Attorney General James Urges Regulators To Protect Workers From Harmful, Anticompetitive Labor Practices

Attorney General James Urges Regulators to Protect Workers
from Harmful, Anticompetitive Labor Practices

Coalition of AGs Recommend Increased State and FTC Collaboration on Antitrust
Enforcement to Fight Practices that Depress Wages and Limit Opportunity

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James, along with a coalition of 17 additional Attorneys General from around the nation, today announced they have submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging collaboration between regulators to protect workers from anticompetitive labor practices that depress wages, restrict job mobility, and limit opportunities for advancement.

“No matter what the industry, non-compete and no-poach agreements have proven to unfairly target low-income workers, keeping wages low and limiting the advancement of careers,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “I will continue to work to ensure that no employer attempts to unfairly restrict its workers’ rights and that every worker has the ability to control the future of his or her career.”

In an official comment letter, submitted in connection with the FTC’s hearings on competition in the 21st century, the Attorneys General argue that regulators should increase their focus on antitrust enforcement in the labor market and use their authority to crack down on harmful practices — like anticompetitive non-compete and no-poach agreements — in addition to considering how workers are impacted by proposed mergers. The comment letter highlights recent efforts by State Attorneys General to crack down on anticompetitive activities and identifies areas for future state and federal collaboration in antitrust work around labor issues.

Antitrust laws work to prevent harmful practices such as monopolization, price-fixing, and market allocation, which can result in higher prices, depressed wages, decreased supply of products, or lower quality products and services.

The Offices of numerous State Attorneys General — New York, in particular — have been active in bringing enforcement actions against companies that impose restrictive contract agreements on employees. These restrictive agreements, specifically, limit workers’ abilities to obtain competitive wages and benefits, and subject employees to non-compete clauses. In September 2018, the New York Attorney General’s Office announced a settlement with WeWork on one such matter.

Recent antitrust investigations brought forth by various coalitions of Attorneys General have also confronted labor issues. In March 2019, a coalition of 14 Attorneys General secured a settlement with four fast-food chains — Dunkin’, Arby’s, Five Guys, and Little Caesars — to stop using no-poach agreements, which prevent employees from leaving one fast food franchise to work for another franchise in the same chain. These restrictive agreements prevent low-wage workers from pursuing better paying jobs and deny franchisees the opportunity to hire skilled employees of their choice.

Today’s letter follows a recent series of hearings by the FTC, over the past few months, on antitrust issues facing today’s government antitrust enforcers. The Attorneys General’s comments emphasize the importance of advancing antitrust enforcement to protect workers in today’s rapidly evolving economy.

Joining Attorney General James in submitting today’s comment letter were the Attorneys General of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.