State affiliates of the National Education Association (NEA) may be required to disclose details of their operations, including financial information such as income and expenses, salaries and benefits, and election rules, according to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC.
The court ruled in August that the U.S. Department of Labor may require the NEA’s state affiliates to comply with the federal Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).
The Alabama Education Association and 31 other NEA state affiliates had challenged the disclosures in a case known as Alabama Education Association v. Chao. Elaine Chao is U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Unions consisting entirely of public-sector employees are exempt from federal requirements. But if they represent any private-sector employees, Department of Labor requirements apply. Although the NEA consists primarily of public school teachers, it has a handful of private members. Therefore, the Department of Labor argued the national organization and any state affiliates that have private employee members should have to comply with LMRDA.
The Court of Appeals agreed with that argument, overturning a lower court ruling. “[W]e conclude the district court erred in holding the Department’s new interpretation was inconsistent with the Act,” wrote Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg.
“The implications are huge,” said Michael Reitz, director of the Labor Policy Center at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington. “If state affiliates are required to comply with federal law, we’ll have unprecedented disclosure for teachers and other public employees.”
Reitz said the Court of Appeals directed the Department of Labor to reissue its policy analysis before the new rules can take effect.
The NEA said it had no comment on the situation.
Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is managing editor of Budget & Tax News.