Teamsters have important rights to information about union finances, our pension plans, our contracts and bylaws. This article will outline some of these rights.
TDU has fought over the years to expand these rights and win new ones, like the right to majority rule on our contracts. TDU also helps Teamsters to make use of these legal rights.
Your Contract and Supplements
You have a right to a copy of the contract that covers your employment. Normally you just ask your steward or business agent for a copy. If this doesn’t work, a letter to your local union requesting the contract, and reminding them of your legal rights, usually works. TDU can provide a sample letter.
You also have a right to any supplements, riders, letters of understanding, or side agreements. Your written request should ask specifically for these as well.
Even if you work under a national contract, it is the local union which must provide you with a copy. Your local union cannot use the excuse, its not printed yet. They must provide you with a photocopy of what they have.
You also have the right to examine all the contracts that your local union has on file (not just with your employer), at the union hall.
Constitution and Bylaws
All locals are required to have bylaws which govern their operations, and which detail how stewards are chosen, how officers’ salaries are determined, and how members can amend the bylaws.
Members have a right to copies of the International Constitution and their local bylaws. TDU can provide a sample letter to local unions requesting these documents.
The IBT and all U.S.-based joint councils, conferences, and locals (unless they represent only public workers) are required to file financial statements by March 31 of each year with the Department of Labor. The report is submitted for most locals on a form called LM-2.
Copies of these reports are supposed to be available for inspection by members at the local. They are also available through the Labor Department for the cost of copying. TDU gets these each year for many locals; contact us to get the report for your local. We can also help you understand your locals report.
If you see or have reason to believe there are substantial discrepancies in any of these documents, you are entitled to examine the raw materials from which the reports were made. This right is enforceable in federal court.
Under a separate law, called ERISA, health and welfare and pension funds must provide financial information to any beneficiaries, so you can evaluate their strength and security. Specifically, plan participants are entitled to a Summary Annual Report of plan finances, as well as a Form 5500, which provides detailed information about plan finances.
You should automatically receive a Summary Annual Report from your pension fund each year. You must request your funds Form 5500 (full annual report) directly from the fund itself. The fund may charge you a reasonable amount for copying costs.
Your fund has 30 days from the receipt of your written request to send you the information. If you have difficulty obtaining the information, contact your local branch of the Department of Labor. You can be directly connected to your local office by calling the Pension Welfare and Benefits Administration at 866-ASK-PWBA.
While members ordinarily cannot have copies of or access to the membership list, there are two circumstances in which some access is allowed:
During elections, candidates for local union office have the right to review the unions membership list within 30 days of the ballots being mailed or cast. The review is done at the union hall. You do not have a right to a copy of the list.
Candidates in union elections have a right to send mailings to all members or subgroups of the membership (at the campaigns expense). You do not have to wait until you are nominated to do such mailings; they may be done by any declared candidate, even months before nominations. Mailing labels are generally provided to a mailing house, or are handled by volunteers or union staff.
Canadian Teamsters have many of the same rights as U.S. members in terms of access to contracts, local union bylaws, and the IBT Constitution. However, Canadian labor law generally does not address the question of members’ rights within their union, which makes enforcement difficult. Contact TDU if you’re having trouble getting the information you need.
Canadian Teamsters do, however, have the right to independent access to information about their pension funds. The rules vary province by province. For example, Regulation 909 amending the Ontario Pension Benefits Act gives members the right to inspect and copy once per year all documents that support and relate to the pension plan. Its important to check with the appropriate ministry in your province to see what rules apply in your area.
Also, Ontario Teamsters can check www.ontarioinsurance.com for information on their pension and health and welfare fund.