my union to stand up for our students and make a difference in the lives of our members and the students we serve. As a union we are working to help students with mental health issues, collaborate on curriculum development and continue to improve our profession and public education. These rules are not needed and create a large unnecessary burden on our state association when we need to be focused on working with school districts and policy makers to continue to improve our schools as every student deserves a great public school regardless of their zip code.

    1. Re: Labor Organization Annual Financial Reports: Coverage of Intermediate Bodies RIN 1245-AA08

      Dear Senator Murkowski,

      I am writing in response to the DOL’s proposed rule to reinterpret the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”) to apply it to purely public sector labor organizations , of which I am a member. I strongly oppose this unnecessary and harmful rule.

      I am Glen Ramos, School Psychologist for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District in Palmer, Alaska. I have been a member of the National Educator’s Assn of Alaska for 28 years. I count on my union to advocate for high quality education for all students; support all of our educator members to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect; negotiate for better working conditions and resources for our students; provide me with training and support to advance in the profession and better serve my students. I see this proposed change as a deliberate attempt to burden my organization and to detract from our mission of creating a better system of public education by imposing restraining regulations that will thwart our mission listed above. The already existing regulations have been sufficient to regulate our association for many years. This is a partisan attempt to diminish our ability to accomplish our stated mission. As free citizens we have chosen to work and pay to be a collective. This is clearly an attempt to take yet another step toward eliminating organized labor in this country. History is clear, organized labor was, in great part, responsible for the greatest period of USA’s prosperity. I ask that you do not make this policy change.

      This proposed change to make my union subject to the requirements of the LMRDA would impose a large burden on my union in terms of financial costs and the time of union officers and staff to comply with the reporting and other requirements of a federal law that has never before been applied to our union.

      I want my union to be able to continue to use its resources – my dues money –as much as possible toward supporting our educator members, their students, public schools and the profession as a whole, rather than complying with unnecessary government regulations.

      The description of the proposed rule claims that it is necessary to provide “financial transparency,” but I have not seen any evidence that financial transparency is lacking in my union. The union finances are already carefully monitored and reported upon. Our elected officers are held to a high standard by our membership and our union’s governing documents. In addition, the NEA bylaws provide additional protections for members by requiring that my union have an annual independent audit, the results of which must be shared with the union’s governing board, as well as regular and fair elections to ensure a healthy democratic union.

      I do not believe this rule is necessary. And the costs imposed on my union by having to comply with a complex federal law would divert resources away from the work of the union that I care about and rely on.
      Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed rule, and I urge you to continue to exclude all wholly public-sector labor organizations from LMRDA coverage.

      Sincerely,
      Glen Ramos, NEA-AK

    1. This proposed change is not needed, but rather an overreach of regulations designed to address issues in private sector unions, and clearly vindictive toward unions who do not support this administration’s public education policies and politics. For an administration that brags about massive deregulation this proposal is an act of abject hypocrisy. What a surprise.

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