DOL Secretary Hilda Solis: I don’t have the authority to administer card check

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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In voluntary testimony Wednesday morning before the House Education and Workforce Committee, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said she does not have the authority to administer parts of the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act, or card check legislation, that failed during the Democrat-controlled 111th Congress. Card check is when labor organizers get employees to sign a card that, often unbeknownst to workers, can count as a vote in favor of unionization, and allows union bosses to forgo secret ballot elections.

“I don’t have any authority to do that [implement card check through the administration or through regulations],” Solis said. “And, as it stands, my priorities are, again, to look at job creation and worker safety and protection.”

Glenn Spencer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told The Daily Caller that Solis is right in saying that the DOL doesn’t have the power to implement card check rules through administrative law. What she can do to continue aiding and abetting union organizers, Spencer said, is loosen up on regulations and steer funding and contracts in the labor unions’ direction.

“One way is awarding grant money to unions, and if you look through their grant awards you’ll see that,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “The second thing they can do, and they are doing this, is pushing changes to the persuader regulations by gutting the ‘advice’ exemption.”

By persuader regulations, Spencer means that the DOL is considering changing a longstanding rule that exempted companies from reporting any legal advice they had paid for during labor organizing efforts so long as the company’s legal advisers didn’t interact directly with its employees.

“Companies will typically hire lawyers or consultants to advise them during organizing campaigns because many are not familiar with the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act] and don’t want to inadvertently run afoul of the law,” Spencer said.

Much of the hearing’s discussion was on the prospective DOL budget, which will be voted on in the House on Wednesday evening. Solis and President Barack Obama requested increases in almost every DOL agency budget except for the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), the agency that’s charged with investigating and prosecuting union fraud. The Obama administration requested $41 million for OLMS in 2012, as it did in 2010. There was no official budget for 2011 as Congress failed to pass one.

Solis said more investigations had been completed in the past year than in previous years because the department has had to be more efficient. But committee Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, asked Solis why her desired budget requests more funding for the DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, which deals with helping unions in foreign countries, but no more money for OLMS to keep domestic unions from committing fraud? She replied that it’s better to help workers in third-world countries so they won’t want to come to America.