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February 26, 2018
CONTACT: Ryan Williams
202-677-7060

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Getting To Work On ‘Worker Centers’

 

Heather Greenaway

February 26, 2018

The Washington Times

 

With Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta at the helm, the Department of Labor (DOL) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have made significant progress to reverse some of the prior administration’s more damaging, anti-business regulatory decisions.

 

However, there is still much work to be done to restore a regulatory environment that ensures our nation’s workplace and labor laws are fair and transparent for employees and employers alike.

 

That’s why the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI) is pleased to see that various members of Congress have opened a new dialogue with the secretary about an issue that was allowed to fester and proliferate under the Obama-era DOL: the ever-elusive worker center. This has been something the business community has been struggling with for the better part of a decade.

 

In a recent letter to Mr. Acosta, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce highlighted the little-understood, but hugely influential groups that often act as union organizers without any of the federal oversight or accountability usually applied to labor. WFI applauds Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg for giving this issue the attention it deserves.

 

Now, it’s time for Mr. Acosta’s Labor Department to respond — which should be nothing short of direct, decisive action to bring some much-needed transparency and oversight to these expansive operating worker centers.

 

Worker centers — including groups like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-funded Fight for $15 or the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) affiliated OUR Walmart — operate on the outskirts of federal law.

 

Though not technically designated as labor organizations, they are able to partner with unions to coordinate and execute a range of labor-related activities — from spending huge sums on media campaigns to unlimited, unrestrained picketing and protesting — that traditional union groups are barred from doing.

 

That’s why Big Labor is pumping big money into these worker centers; they are for all intents and purposes unions themselves, but free from established labor rules and regulations.

 

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has repeatedly tried to raise this issue with the DOL over the years, frequently sending letters addressing various concerns with worker center activities. However, under President Obama’s DOL, both their missives and misgivings largely fell on deaf ears.

 

Fortunately, the committee and Ms. Foxx are persistent. Now, under the new administration, they are calling on Mr. Acosta to follow through on three specific actions to increase transparency and accountability.

 

The Committee’s letter to Mr. Acosta notes that worker centers are nothing more than “front groups controlled by big labor special interests,” that are not subject to the requirements laid out in the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

 

The letter explains how the Obama administration’s DOL reversed many of its predecessor’s efforts to increase union transparency, such as improving reporting and disclosure forms, more strictly enforcing reporting requirements, reducing the time between union audits, and more.

 

Despite the LMRDA’s “stated goal of union transparency,” the letter details, Mr. Obama’s DOL and NLRB focused instead on creating “burdensome requirements for employers.” Therefore, the first thing the committee asks Mr. Acosta to do is to establish an updated test to determine whether a worker center should be classified as a labor organization under the LMRDA.

 

The second step the secretary must take, according to the letter and echoed by business leaders across the country, is to “initiate investigations and enforcement against worker centers that are subject to reporting requirements under the LMRDA but do not file reports.”

 

To illustrate the rampant abuse in this area, the committee highlighted several examples of designated worker centers — like OUR Walmart, the Texas-based Workers Defense Project and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers out of Florida — that were either structured as labor organizations or participated in activities that would classify them as one.

 

However, not one of them has ever filed the required reports with the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) as required by federal law. Clearly, current enforcement efforts to ensure compliance with LMRDA are not enough — it’s time for Mr. Acosta to step them up.

 

Finally, the committee’s letter asks the secretary to “require increased clarity and transparency in the reports of worker centers that appear to be serving as improper go-betweens for international unions and non-reporting entities.”

 

The current lack of transparency has allowed unions like the SEIU to use certain worker centers, like the Carolina Workers Organizing Committee and the Fast Food Workers Committee, as conduits to transfer funds to non-reporting entities in order to support and advance their union-organizing efforts without ever having to file reports with the OLMS.

 

This runs counter to the purpose of OLMS, and the entire notion of accountability and transparency in how union funds are being used (and whose pockets they are lining).

 

Worker centers have been allowed to operate outside of the law for long enough. It’s time for Mr. Acosta to respond to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s concerns regarding this matter and enact regulations that ensure transparency for America’s workers and businesses by holding worker centers accountable for their role in advancing Big Labor’s pro-union agenda.

 

Heather Greenaway is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI).

To access the op-ed, click here.

The Workforce Fairness Institute is an organization committed to educating voters, employers, employees and citizens about issues affecting the workplace.  To learn more, please visit: http://www.workforcefairness.com.

 

To schedule an interview with a Workforce Fairness Institute representative, please contact Ryan Williams at (202) 677-7060.

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Tell Congress: Stop the PRO Act

WFI is working to prevent passage of the so-called Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act)—a wholesale labor reform package that takes the current careful balance of labor rules and tips it greatly in the favor of labor bosses and forced collective bargaining.

The PRO Act robs workers of the right to a secret ballot to form a union, forces union contracts on workers without a vote of approval, and expose workers’ personal contact information to union bosses seeking to organize a workplace. And that’s just the start.

Help us speak out against this woefully misguided and blatantly anti-worker legislation. Review and send the message below to your members of Congress today.

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WFI Key Vote Letter: Opposition to PRO Act

— 02.10.2020 —
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy: On behalf of the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI), I am writing to share our organization’s vehement opposition to H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act). WFI has serious concerns with the broad, overreaching nature of this legislation and the many ways in which it would undermine worker freedom and privacy, while simultaneously threatening businesses and entire industries that keep America’s economy thriving. Please note that WFI will include votes on the PRO Act and its amendments on our Congressional Labor Scorecard, which scores and ranks legislators based on their activity associated with workplace issues. WFI was established to fight for American employees and employers as well as our entire economy. We believe in worker empowerment, the right of workers to be fully informed of the options available for worker-involvement in the workplace, and the right to freely choose whether to organize or not. No individual or group – government, a union or an employer – should be able to intimidate or restrict workers’ in exercising these rights. In an attempt to boost flailing union membership at the expense of workers’ rights, the PRO Act would upend decades of established U.S. labor law and institute myriad anti-employee and anti-employer policies that have already been soundly rejected—by Congress, various federal agencies, or the courts. Among its most blatant affronts to workers’ rights, the PRO Act would eliminate the right to a secret ballot when determining whether to unionize and enforce a “card check” system, exposing workers to the potential for harassment, intimidation, and coercion. The PRO Act would also enforce binding arbitration in union negotiations by a government- appointed bureaucrat; repeal and eliminate right-to-work laws in 27 states, force workers to fund union activities regardless of whether they support them; and threaten the ability of individuals to operate as independent contractors, eliminating traditional economic and employment opportunities and threatening the independence and flexibility of the emerging gig economy. On top of all that, the PRO Act would force all workers’ personal and home contact information to be provided to a union during organizing campaigns – in an electronic, searchable format no less, with no limit on what a union can do with that information. WFI believes in advancing sensible policies that protect and preserve the rights of both employees and employers, and we welcome the opportunity to work with legislators who also support these efforts. However, the PRO Act does not achieve these goals and would instead threaten the rights of both while jeopardizing our entire economy. WFI urges members of the House to strongly oppose the PRO Act. Sincerely, Heather Greenaway Executive Director Workforce Fairness Institute See the letter here.
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