The United States Labor Department announced Wednesday the closing of loopholes in the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (Landrum-Griffin Act) allowing employers to hire anti-union consultants, known as "persuaders," without reporting the arrangements.
As the law stands, reporting is only required if the persuaders are speaking directly with employers, but not if their influence reaches the workplace via intermediaries. So, consultants could advise company supervisors looking to suppress the organization of the workforce on what to say to workers and how to say it, and completely bypass the reporting requirements.
Under the new rule, effective July 1, employers and their contractors will have to report all direct and indirect persuading and the fee structure for it. In a Huffington Post article, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said the idea behind the rule was basic transparency.
“Informed decisions are the best decisions,” Perez said. “This rule will pull back the curtain on the consultants who craft the employer’s message.”
Michael Hiltzik, with the Los Angeles Times, writes that over the course of many years, anti-union messages have been crafted and polished by persuaders to be as effective as possible.
“Typically, a company facing a union organizing drive arranges captive audience meetings characterized as ‘information sessions’ at which the message delivered to employees is that unions are divisive, protect underperformers at the expense of hard workers and are just businesses that only want their dues money but don't really care about their welfare. But, of course, the choice still is the employees'.”
Business lobbies, the American Bar Association and the Retail Industry Leaders Association have all voiced opposition to the rule.
Unions and worker groups have pushed hard for the new rule. During the George W. Bush administration, the Labor Department expanded financial reporting requirements for unions, and likewise, unions have sought to expand reporting requirements for corporations during the Obama administration.