Labor Leaders Protest Labor Department Elimination of Reporting Rule

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The Teamsters and the AFL-CIO are protesting the latest Republican Labor Department plan to roll back a pro-worker regulation, the June 9 announcement that DOL would weaken its recent “persuader rule.”

That rule, unveiled in March 2016, would force “persuaders” – more-commonly known as union-busters – to disclose in more detail and more often how much they spend and which companies they work for.

Unions and their allies lobbied the Obama administration DOL to tighten the “persuader rule” to make it like the detailed disclosures DOL now requires from unions. Court rulings weakened it so much that the “persuaders” could literally get away with just about anything.

In so many words, persuaders did not have to disclose their actions and spending to DOL, unless they had “direct contact” with workers, not when they “advise” bosses on how to stop organizing drives.  Under Obama, DOL agreed to extend disclosure to cover “indirect contact” through employers, eliminating  “the advice exemption” from persuaders’ reports.

That would have tightened up the persuader rule – and forced the union busters to reveal their activities. But just after last November’s election, a GOP-named federal judge in rural Texas, at the behest of the right wing National Federation of Independent Business, stopped the persuader rule change in its tracks with a nationwide injunction.

Now, under Republican President Donald Trump, DOL’s June 12 Federal Register notice says it wants to stop the Obama DOL change itself. The move against the persuader rule is the latest Trump rollback of a Labor Department pro-worker rule. The Teamsters and the federation are protesting the rollback. Deadline for comments is August 11.

“The ‘persuader rule’ called for outside consultants and attorneys hired by companies to crack down on union activities to be put on equal footing as employers who must disclose such activities under” Landrum-Griffin, said Teamsters President James Hoffa.

“It also increased parity with unions, which are already required to file detailed financial disclosure forms each and every year that includes receipts and expenditures. The decision to rescind this rulemaking is greatly disappointing.

“At a time when income inequality is increasingly pervasive in this country, workers need the DOL to expand its worker protection policies and employer compliance policies. The Teamsters call on the DOL to reverse its recent decision.”  

AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein called DOL’s move “another giveaway to wealthy Corporations.

“The ‘persuader rule’ means corporate CEOs can no longer hide the shady groups they hire to take away the freedoms of working people,” he added. “CEOs may not like people knowing who they’re paying to script their union-busting, but working people do.”

DOL, in its official notice, had a different take on weakening the persuader rule.

“The department believes a fair and transparent government regulatory regime must consider and balance the interests of labor relations consultants, employers, labor organizations, their members, and the public,” its Federal Register statement says.

“Any change to a labor relations consultant's recordkeeping, reporting and business practices must be based on a demonstrated and significant need for information, consideration of the burden associated with such reporting, and any increased costs associated with the change.

“The ‘advice’ exemption provides in pertinent part that ‘nothing in this section shall be construed to require any employer or other person to file a report covering the services of such person by reason of his giving or agreeing to give advice to such employer,’” DOL explained.

“Although the rule technically went into effect, its implementation was enjoined before its application became mandatory, and no reports were filed or are due under it. The department has continued to enforce the longstanding and pre-existing interpretation of the advice exemption,” it added. That’s the persuader rule with the advice exemption.

Yanking the Obama DOL’s change in the “advice exemption” will let Trump’s DOL rethink the rule, including in light of “shifting priorities and resource restraints,” the Labor Department notes.           

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