New rule forces union-busters into the daylight


Effective July 1, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is closing a legal loophole that has allowed union-busters to operate mostly in the dark for the last 54 years. The loophole has to do with the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), which Congress passed in 1959. Because of the LMRDA, you can go to the DOL web site and get detailed information about union finances and salaries. The law was supposed to apply to labor relations consultants too: Any time an employer hires a labor relations consultant to persuade employees not to unionize, both the employer and consultant are supposed to report key details of their contract, including the amounts paid.

But in 1962, the DOL interpreted the law in a way that created a giant loophole: If consultants don’t have direct contact with workers, they didn’t have to report. Ever since then, most union-busting consultants have spent their time training managers and supervisors to deliver their scripted anti-union messages, while themselves remaining “behind the curtain” to avoid disclosure.

Getting rid of that loophole was one of the first things labor union leaders asked President Barack Obama to do, even before he was sworn into office. He certainly took his time: The DOL didn’t even publish the proposed rule change until 2011, and it’s been in a bureaucratic rabbit hole most of the time since then. But on March 23, the DOL announced it’s finalizing the rule. Business groups have complained loudly about the change. Unions have applauded it.

DOL predicts it will receive disclosures from about 3,414 employers and 2,601 advisers each year. Expect to read more about union-busters in the Northwest Labor Press in the months to come.


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