For Immediate Release - October 13, 2016

AG Healey Leads Multistate Brief in Support of Federal Efforts to Provide Greater Transparency, Fairness in Union Elections

BOSTON – In a multistate effort to encourage greater transparency and fairness in union elections, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey led a group of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of the United States Department of Labor’s (USDOL) revised interpretation of the Persuader Rule, a long-standing provision of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

In the brief filed on Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, AG Healey joined 10 attorneys general in expressing their support for the USDOL’s new interpretation of the Persuader Rule. The provision requires employers and their consultants to file public reports about direct and indirect activities undertaken to persuade employees concerning their rights to organize and bargain collectively in union organizing campaigns. 

“The right of workers to organize and bargain collectively is fundamental,” said AG Healey. “This rule creates a more level playing field for workers and employers by making the process transparent for all.”

Congress enacted the LMRDA to protect employees’ rights to organize, choose their own representatives, bargain collectively, and otherwise engage in concerted activities for their mutual aid or protection. To meet these objectives, the LMRDA imposes certain reporting obligations on unions and employers, as well as on consultants (including attorneys) retained by employers to engage in “persuader activities” concerning employees’ collective bargaining rights. 

In the brief, the attorneys general maintain that the new rule further enhances workers’ rights to make decisions about whether to organize by greatly expanding the types of activities which employer-retained consultants, including attorneys, must now disclose during a union organizing campaign. The attorneys general argue that the new disclosure requirements are necessary because many employers retain outside consultants to oppose unionizing efforts early on in the process and those efforts continue up through the initial contract negotiations.

The brief asserts that the new rule ensures that workers are better informed about the sources of information given to them by their employers to persuade them from collective action and union organizing, as many of these campaigns are driven by outside consultants who operate from behind the scenes without employees’ knowledge. The new rule would not require reporting privileged information shared between attorneys and their clients, and would not ordinarily conflict with state rules of professional responsibility. 

USDOL’s revised interpretation of the Persuader Rule was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016, but legal challenges in federal district courts in Minnesota, Arkansas, and Texas have delayed its start nationally.

AG Healey’s brief was joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington.

This matter was handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorney General Karla Zarbo with assistance from Division Chief Cynthia Mark, both of the AG’s Fair Labor Division.