Regulatory Wrap-Up: Paid leave, wages lead the roundup
Connecticut: A last-minute effort to pass compromise legislation increasing the minimum wage to $12.10, instead of the proposed $15/hr, failed to pass either chamber before the legislature adjourned for the year.
Vermont: The house passed a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15/hr by 2024. In February, the senate passed a similar bill with a shorter transition, increasing to $15/hr by 2022. The house bill will need to be approved by the senate in its current form or it could be amended into a compromise bill in a conference committee. The governor has stated he is likely to veto the increase.
New Jersey: Following the passage of the statewide sick leave law, a senate committee advanced a bill expanding the state’s existing paid family leave law. The bill would increase the amount of time provided to care for a newborn from six to twelve weeks and increase the pay workers receive during that time. The bill would also lower the compliance threshold to cover businesses that employ 30 workers, down from the current standard of 50.
Vermont: The senate passed a paid leave bill similar to a previously-passed house bill. The senate bill allows twelve weeks for parental leave and up to six weeks for care for a sick relative. The program is funded by employees through a 0.136 percent payroll tax on the first $150,000 earned. The bill will need to be conferenced with the house-passed legislation in order to advance to the governor. He has threatened to veto the bill citing his previous pledge not to raise taxes. It does not appear that the legislature would have enough votes to override a potential veto.
Chicago: Labor interests and several city aldermen renewed their push for the proposed citywide “fair work week” ordinance that has, to date, failed to move forward. The group released a survey highlighting employer scheduling practices that they deem detrimental. Such practices include “on call” scheduling and a lack of advanced notice of schedules.
NLRB: According to the recently-released Trump Administration’s spring agenda, the NLRB is considering clarifying its position on the joint employer issue through the rulemaking process. Going back to 2015 when the Obama-era Board overturned the long-standing joint employer precedent, employers have called for greater clarity and hoped for either the Board or Congress to establish guardrails, clearly defining what constitutes a joint employer relationship. The rulemaking process, which could stretch over a year, would provide that opportunity. The Board has not established a timeline to act but listed this as a “long term action.”
U.S. Senate: Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation that, if passed, would significantly strengthen labor’s leverage in the workplace. Among other actions, the bill would codify a recent California court decision regarding a new three-part test relating to the definition of an independent contractor. The bill would also preempt state right to work laws and implement a “card check” union voting system. While there is no chance this bill advances in this Congress, it will serve to rally labor interests as the midterm elections approach.
Labor Department: Also included in the recently-released Trump Administration’s spring agenda was an indication that there will be a delay in the issuance of the Labor Department’s new overtime regulation to sometime in early 2019. While there is no cause for concern at this juncture, future delays may present considerable challenges. The Labor Department also intends to issue a rule proposal which will update the regular rate requirements under the FLSA sometime in the fall of 2018. Finally, the agency has announced that it intends to issue a proposed rule on tip pooling by August 2018. It intends to use this new proposed rule to withdraw the controversial Obama-era tip pooling rule and to clarify a recently enacted provision in Congress’s budget bill.
Labor Department: A top Trump ally, former chief counsel to the Trump transition team, was named to the influential post of principal deputy assistant secretary for policy. He now leads the office charged with counseling Labor Secretary Acosta on policy developments and overseeing the crafting of regulations across the department.
New Jersey: The state legislature is considering a bill that would nullify aspects of non-compete agreements for certain types of workers. The bill is in the early stages of the legislative process in the general assembly. There has been a growing interest by federal and state lawmakers to regulate non-compete or no-poach agreements.
New York City: Mayor de Blasio signed the New York City Sexual Harassment Act, which is a slate of bills including a mandate that employers with fifteen or more employees provide city-approved sexual harassment prevention training.
Georgia: The governor signed into law a bill that expands sales tax collection obligations to sellers with more than $250,000 in sales or more than 200 sales into the state.
Pennsylvania: A house committee advanced legislation that would preempt local governments from implementing any taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. The full house may take action in the coming weeks. In related news, the litigation against the Philadelphia law which went into effect Jan. 2017 is slated to be heard in the state supreme court next week.
California: This week, a superior court judge finalized a ruling in a long-running case against coffee sellers who do not display cancer-warning signs in compliance with the state’s Proposition 65 law. The judge ruled that coffee sellers failed to show that the risks from consuming potentially carcinogenic chemicals in coffee are offset by the health benefits associated with drinking the caffeinated beverage. This opens the door for potential settlements that could include a reformulation of the product to remove the chemicals in question, fines and/or agreements by sellers to post appropriate in-store signage.
