Earlier today the Department of Labor (DOL) held an “open forum” to discuss proposed rule changes to consultant, attorney and now employer reporting of “persuasion and advice” activities regarding unions.  The changes will require Law Firms and Consulting Firms to report many so-called “advice” activities as “persuasion” under section 203(c) of the Labor Management Reporting Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA).

In addition the DOL wants to change section 203(e) of the LMRDA to require employers to report when supervisors and managers speak about union issues to employees. That was part of the DOL presentation and remains a real possibility. It is important to note that failure to report these activities is a crime punishable by both fine and imprisonment.

We made the point that the employer requirement will be impossible to monitor in most companies and that there is no reason for the rule. The main reason unions gave for the “need” for the changed interpretation was two cases where an attorney failed to report meetings where they persuaded - an activity that is already covered by the current interpretation.

A representative from LRI attended and spoke in opposition to the proposed changes. Also speaking in opposition were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.  Speaking in favor of the rule changes were several unions including the AFL-CIO, the Mine Workers of America, the Bricklayers Union and Operating Engineers.

These actions by the DOL are following the administration’s regulatory playbook, who had the National Mediation Board change a 75 year old voting rule through regulation rather than legislation.

The PowerPoint deck and a video of the meeting are supposed to be posted in the next few days. We’ll keep you posted. Expect the new rules sometime late fall or early 2011 (after the mid-term elections).

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