According to Bloomberg, the Labor Department has determined that a Minneapolis worker center that successfully forced Target and other retailers to hire unionized janitors should be categorized as a labor organization and bound by federal rules for unions—the first evidence of such a finding under the Trump administration.
The DOL’s Office of Labor-Management Standards has “reason to believe,” based on the available evidence, that Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha—or Center of Workers United in Struggle—is a labor organization, the department said in an Aug. 15 letter obtained by Bloomberg Law.
The department’s findings followed a two-year probe. It means that if the findings are made official, CTUL would have to start filing detailed financial disclosures and could be restricted in its advocacy activities, potentially disrupting its operation.
Critics of worker centers say they are thinly veiled unions that are avoiding following federal labor law. The DOL under President Donald Trump was long expected to take a closer look at worker centers after political conservatives and business interests pressured the department. The Aug. 15 letter is the first known instance of Trump administration labor investigators determining that a worker center is a labor organization.
This is a potentially major change in the way that Worker Centers have operated for the last decade or so. Expect more of these cases to make their way before U.S. labor agencies in the coming months.
For those who believe worker centers are nothing but fronts for organized labor, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Bloomberg and POLITICO are both reporting that the Department of Labor is investigating whether some worker centers should be defined as labor organizations under current labor law.
The Labor Department is investigating several worker organizing centers to determine if they are labor organizations, according to a letter to GOP lawmakers obtained by Bloomberg Law.
But rather than create a new legal test for classifying worker groups as the House members requested, the DOL said its Office of Labor-Management Standards will review the facts on a case-by-case basis.
The Labor Department is looking at whether certain worker centers should be regulated as labor organizations, according to a March letter sent to Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).
In the letter, first reported by Bloomberg Law, the agency told GOP lawmakers it could not issue a blanket rule on worker centers due to their variance in structure and activities. DOL said it could not reveal which worker centers are under investigation but said it would look into them on a case-by-case basis if there was “a complaint or some other credible indication.”
“The Department takes seriously allegations that organizations covered by the [Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act] are not filing the required reports,” the letter reads.
Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce singled out several workers centers it believed would meet the definition of a labor organization, including the Retail Action Project and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. After Republican lawmakers blasted worker centers during a House hearing on Thursday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) introduced legislation that would force worker centers to follow the same reporting requirements as unions.
Per a report via POLITICO, worker centers remain a labor relations trend to keep an eye on going into 2018, even though it may look like OURwalmart and the Fight for $15 are not as active as they once were.
Worker centers have expanded their clout with workers, according to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Worker centers can attract constituencies that traditional unions cannot, or at least cannot with the same effectiveness,” said the report, released by the Chamber’s Workforce Freedom Initiative.
The report, looking at the years 2013-2016, detailed some $106 million in direct and indirect grants to worker centers. The growth of worker centers is due, in part, to a decline in unions’ appeal to immigrant workers.
But “worker centers continue, gradually, to resemble unions more and more,” the report said, and “some may already have evolved to the point where they would seem to qualify as labor organizations under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).” Yet “once institutionalized,” the report said, worker centers “would almost inevitably lose their flexibility and, one suspects, even risk their appeal.”