- A handful of states held primary elections last week. Overall, “establishment” Republicans prevailed in the party’s primary elections. In Indiana, an “outsider” won the nomination in their U.S. Senate contest; however, he served in the Indiana legislature which hardly meets the “outsider” definition by today’s standard. The national party has to be excited that, at least in these early primary states, they’ll be fielding more centrist (traditionally considered electable) candidates on the general election ballot.
- At a time when Trump appointees are finally being confirmed and rolling up their sleeves at federal agencies, many are moving into overdrive as it relates to labor regulations. Expect the next year to be active at the federal agency level, particularly at the Labor Department and the NLRB, as the administration attempts to promulgate new rules and regulations before the end of the President’s first term.
- As the conversation in DC around no-poach and non-compete agreements continues, more states could pick up the issue. It’s unlikely that New Jersey will be the last state to dive into this space and employers should stay engaged in the state level conversations on this issue.
Legislature Status for Week of 5/14/18
- The United States Senate is in session this week
- The United States House is in session this week
- Thirteen state legislatures are meeting actively this week: California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, New York and Rhode Island.
Check out our Working Lunch podcast each week that includes further analysis into these legislative issues, policy, politics and much more. You can find Working Lunch on the Nation’s Restaurant News website, or by clicking here, and when you download the podcast and subscribe on iTunes here.
The Regulatory Wrap-Up is presented by Align Public Strategies. Click here to learn how Align can provide your brand with the counsel and insight you need to navigate the policy and political issues impacting retail.
Phillips Screw tightens its U.S. strategy
A familiar name in fasteners eyes the U.S. market with Lightning relaunch.
The Phillips Screw Company, the company that invented the Phillips-head drive system and received a patent for it in 1935, sees an opportunity today for its new Lightning fastener system. With labor dwindling, and housing demand growing, a screw that fits snugly on the bit and can be drilled with one hand can save considerable time at the job site.
Todd Ruehs of Phillips makes the strong case that the screw is far-and-away the most-often-handled item at a construction site, and he’s done the math. It takes 48 screws for a sheet of drywall, 42 screws for a sheet of subfloor a 22 for a fiber-cement board.
Into this equation, the Lightning screw brings a message of speed and efficiency. The fastener head fits snugly into the bit, without a wobble, for easy one-handed drilling.
The Lightning screw is a strong player in the United Kingdom and is ready to expand. “We are now relaunching into North America,” said Ruehs, VP of business development and brand strategy for the Phillips Screw Company. “The reason we believe now is the right time and our products will be accepted is that. the construction industry is getting ready to face a silent crisis. There are not enough people to build houses.”
The Lightning Multi-purpose wood screw features the company’s patented Phillips Square-Driv drive system with “Stick-Tight” wobble free engagement. The interaction between bit and screw allows for one-handed operation and “never a dropped screw,” the company says. The Lightning screw’s patented low energy threads are designed to ensure an instant start and fast installation.
The new Lightning site case kit adds even more convenience, creating a water-tight, organized package for 805 screws in 8 popular sizes.
“If you can drive it with one hand, wobble free, then that allows a contractor to build more and faster,” Ruehs said.
Builder confidence rises in May
Lumber’s high prices makes it tough for builders to produce competitively priced homes for newcomers.
Additional proof that consumer interest in single-family homes is at a strong level was provided by the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes rose two points to a level of 70 in May after a downwardly revised April reading on the HMI. This is the fourth time the HMI has reached 70 or higher this year.
“The solid May report shows that builders are buoyed by growing consumer demand for single-family homes,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel, a custom home builder from LaPlace, La. “However, the record-high cost of lumber is hurting builders’ bottom lines and making it more difficult to produce competitively priced houses for newcomers to the market.”
“Tight housing inventory, employment gains and demographic tailwinds should continue to boost demand for newly-built single-family homes,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “With these fundamentals in place, the housing market should improve at a steady, gradual pace in the months ahead.”
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
The HMI chart gauging current sales conditions increased two points to 76 in May while the indexes measuring buyer traffic and expectations in the next six months remained unchanged at 51 and 77, respectively.
Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the West and Northeast held steady at 76 and 55, respectively. Meanwhile, the South and Midwest each edged down one point to respective levels of 72 and 65.