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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

The Unintended Consequences of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ Witch Hunt

In less than two weeks, on September 21st, the public comment period will be closing on a Department of Labor scheme to have employers report the amount of money paid to outside vendors (namely, attorneys, PR firms, website developers, video firms, polling firms and just about every type of communications and human resource consultant) as newly-minted “persuaders.”

Once the public comment closes, and because too few people really understand the ramifications to have made comments so far, Hilda Solis and her union cronies inside the Department of Labor will likely issue the new regulations and the union political witch hunt will begin.

You see, the information paid by an employer to anyone of these vendors will then be made available to the public—to unions, to be more precise. Think of it as the DISCLOSE Act for private sector businesses. More importantly, because its a criminal offense not to file disclosure forms with the DOL, failure to file could lead to jail time for the newly-named ‘persuaders’ and the employers who hire them.

For those who already filed with the Department of Labor, the added paperwork will be cumbersome. However, that may very well be worth it when those close to the Democratic Party realize that Hilda and her union cohorts will have caught them up in her new regulations as well.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Some might call it The Law of Unintended Consequences or, another term could be friendly fire. Regardless, Hilda Solis and her band of merry collectivists are about to commit a friendly-fire massacre on their own kind. And, if they don’t know who will be caught up in their witch hunt yet, they can read a few of the names shortly.

First, some background: Back in June, Barack Obama’s Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, along with her union cronies in her office, released a proposed rule to broaden the definition of what the Department of Labor classifies as a “persuader.” Under the 1959 Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, a persuader is someone who persuades employees in the exercise of their to unionize or refrain from unionizing.

Since 1959, persons who physically meet with and ‘persuade’ employees have had to file financial reports with the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards to report the amount of money received by employers. Likewise, employers are also required to file reports with the DOL on the amount of money paid to said ‘persuader(s).’

For years, however, unions have complained about the amount of resistance they meet when targeting companies and the amount of money companies spend on ‘union busters.’ While those people who meet directly with employees do routinely file with the DOL, unions have felt that companies that use attorneys or those who do not meet directly with employees should also file financial disclosure statements with the Department of Labor.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a former Congresswoman and board member to the union-funded American Rights at Work* ( the unions’ primary astroturf group that pushed the failed and hallucinogenically-named Employee Free Choice Act) has been so zealous in her pursuit of changing the regulations that she reportedly has told people that she cannot wait to “perp walk” a specific law firm.

  • Mary Beth Maxwell, American Rights at Work’s founding executive director became Hilda Solis’ senior adviser at the Labor Department.

Now, with the DOL’s proposed rule being written so broadly, there will be many unsuspecting people who know little or nothing about unions and have nothing to do with persuading employees but, because their work product may be considered “indirectly to persuade employees concerning their rights to organize or bargain collectively,” will be considered ‘persuaders.’ Here are a few likely examples:

  • A communications consultant who coaches management on how to structure and effectively manage employee teams
  • A productivity consultant who designs and implements total quality management teams, which give employees a voice in the success of their companies’ products.
  • A safety consultant who helps establish safety committees that give employees the ability to voice safety concerns with their employer and resolve safety issues
  • A human resources consultant that designs, writes, or implements employee handbooks or policies [Note: The Society of Human Resources membership is loaded with tens of thousands of full and part-time human resource consultants that the DOL's proposed regulation would likely apply to.]

Those are just a few of those who probably are unaware that they too will be targeted by the Department of Labor. Now, here a just a few of the bigger names that will likely have to file and open their companies’ (or firms’) books as “persuaders.”

Law Firms

Perkins Coie. According to Hilda Solis’ proposed regulations, Perkins Coie would be considered a “persuader” and would have to file annual reports exposing all its clients since, according to its website:

Perkins Coie’s Labor & Employment lawyers have a unique wealth of experience born from decades of representing employers of all sizes who have union issues, from organizing campaigns to negotiating labor agreements to responding to strikes and picketing. We have been at the bargaining table for some of the largest union employers in the United States. Not only have we directly negotiated collective bargaining agreements, we have also worked closely with management to develop strike contingency plans, effectively manage strike activities and defend unfair labor practice proceedings and related litigation before the National Labor Relations Board and in state and federal court.

Since Perkins Coie’s activities would be those described as ‘indirectly’ persuading employees in the exercise of their NLRA Section Seven Rights (strikes are also part of Section Seven Rights), it will be hard to claim they are not ‘persuaders.’ So, how is Perkins Coie tied into Democrats? Well let’s start with three of their attorneys who are tightly tied into the Democrats vis a vis the Democratic National Committee.

  • Bob Bauer:  “Bob is General Counsel to Obama for America and General Counsel to the Democratic National Committee, and he has been counsel for many years to the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees.” Note: Bauer is also married to Anita Dunn, former White House communications director.
  • Rebecca Gordan: “Rebecca is currently counsel to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  She served as Deputy General Counsel to Obama for America during the 2008 election cycle.”
  • Graham Wilson: “Graham’s clients include the Democratic National Committee as well as other party and candidate committees.”

Because these three are so tightly intertwined with the DNC and the firm apparently also does “union busting,” Solis will likely be requiring this firm (and others) and to file its total annual receipts with the OLMS.

