Judge frees restaurants to talk in confidence with anti-union pros

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A federal judge has temporarily blocked enactment of a Department of Labor ruling that would have required restaurants and other employers to disclose any discussions they hold with consultants on how to avoid being unionized.

The so-called persuader rule was scheduled to go into effect on Friday.

A lawsuit challenging the rule was filed in Texas by several business groups, which contend that the rule’s real intention is to discourage small businesses from seeking professional help in their efforts to avoid being unionized.

Outside of court, other groups have blasted the rule as the equivalent of requiring businesses to provide unions with their game plan for remaining union-free.

The rule extends to conversations with attorneys, which opponents characterized as a way of undermining attorney-client confidentiality.

Judge Sam Cummings said yesterday in an 86-page decision that the business community was at risk of “irreparable harm” from enactment of the persuader rule. He also noted that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit before the District Court for the Northern District of Texas had a chance of winning. He granted an injunction against enforcement of the persuader rule until the case is decided.

The persuader rule was adopted in March by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who said he was acting on authority he was granted by prior legislation. Perez argued at the time that employees of a company facing a unionization vote deserve to know if the messages coming from their employer were drafted by the company or an outside party skilled in crafting communications.


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