How We're Promoting Timely Reporting of Anti-Organizing Consultant Activities
The five Titles of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, passed in 1959 to regulate labor unions’ internal affairs and certain employer activity when the employers deal with unions, cover a range of activities – from the individual rights of union members to the consequences of misconduct by union officers and employees. But the heart of the Act – the Title for which the Act is named – are the reporting and disclosure requirements in Title II, which are all about transparency. The LMRDA promotes transparency in unions by requiring that labor organizations and their officers and employees file certain financial reports annually, within 90 days after the close of their fiscal year. Additionally, the LMRDA promotes transparency in employers by requiring them to file annual reports disclosing when they:
Make expenditures or enter into arrangements with consultants to conduct certain “persuader” activities;
Obtain certain information about their employees or unions; and,
Commit unfair labor practices that violate the National Labor Relations Act.
Reporting on employers’ use of anti-organizing consultants
Congress also created a reporting requirement that is triggered when any person who, “pursuant to any agreement or arrangement with an employer,” engages in persuader activities or supplies information to an employer about its employees’ activities or the activities of a union. Such person “shall file [its report] within 30 days of entering into such agreement or arrangement.” This report is known as a Form LM-20 report.
Congress treated the timing of LM-20 reports noticeably differently from the other reports required by the LMRDA. By prescribing the 30-day filing deadline, Congress recognized that for the information reported on the LM-20 to be useful, employees needed the information right away. When workers are considering supporting a union, it’s typically clear when the union is “working the room” to persuade them to support organizing efforts. And while it may be clear to workers that their employer is also participating in efforts to persuade them not to support those efforts, many are probably unaware that there is a third party involved – a consultant retained by their employer to help resist the union’s organizing efforts.
The purpose of consultant reporting is to balance the information: to alert workers and unions that there is an outsider “working the room” for the employer, whether directly or indirectly. That information does workers no good months or years after the organizing campaign – as was publicly reported to have been the case in the recent Amazon organizing campaigns. To be meaningful, then, these consultant Form LM-20 reports must be filed close in time to the organizing activity the consultant is hired to resist – as Congress requires.
How we’re promoting timely reporting of consultant activities
Unions, their officers and employees, and employers should, of course, file their annual reports timely. But the immediacy with which the consultant reports must be filed makes it clear how important timely consultant report filing is. While the Office of Labor-Management Standards continues to enforce all reporting obligations, to fully carry-out the congressional intent behind mandatory consultant reporting, OLMS has stepped up its efforts to promote timely LM-20 filings. These efforts include:
Conducting compliance assistance sessions with consultants about their filing obligations;
Reaching out to employers and unions who have representation matters pending at the National Labor Relations Board to remind them of these consultant reporting obligations; and
Putting a tip line on our website to solicit information from the public about a consultant’s presence in a campaign.
OLMS is also beginning a new program that will make it easier to find Form LM-20s as soon as they are filed. OLMS’s home page now includes a direct link to a search page on which you can enter an employer’s name and go directly to reports filed by that employer and by any consultant that employer has retained. And if the agreement between the consultant is a written agreement, you will be able to review it as well.
By adding this link to the OLMS website, and by continuing our efforts to promote the timely filing of Form LM-20s, the goals of the LMRDA’s consultant reporting provisions will be more fully realized, and workers will have more information about the activities surrounding them during an organizing campaign.
Jeffrey Freund is the director of the Office of Labor-Management Standards.