Court Ruling May Force NEA Disclosures

Published October 1, 2006

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 disclosure requirements. But if they represent any private-sector employees, Department of Labor requirements apply. Therefore, the Department of Labor argued LMRDA should apply to state chapters of teacher unions because a few include private members.

‘Unprecedented Disclosure’

The Court of Appeals agreed, 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.

An NEA spokesperson said the group would have no comment on the situation.

Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is managing editor of Budget & Tax News.