How Much Are Your Favorite Companies Spending on Union-Busting Consultants?

The Trump International Hotel Las Vegas dropped more than half a million dollars in 2015–16.

Housekeepers, cooks and bartenders rally outside Donald Trump's hotel to draw attention to their efforts to unionize workers at the property just off the Las Vegas Strip.Steve Marcus/AP

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Employers will pay a lot to ensure they don’t have to actually pay the people who work for them. 

This morning, the Economic Policy Institute dropped a report showing that in more than 40 percent of union election campaigns, employers are charged with violating laws. This includes employers threatening, firing, disciplining, or retaliating against workers trying to form a union—actions that occur “routinely,” writes Celine McNicholas, a co-author, in a statement.

The report also shed a light on a growing but still fairly obscure element of the union-busting playbook: spending millions on consultants for “union avoidance.” 

Three quarters of employers involved in union elections, by one estimate, hire anti-union consultants. These firms include IRI Consultants, recently hired by Google, and the anodyne-sounding Labor Relations Institute, which the report says is one of the nation’s largest union-avoidance firms. Go check out their white papers. One asks “What Can Your Business Learn from the Iraq War?” It offers strategies from the invasion of Iraq to “be ready to use in case you are targeted by union organizers.” Sure, it notes, you can take the comparison too far, but “there are similarities in the underlying strategies of a guerilla insurgency and a union organizing campaign.”

The report estimates that companies spend $340 million a year on anti-union consultants, some of whom charge $350-plus hourly rates or $2,500-plus daily rates. The total figure is based on the LM-20 and LM-21 forms filed with the federal government that track consultant rates on projects and yearly contracts. Noting that these disclosures have been shown to represent only about 7.4 percent of the industry, researchers extrapolated from this data. But the $340 million could be an underestimate. In 2016, the Department of Labor announced a loosened requirement for filing LM-21s. The next year, the report notes, there was a 38 percent drop in LM-21s.

The report highlights a few employers that have spent money on union avoidance, among them Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.

Albert Einstein Medical Center (2014–2017): $1,100,000

Associated Grocers of New England (2014–2017): $190,000

Bed Bath & Beyond (2014, 2018): $506,000

Caterpillar (2014–2016): $279,000

FedEx (2014–2018): $837,000

Hilton Grand Vacations (2014–2015): $340,000

J.B. Hunt Transport (2016–2018): $354,000

Laboratory Corporation of America (2014–2018): $4,300,000

Mission Foods (2016–2017): $2,900,000

Nestle, USQ (2014–2018): $566,000

Owens Corning (2014–2017): $340,000

Pier 1 Imports (2015–2016): $169,000

Quest Diagnostics (2015–2017): $200,000

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (2014–2016): $316,000

Simmons Bedding Co. (2015–2017): $848,000

Trump International Hotel Las Vegas (2015–2016): $569,000

UPS (2014-2018): $311,000

Check out the full report here.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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