The Department of Pro-Labor is at it again

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Do you own or help manage a non-union facility? If so, your professional life might soon get more complicated. For that you can thank the Department of Labor, again.

Last Thursday, the organization announced it will close a loophole that has allowed union consultants to largely avoid notice by the feds.

Under the new requirement, employers will need to inform the Department of Labor whenever they take on such helpers. The measure starts April 25 and applies to any arrangements made after June 30.

For years, nursing home companies and these hired hands have had to report their relationship only when “director persuader activity” took place. In other words, actual contact with employees. Given this caveat, much of the real work these consultants have done – such as training supervisors, writing employer scripts or creating materials for employee-compulsory meetings – has been allowed to fly under the radar.

Such assistance has turned into quite the cottage industry. Small wonder any operator fearing a union drive can now select from a virtual army of union-prevention firms. Some even offer money back guarantees should collective bargaining result. But it's not just union stewards who have become alarmed by their presence.

“Workers should know who is behind an anti-union message. It's a matter of basic fairness,” Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a statement.

Fair enough. And I'm not going to defend the dark arts that many union busters engage in. But here's the thing: There is a hammer-and-tongs battle raging between management and unions. If you don't see it, you are either naïve or blissfully ignorant. Clearly, both sides are doing plenty of things that are unlikely to result in merit badges.

But the way the Department of Labor has been acting lately, you'd think that employers are the only ones committing hard fouls. Look at the two other big projects the department has tackled lately: overtime and independent contractor rules. In both instances, the department has taken a decidedly anti-employer stance.

That's not being a referee. That's playing favorites.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.