U.S. Labor Department Has Anti-Union Pen Pals

Union activists usually don’t have to look hard to prove that the U.S. Labor Department has been an abysmal failure at protecting workers from greedy multinational corporations.

The agency has now reached a new low: The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in June released documents showing just how chummy the relationship is between the department and the multibillion-dollar anti-union industry.

“These documents make it clear that under the leadership of Secretary Elaine Chao, the Department of Labor has become anti-labor,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “It is disgraceful that the very department designed to focus on improving the lives of American laborers is disseminating anti-union propaganda and developing relationships with anti-union organizations. American workers deserve better.”

CREW says the documents it received from a Freedom of Information request it filed show “a close and supportive relationship” between the agency and Richard Berman, director of the anti-union Web site, the Center for Union Facts (CUF). Berman gained fame for being the public face for companies fighting tougher anti-drunken driving laws, living wage ordinances, clean air initiatives and other progressive issues.

One of the e-mails shows that Chao agreed to be profiled for one of Berman’s many ultra-conservative, anti-worker fronts, the First Jobs Institute.

The documents also include an e-mail indicating that agency staffer Lynn Gibson set up a meeting between Berman and department staff. In another, Gibson tells a CUF staff person that she will send out e-mails related to CUF’s Web site to her “network.” E-mails obtained by CREW and sent out by department staff include an op-ed drafted by Berman, anti-union newspaper accounts, as well as anti-union blogs and news releases.

Claiming privilege, the agency has withheld e-mail correspondence, including correspondence from Chao that directly refers to Berman and his organizations. CREW plans to file a lawsuit to make the department release the documents detailing the full extent of its relationship with Berman.


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