U.S. antitrust official says competition in labor markets a top concern
WASHINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department's acting head of its Antitrust Division said on Friday that labor markets were a top priority for enforcement efforts, indicating a shift toward issues set by the White House's executive order on competition.
While antitrust enforcers have brought labor antitrust cases in the past, and the Trump Administration's Justice Department brought one against a no-poach agreement between rail equipment suppliers in 2018, they are rare.
"The division has become increasingly alert to and concerned by business conduct and transactions that harm competition for working people," said Richard Powers, acting head of the division, in a conference in New York.
Powers added that the coronavirus pandemic made the focus on labor even more critical. "If it was important for enforcers to protect competition in labor markets decades ago, and I believe that it was, it is essential now," he said.
He called any violation of antitrust law to hold down wages "just as irredeemable as agreements to fix product prices and allocate markets, conduct that the division has prosecuted for over 100 years." Powers added that the division was investing "substantial time and resources" in labor markets.
Two of the most common targets of criticism in labor markets are no-poach agreements, in which companies agree not to hire each others' workers, and non-compete agreements, in which workers sign contracts pledging not to leave to work for a rival.
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