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Fiduciary Obligations in the Internal Political Affairs of Labor Unions Under
Section 501(a) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act

27 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2010  

William P. Kratzke

University of Memphis - Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

Date Written: 1977

Abstract

Federal courts have not agreed upon the appropriate scope of their authority to judge whether union officials have violated their fiduciary obligations under § 501(a) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. The Second Circuit restricts application of § 501(a) to union affairs involving money and property; the Eighth Circuit considers fiduciary obligations in a wide range of union activities. The statute itself mandates that the duty of all officers be determined "taking into account the special problems and functions of a labor organization . . . ," but few courts have recognized this caveat in evaluating the conduct of union officials. Both the Second and Eighth Circuits apply inflexible standards to the conduct of officers of all labor organizations, irrespective of their characteristics. Per se reasoning whereby courts hold certain types of acts by union officials conclusively violative of § 501(a) has emerged. This article proposes a flexible approach to the application of § 501(a) and examines the proposal in the context of four recurrent patterns of internal union politics. The article concludes that courts should not deem acts of union officials per se violative of § 501(a) where union political matters are involved, but rather should examine the challenged conduct in the context of particular circumstances. Judicial management of union internal political affairs is no better than the evils which § 501(a) was designed to ameliorate.

Suggested Citation

Kratzke, William P., Fiduciary Obligations in the Internal Political Affairs of Labor Unions Under Section 501(a) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (1977). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 18, No. 6, 1977; University of Memphis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 90. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1727587

William P. Kratzke (Contact Author)

University of Memphis - Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law ( email )

One North Front Street
Memphis, TN 38103-2189
United States

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