Newspaper article International New York Times

Firms Must Disclose Use of Anti-Union Consultants ; Labor Department Says 75% of Companies Hire Help to Influence Workers

Newspaper article International New York Times

Firms Must Disclose Use of Anti-Union Consultants ; Labor Department Says 75% of Companies Hire Help to Influence Workers

Article excerpt

The Labor Department says workers are often in the dark about who is trying to sway them when they exercise their labor rights.

The Labor Department released on Wednesday the final version of a rule requiring employers to disclose their relationships with the consultants they hire to help persuade workers not to form a union or support a union's collective bargaining position.

The department said the rule, which will be published on Thursday and apply to agreements made after July 1, is necessary because workers are frequently in the dark about who is trying to sway them when they exercise their labor rights.

"In many organizing campaigns, decisions that workers make about whether to choose to stand together are often influenced by paid consultants, or persuaders, who are hired by employers to craft the management message being delivered to workers," Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a call with reporters. "About 75 percent of employers hire such persuaders, and too often, workers do not know."

The 1959 law on which the regulations are based already required employers to disclose the hiring of such consultants. But the Labor Department argued that previous administrations had allowed an enormous loophole that effectively exempted consultants who coached supervisors on how to influence employees so long as the consultants didn't interact with the employees directly.

The use of consultants has proliferated since the 1970s, and the techniques they employ to discourage workers from forming unions have become progressively more sophisticated -- more akin to modern political campaigns than workplace discussions.

There are consultants "scripting what managers and supervisors say to workers," Mr. Perez said.

The new rule will require employers to disclose in government filings any consultant they hire to develop plans or policies for supervisors involved in attempting to persuade workers, who create materials that will be distributed through the workplace for this reason, and who lead seminars on how to discourage workers from forming unions or bargaining collectively. …

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