The Labor Department’s union watchdog office has quietly added a pair of aides who have a history of advocating against Organized Labor.
Rusty Brown, a union-avoidance consultant, started Jan. 6 as a policy adviser in the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, a spokeswoman confirmed to Bloomberg Law.
Trey Kovacs, formerly a Labor policy analyst at the free market think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, began Jan. 21 as a special assistant at OLMS, the spokeswoman said. The office audits union financial disclosures and investigates officer corruption.
The new arrivals come at a time when business groups and Republican lawmakers have pressed OLMS to conduct more rigorous oversight of the Labor Movement. That includes taking a closer look at worker centers, which have faced probes into whether they’re acting as de facto Labor unions.
Brown was involved in a massive campaign to decertify a union representing 27,000 home care workers in Minnesota. He also pushed the department last year to investigate a prominent Texas worker center that has been a vocal critic of working conditions on construction projects.
Kovacs has publicly urged OLMS to treat more worker centers as Labor unions, requiring them to file detailed financial statements and subjecting them to additional oversight. He has also accused the department of “dragging feet” on a pair of pending regulations to expand union financial disclosures.
Brown will be “helping to develop, shape and implement OLMS’ policy, program, and legislative initiatives,” a DOL spokeswoman said via email. Kovacs “will be supporting the Director and helping draft research and policy,” she said.
WORKER CENTERS SCRUTINY
Heightened scrutiny of worker centers would satisfy a longtime campaign from the business lobby to start categorizing the nonprofit groups as Labor organizations required to submit financial filings to OLMS.
Worker centers is a catch-all phrase referring to an amorphous category of advocacy groups that have grown in popularity. They often focus on securing protections for low-income, vulnerable workers, including immigrants.
Some of the groups have mounted pressure campaigns against specific employers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have said that means the DOL should classify them as unions.
“It’s no surprise that the Trump Administration continues to pack the Department of Labor with people who are hostile to workers, especially low-wage and immigrant workers — appointees who will try to deter workers from speaking up or organizing to remedy violations of baseline labor and employment protections,” said Charlotte Noss, the worker center program director at the National Employment Law Project.
Worker centers and their supporters argue that the groups aren’t unions because they don’t engage in collective bargaining. The push to classify worker centers as unions is simply a ploy to drown the organizations in paperwork and distract them from aiding workers, advocates say.
(Reprinted from Bloomberg Law.)