A German based union has allegedly been allowed to ignore federal disclosure requirements despite stateside labor activities, according to a letter obtained by InsideSources.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has partnered with a foreign union to bolster its organizing abilities. IG Metall has allegedly been allowed to ignore federal disclosure requirements despite domestic labor activities. The National Right to Work Foundation (NRTW) highlighted the concern in a letter Friday to the Department of Labor (DOL).

“We observe that the U.S. Department of Labor continues ignoring high-profile public activities of IG Metall,” the letter stated. “It is clear to even the most passive viewer that IG Metall officers directed and coordinated covered labor persuader activities.”

NRTW has sent multiple letters over the past two years warning about the alleged disclosure violations. The DOL claims the union activities don’t meet the standard for having to file a disclosure report under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

“That article simply states that IG Metall was opening an office ‘to promote labor issues,'” the DOL said in response to an earlier letter in May 2016. “No further information as to what activities it would conduct was included. As you are likely aware, advocating on ‘labor issues,’ alone, does not make an entity a ‘labor organization.'”

The LMRDA regulates the internal affairs within unions. The law also requires labor groups to disclose their organizing and financial activities. NRTW states the law requires any labor persuader to disclose their activities even if they don’t meet the legal definition of a labor organization.

“As you clearly know the LMRDA requires reports from labor persuaders regardless of whether they meet the definition of a ‘Labor Organization,'” the NRTW letter went on to state. “However, your Department has failed to pursue reports from the Labor Organizations acting as labor persuaders.”

IG Metall has primarily helped to organize the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennesse. The UAW has sought to unionize the plant since 2014. NRTW argues the partnership between the two unions during the organizing drive should have undoubtedly required them to follow disclosure requirements.

“No Matter what reasonable analysis the Department chooses to review the actions of IG Metall regarding the VW Chattanooga employees, it must conclude that it has triggered LMRDA Disclosure reporting,” the NRTW letter also said. “We believe that the Department erred in determining that IG Metall is not an LMRDA-covered labor organization.”

NRTW lists several activities that it argues should have made the union subject to the disclosure requirements. It notes the union has engaged in an industry that impacted commerce, tried to convince employees to join a union and negotiated with an employer among other labor activities.

Volkswagen originally was open to the idea of having an unionized workforce. The only condition was that it had to be something workers at the plant actually wanted. The UAW began turning its attention to those workers it could unionize when it became clear they couldn’t get the majority to agree to being represented.

The UAW eventually was able to achieve a partial victory when it organized a subgroup of 164 skilled workers in December 2015. Volkswagen rejected the idea of workers being split between union and nonunion. They appealed the election but were unable to get far with the National Labor Relations Board.

The letter adds that the inaction has allowed the union activities to remain hidden from the public. The labor disclosure act is critically important to prevent unions from engaging in unlawful activities. It allows for secret ballot elections, federal oversight and protections for workers against union corruption.

The law was enacted in 1959 in response to congressional scrutiny over union corruption and racketeering. It further strengthened earlier congressional action to rein in unions through the Taft–Hartley Act of 1947.  Labor unions at the time had become very powerful in part due to the Wagner Act of 1935.

The DOL and the unions did not respond to a request for comment by InsideSources.

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