Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final ruling that would force employers to disclose the outside consultants they hire to try and bust unions and stop workers from organizing.
Under the persuader rule, employers have to report any conduct and communication undertaken to affect an employee’s decisions about collective bargaining rights and union representation (either explicitly or implicitly). In a released statement to political blog The Hill, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said, “Workers should know who is behind an anti-union message. It’s a matter of basic fairness.”
The rule brought praise from union leaders and workers.
“This long-awaited rule will increase transparency about employers’ activities when they hire outside third parties to do their union busting,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It takes great courage for working people to come together to form a union. Working men and women deserve to know who their employer is hiring and exactly how much they are spending to discourage workers from forming a union.”
“This rule is long overdue,” said Mike Lo Vuolo, a former American Airlines passenger agent, in a statement. “Corporations and consultants should be required to report how much money they spend fighting workers.” Vuolo and several workers had tried to form a union at their job with the Communications Workers of America when their employer was under previous management. American Airlines officials hired the law firm Sheppard Mullin to distribute anti-union material and warn workers about attempting to form a union.
The goal of the Labor Department rule is to close a loophole in the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act that let employers hire consultants and create anti-union strategies without disclosing the information about their consultants. Some labor attorneys, such as Michael Lotito of the law firm Littler Mendelson, and Beth Milito, senior legal counsel at the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Legal Center, said the ruling would breach the attorney-client relationship.
But others, such as Joe Earleywine, organizing director for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, don’t feel any sympathy for union-busters.
“Using union-busting law firms to intimidate workers is one more tool in the toolbox that the global elite uses to keep workers from exercising their rights to improve their working conditions by joining a union,” Earleywine said in a statement.