Michael Okun spoke at the 2008 Annual Conference of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee (LCC), which was held in Seattle. Mike’s talk was part of a session concerning the representation of state and local movements and their partner 501(c)(3) organizations. He presented a paper, written along with Narendra Ghosh, entitled A Brief Overview of the Law Governing the AFL-CIO’s State and Local Central Labor Bodies.
Summary: In every state and hundreds of communities around the country, the labor movement benefits from the presence and work of state, area, and local labor bodies chartered by the national AFL-CIO. Unlike their affiliate local unions, these central labor bodies are not directly involved in direct representation of workers, contract negotiations or administration, direct organizing, or litigation under the National Labor Relations Act or the Railway Labor Act. Instead, the AFL-CIO’s state and local central bodies are designed to coordinate and lead the labor movement’s work in particular geographic areas around the labor movement’s legislative, policy, and electoral goals. State and local central bodies also provide support to organizing campaigns and contract fights in their areas, although state federations and central labor councils do not directly represent workers.
While central labor bodies experience many of the same legal problems as local unions and other not-for-profit organizations, they also face their own unique challenges. In grappling with these issues, state federations and central labor councils operate under a somewhat different set of legal rules as compared to local unions.
This paper outlines some of the common legal issues and questions faced by state and local central bodies in running their organizations, and describes some of the key laws and rules governing these organizations. This paper is designed to be a resource for union lawyers who might be unfamiliar with this particular breed of labor organization but who might be called upon from time to time to provide advice to a state or local central body facing a legal or constitutional question.