What’s Next for President Donald Trump’s Labor Policy

President Donald Trump entered office with a promise to reduce regulation and reshape the government’s relationship with businesses and workers. Here’s a look at the most significant labor-policy changes in 2017, and items to watch for in 2018.

What Happened

1. Republican Control of the National Labor Relations Board Mr. Trump filled two vacant seats on the five-member board that oversees union-employer disputes, giving Republicans control for the first time in a decade. Before a third Republican’s term expired in December, three major decisions were issued: • The board reversed a 2015 ruling concerning the meaning of joint employment. The new ruling potentially makes it harder for contractors or workers at franchises to organize into unions and bargain with larger corporations. • The board overturned a 2011 case allowing smaller groups of workers to form collective-bargaining units. The board said it was more appropriate for a bargaining unit to consist all employees on a site. • Another ruling found an employee handbook could limit certain worker privileges, such as cellphone cameras at work, without illegally crimping employees’ rights to communicate and organize with other workers. The board under Democratic control had found some similar policies unlawfully interfered with employees’ rights. 2. Enforcement Stance Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta in June rescinded previous guidance to look specifically for instances where a worker could be considered jointly employed or misclassified as an independent contractor. The agency is also considering narrowing an Obama-era safety standard around exposure to the chemical beryllium. However, some business groups say enforcement hasn’t changed as much as they would have expected, in part because Mr. Trump’s nominees to lead Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Wage and Hour Division have yet to win Senate confirmation. 3. Regulatory Reversal In March, Mr. Trump blocked the implementation of a rule from the prior adminstration that sought to require firms bidding on government contracts to disclose past labor-law violations. Business groups called it the “blacklisting” regulation because of the risk employers faced of being barred from future contracts. In December, the Labor Department proposed to change a regulation to make it easier for employers to require the sharing of tips among employees.

What’s Coming

1. Supreme Court Cases The Supreme Court will decide a case considering whether public employees can be required to pay union dues. If government workers aren’t required to pay dues, it could decrease union membership in the public sector, one of the last strongholds for organized labor.  The court will also determine whether employers can block workers from pursuing joint claims, including class-action lawsuits, by requiring they use individual arbitration to settle disputes. 2. Overtime Rule A federal judge’s ruling in late 2016 blocked an Obama administration regulation that would have expanded eligibility for time-and-half overtime pay. Under Mr. Acosta, the department began to reconsider the rule, but has yet to issue a formal proposal, and likely won’t until the second half of 2018. The secretary has indicated he would expand the number of workers who automatically qualify for overtime pay, but likely not by as much as the Obama rule would have. 3. Apprenticeships Expect more details in 2018 about how the government will expand apprenticeship programs. Mr. Trump made apprenticeships the center of his labor policy aimed at addressing a shortage of skilled workers. But that announcement came with few specifics. The Labor Department convened a task force to shape the policy, with regulation or guidance forthcoming. RELATED NLRB Overturns Obama-Era Ruling on Jointly Employed Workers (Dec. 14) Workers May Be Required to Share Tip Wages Under Proposed Rule (Dec. 4) You’re Hired: Trump Plans to Build U.S. Workforce With Apprenticeships (June 10)

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