National Labor Relations Board and Department of Justice Announce New Partnership to Protect Workers
Today, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Jennifer A. Abruzzo and the Justice Department (DOJ)’s Antitrust Division Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) creating a formal partnership between the two agencies to better protect free and fair labor markets and ensure that workers can freely exercise their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
The Department of Justice and the NLRB share an interest in promoting the free flow of commerce and fair competition in labor markets, including through protecting American workers from collusive or anticompetitive employer practices and unlawful interference with employees’ right to organize. The Agencies’ collaboration will focus on protecting workers who have been harmed or may be at risk of being harmed as a result of conduct designed to evade legal obligation and accountability (such as misclassifying employees or fissuring workplaces); interference with the rights of workers to obtain fair market compensation and collectively bargain (through labor market concentration/labor monopsony or other anticompetitive practices); and the imposition of restrictive agreements or workplace rules, such as noncompete, nonsolicitation, and nondisclosure provisions.
Through greater coordination in information sharing, enforcement activity and training, the Agencies will maximize the enforcement of federal laws, including the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), under the NLRB’s jurisdiction and the antitrust laws enforced by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. In particular, this MOU will allow the Agencies to refer as appropriate and to coordinate on enforcement.
“Under the NLRA, workers have the right to organize to improve their pay and working conditions,” said General Counsel Abruzzo. “When businesses interfere with worker organizing, either through creating structures designed to evade labor law or through anticompetitive practices, it hinders our economy and our democracy. This MOU will strengthen the federal government’s ability to effectively stop this kind of unlawful activity, and therefore to better protect workers’ right to freely associate with one another to improve their wages and working conditions and to collectively bargain through freely chosen representatives.”
“Protecting competition in labor markets is fundamental to the ability of workers to earn just rewards for their work, to live out the American dream, and to provide for their families,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter. “By cooperating more closely with our colleagues in the NLRB, we can share information on potential violations of the antitrust and labor laws, collaborate on new policies, and ensure that workers are protected from collusion and unlawful employer behavior. As the Department noted in the amicus brief we submitted in the NLRB’s recent Atlanta Opera matter, we support the Board’s ongoing efforts to update its guidance to ensure that workers are properly classified under the labor laws. Protecting the right of workers to earn a fair wage is core to the work of both our agencies, and it will continue to receive extraordinary vigilance from the Antitrust Division.”
In February, General Counsel Abruzzo issued a memorandum to all field offices, committing to working closely with other federal agencies to ensure the government is co-functioning and co-enforcing all related laws in the most effective and efficient way to ensure workers are fully protected, while minimizing employers’ compliance burdens.
Established in 1935, the National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that protects employees from unfair labor practices and protects the right of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. The NLRB conducts hundreds of workplace elections and investigates thousands of unfair labor practice charges each year.