DOL Takes a Wrong Turn for Workers


The worker victories weren’t always headline stealers during the Obama administration. But they added up.

A rule requiring companies to document their outside union-busting tactics, as well as positive determinations when it came to stopping the anti-worker actions behind independent contractors and joint employment, were decisions that had the potential to enhance the collective bargaining rights of workers and raise wages.

But last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) decided to reverse them. It was a surprising move for an administration that insists it sides with workers. Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa called the decisions “greatly disappointing.”

The “persuader rule” called for outside consultants and attorneys hired by companies to crack down on union activities to be treated the same as employers who must disclose such activities under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. And 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.

While the Obama administration issued the rule in early 2016, it never took effect. A federal judge permanently blocked it from being implemented last November. That halted it from shining a spotlight on companies who employ third-party actors to intimidate workers in an effort to halt union organizing efforts.

Similarly, the DOL’s administrative interpretations on independent contractors and joint employers sought to help protect workers from wage theft and protect their right to collectively bargain. These interpretations gave workers and employers alike clear guidance about their rights and responsibilities under the law.

“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,” Hoffa said. “The Teamsters call on the DOL to reverse its recent decision to rescind the persuader rule and agency interpretations.” 

Workers deserve a fair shake in the workplace. But too few policymakers at the federal and state level have been willing to stand up for hardworking Americans who are just trying to earn enough to support their families. These changes didn’t solve the problem entirely. But they were a start.