Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez Just Joined an Anti-Union Law Firm

Former DNC chair and Obama labor secretary Tom Perez just joined a law firm that brags about its lawyers who “regularly counsel and train clients on union avoidance” — another member of an administration that posed as “progressive” yet was anything but.

Secretary of Labor Tom Perez speaking with supporters of Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally, 2016. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Former Obama labor secretary Tom Perez announced on Thursday that he’s joining the law firm Venable LLP, whose website boasts that its lawyers “regularly counsel and train clients on union avoidance.”

Perez, who was the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair until January, joins a growing number of Obama officials who cashed in their government experience with jobs at union-busting companies. That list includes press secretaries Jay Carney, who became the top flack at Amazon, and Robert Gibbs, who spent several years as a top flack for McDonald’s. Obama senior advisor David Plouffe served as policy chief at Uber, while former senior adviser Valerie Jarrett has a board seat at Lyft.

Rather than avoid issues he oversaw as labor secretary, Perez said in a press release he will be working specifically on those issues.

“Venable’s attorneys are at the forefront of helping clients navigate dynamic regulatory, policy, and labor and employment issues,” Perez said in Venable’s press release announcing his hiring. “I look forward to joining them in this important work.”

Michael Volpe, a cochair of Venable’s labor and employment practice group, said that Perez’s “unique background and insights on workplace matters will be invaluable to our clients.” Volpe’s firm biography notes that he has “broad experience representing corporate interests in union organizing efforts and campaigns.”

“Coordinating the Employer’s Five-Month Anti-Union Campaign”

Perez served as assistant attorney general for civil rights under President Barack Obama, before serving as Obama’s labor secretary from 2013 to 2017.

Later, he served as DNC chair, after Obama and now-president Joe Biden reportedly worked the phones to help propel him to victory over progressive favorite Keith Ellison, who is now Minnesota’s attorney general.

Earlier this year, Perez applauded Biden’s choice for labor secretary, Marty Walsh, tweeting: “America needs a secretary of labor who will fight tirelessly to empower American workers and the labor movement. A union member and champion of workers’ rights, Marty Walsh is the right person for the job.”

Now, months later, Perez is joining a law firm that openly helps Corporate America crush unions.

“Recognizing that the goal of our clients is to prevent and manage their business risks, we regularly counsel and train clients on union avoidance, employee terminations, arbitration, and contract administration and interpretation,” Venable’s website says.

In another area of its website, the firm says that its “lawyers regularly advise and represent clients in connection with matters before the National Labor Relations Board, union negotiations and organizing, labor strikes, picketing, and corporate campaigns.”

One Venable partner’s firm bio brags that he “defeated a labor union bid for recognition as the collective bargaining representative after advising and coordinating the employer’s five-month anti-union campaign.”

Another Venable lawyer’s bio gloats that she secured a “favorable result for [a] corporation undergoing a Department of Labor investigation regarding violations of the Federal Labor Standards Act.”

According to Maryland Matters, Perez’s job at Venable is only part time, and he could still run for governor in Maryland in 2022.

Fighting to Protect Union-Busting Activities

Venable’s website says its lobbying thrives on its “deep bench and legal strength,” which “complement our reputation and relationships in Washington, D.C., giving clients a seat at the table and access to our powerful government network.”

The firm’s lobbying clients have included Lockheed Martin, Citadel LLC, American Airlines, and the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which represents rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft.

Venable regularly submits comments on behalf of their clients to regulatory agencies, including the Labor Department.

In 2011, Venable submitted a comment opposing the Obama Labor Department’s proposed “persuader rule,” which was designed to require employers to more thoroughly disclose their spending on anti-union consultants, on behalf of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a front for corporate lobbying groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Venable warned that the Labor Department’s persuader rule would deny “employers the needed legal advice to communicate with employees both before and during periods of union organizing, collective bargaining and strikes.”

The rule was finally implemented in 2016, but it was blocked by a federal district court judge. When Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration quickly moved to rescind it.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a landmark labor bill proposed by Democrats, would codify the 2016 persuader rule.