Amazon spent $4.3 million on anti- union consultants last year, but workers didn’t always know who the consultants were. While Amazon workers in Alabama and New York were trying to unionize their warehouses in 2021, the tech giant hired a large cast of anti-union consultants to undermine the organizing campaigns. Known as “persuaders,” these consultants led meetings in the warehouses and pulled workers aside for one-on-one conversations, all with the aim of turning workers against the idea of a union. The law requires that persuaders file timely disclosure forms with the Labor Department so that workers understand who their employer has hired and how much they are paying them to lobby against unionization. But it appears the firm that performed the most work for Amazon last year did not report its arrangement with the company until well past the legal time frame for doing so, Huff- Post has found.

The consultants’ apparent failure to report their dealings with Amazon within a reasonable amount of time left workers in the dark about the details of their employer’s pressure campaign. Some disclosures weren’t submitted to the Labor Department until the ballots were literally about to be counted in both union elections at the end of March, defeating the entire point of the transparency law.

“It’s useless to people a year after they provided the service,” said Connor Spence, an Amazon worker and vice president of membership for the Amazon Labor Union.

Spence was researching Labor Department filings as his union campaign was underway at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, NY. He believed it was important to uncover the consultants’ arrangements with Amazon so workers could make an informed decision about their vote. But he had little faith that the filings in the Labor Department’s online database accurately reflected the scope of the company’s consulting army. Workers at the JFK8 warehouse ultimately voted 2,654 to 2,131 in favor of joining the Amazon Labor Union, a stunning upset that established the first Amazon union in the U.S. The results are still not clear in a separate union election at Amazon’s BHM1 warehouse in Bessemer, AL. Workers there have voted 993 to 875 against joining the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, but more than 400 challenged ballots could still change the outcome.

Both employers and consultants must disclose details of their relationships to the Labor Department, just as unions must file in-depth annual reports laying out their finances. The employers’ reports are due at the end of the first quarter of the year after the consulting work was performed. But the consultants must inform the government about their dealings within 30 days of an agreement being made with the employer.

It can be helpful for union organizers and supporters to be able to show their co-workers how much their employer is spending on anti-union consulting as opposed to, say, giving them modest raises. As HuffPost first reported, Amazon’s disclosure filings show it spent roughly $4.3 million on anti-union consultants last year, with a typical rate of $3,200 a day for each consultant, plus expenses. The Labor Department generally does not pursue criminal cases against employers or persuaders for not filing their forms when they’re due. If officials believe someone has failed to follow the law, they may open an investigation and pressure the parties involved to rectify something that’s late or incomplete. But under the law, criminal prosecutions can only arise when the violations are “willful,” which can be difficult to prove.

The lack of serious penalties is one reason reports are filed late or probably never filed at all. Spence knew he wouldn’t see the full sum of Amazon’s anti-union spending until after the fact He and others have argued for tighter reporting requirements and stiffer penalties for companies and consultants who fail to disclose their dealings. Spence said it would be much better if workers could see their employer’s contracts with consultants in real-time, as opposed to having to wait months, or even over a year, to see what their agreement was.

“We still won,” Spence said. “But it would have been very helpful to show all that [information] to employees.”

Dave Jamieson, Huffpost Labor