Akin Gump. A large law firm with offices worldwide, like others, Akin Gump represents clients with union problems:

We apply these same principles when helping clients in an array of complex labor-management controversies and issues, including organizing campaigns, collective bargaining negotiations, unfair labor practice charges, corporate campaigns and development of strategies to handle union-related issues for companies in transition.

Akin Gump, in addition to having a diverse corporate clientele is also a large donor to Democrat candidates. Including its attorneys giving Barack Obama $213,767 in the 2007-2008 cycle (compared to $69,104 to John McCain), according to Center for Responsive Politics, the firm’s attorneys also gave Hillary Clinton $129,930 and the firm is listed as Nancy Pelosi’s second largest campaign contributor.

There are many more Democrat-donor firms that do labor relations at both the federal and state level (which can be listed another time), but you get the idea.

The PR People: Will Hilda Throw The Clinton’s Friend Under the Union Bus?

Burson-Marsteller. During the 2007 Democrat primary, Hillary Clinton began taking flak from the union bosses who were upset over her campaign adviser Mark Penn. Penn, who had been close to the Clintons since 1995 was (and still is) the CEO Worldwide of one of the world’s largest PR firms, Burson-Marsteller. According to a 2007 American Prospect article, Penn’s firm was one of those firms that Hilda Solis would likely target for compliance with her new regulations as well:

One that might be of interest to liberals thinking about whether to support Clinton is ”Labor Relations.” In this section, Senator Clinton’s top advisor’s company says, “Companies cannot be caught unprepared by Organized Labor’s coordinated campaigns whether they are in conjunction with organizing or contract negotiating … That is why we have developed a comprehensive communications approach for clients when they face any type of labor situation.”

While Clinton was forced to officially dump Penn from her campaign and the BM site was scrubbed of its labor relations services (screenshot here), if Penn’s firm still does any type of labor relations work in producing materials, videos, or communications that even indirectly influence his clients’ employees in the exercise of their NLRA rights, he and his firm would have to file reports with Solis’ Department of Labor.

APCO Worldwide. Run by largely Democrat donors, APCO Worldwide (whose staff now includes former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson) is a large PR firm that has a wide array of services, including something called ‘internal communication.’

The employee communication programs APCO establishes with clients strengthen alignment and employee support for business goals through education.

Though the above does not appear to be union-related, it does not have to involve a union at all, and could be related to concerted activity. As a result if a firm such as APCO does any one of a number of things, the firm could be among Hilda Solis’ targets if the consultant:

…engages in activities that have as a direct or indirect object to, explicitly or implicitly, influence the decisions of employees with respect to forming, joining or assisting a union, collective bargaining, or any protected concerted activity (such as a strike) in the workplace.  Specific examples of persuader activities that, either alone or in combination, would trigger the reporting requirements include but are not limited to: drafting, revising, or providing a persuader speech, written material, website content, an audiovisual or multimedia presentation, or other material or communication of any sort, to an employer for presentation, dissemination, or distribution to employees, directly or indirectly; planning or conducting individual or group meetings designed to persuade employees; developing or administering employee attitude surveys concerning union awareness, sympathy, or proneness; training supervisors or employer representatives to conduct individual or group meetings designed to persuade employees; coordinating or directing the activities of supervisors or employer representatives to engage in the persuasion of employees… [pages 68 & 69]

The Pollsters

Gallup Polling. While not considered a Democrat-aligned organization, Gallup Polling is another high-profile firm that will likely come into the Department of Labor’s sights.

In addition to being one of the most respected political polling firms in America, the Gallup organization also has an arm that does management consulting. As part of its services, Gallup apparently measures employee engagement. Since the DOL’s new proposed rules specifically cite “developing or administering employee attitude surveys concerning union awareness, sympathy, or proneness,” it seems pretty straight forward that Gallup (and the thousands of smaller firms who do employee attitudinal surveys and 360s) will likely be labeled as a “persuader” by Solis and her cronies since “proneness” is generally unhappy or disengaged employees.

These are just a few of the higher profile soon-to-be targets of Hilda Solis’ new “persuader” regulations. As noted previously, there are likely hundreds (if not thousands) more at the federal and state level—from consultants and attorneys to PR and communications firms—that will soon be required to open their books for the Department of Labor’s union employees.

Website developers, video firms, as well as even writers may be required to file as persuaders if their work is employer funded (or purchased) and it even ‘indirectly’ persuades employees on the issue of unionization.

Interestingly, however, with the union-extremists at the National Labor Relations Board pushing for elections as short as 10 to 21 days from petition filing, the Department of Labor’s argument that their proposal is due to the need for transparency for employees is fallacious at best.

Since consultants are required to file the DOL reports no later than 30 days following an agreement with an employer, NLRB elections are likely to be completed before a report is ever submitted, which makes the DOL’s efforts appear to be nothing more than a political witch hunt that will cast some high-profile Democrat allies in the same net as those Hilda Solis wants to “perp walk.”

Unfortunately for Solis and her cohorts, there are a few of us out there who actually do a lot of our activities for free and would continue for free even if selling tacos from a beach. How do you report that?

________________

“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

Cross-posted on LaborUnionReport.com

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