Regulatory Wrap-Up: Wages, benefits and ballots
Massachusetts: A house committee is considering a revision to a 2004 law that explicitly denied managers the ability to share in tip pools. The law’s wide-ranging definition of manager has caused operational challenges for employers. Some employers wary of class action lawsuits have removed the risk by banning tip jars from their premises, resulting in lower take home pay for employees. The legislative fix has been debated in prior years and was defeated by one vote in the Senate in 2014.
Vermont: The Minimum Wage Study Committee, commissioned by the legislature to study the impact of a statewide increase, held an open hearing Oct. 2. The committee is considering several proposals that would raise the wage, ranging from $12.50/hr to $15/hr over various periods of time.
Birmingham, Ala.: Progressive Democrat Randall Woodfin bested two-term incumbent Democrat William Bell in Tuesday’s election. Among other issues in Woodfin’s platform is support of a $15/hr minimum wage. The city attempted to raise its wage in 2014 but was blocked by state law. The mayor-elect has promised to take that fight back to the state capitol.
Calumet City, Ill.: For the second time in a year, the city council chose to opt out of Cook County’s $13/hr minimum wage requirement. The mayor requested that the council revisit the issue on the heels of an April nonbinding $15/hr ballot measure that earned over 80% support from local voters.
New Hampshire: A bipartisan paid leave bill passed 5-0 out of a house subcommittee and moves to the full committee for consideration. The bill, as currently constructed, would establish a paid leave program financed by a 0.5% payroll tax on employees. It would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave, parental or sick time off, per year at 60% of the employee’s current salary.
Albuquerque, N.M.: The local paid sick leave ballot initiative failed by less that 1% this week. It would have mandated that large employers offer seven days of paid leave per year. Businesses with less than forty employees would have been required to offer five days per year. Representatives of the advocacy group Strong Families New Mexico have indicated they will pursue a recount given the close margin.
Washington, D.C.: The city council is slated to revisit the paid leave law in the coming weeks. The 2016 law guarantees district workers up to eight weeks of paid family leave through a program funded by a 0.62% payroll tax on district employers. There are several proposals under consideration intended to lessen the burden on the business community but maintain the benefits for employees. Proposal details range from a reduced tax rate to an opt-out for employers with their own qualifying paid leave program.
South Dakota: The state officially filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark case seeking to force out-of-state sellers to collect the state’s sales tax from in state consumers. The state’s supreme court recently ruled for plaintiffs in the case – Wayfair, Overstock, and NewEgg – finding that the state cannot force collection on out-of-state sellers. The cert petition starts the official process for potential Supreme Court review, which could eventually overturn the outdated 1992 physical nexus precedent.
Wyoming: Newegg, Wayfair and Overstock, in response to the state’s litigation against them, called into question the constitutionality of the state’s recently passed economic nexus law. The law, similar to a South Dakota law mentioned above, mandates sales tax collection from out-of-state merchants with over $100,000 in sales (or 200 transactions) per year into the state.
Cook County, Ill.: Last week Commissioner John Daley announced his support for the repeal of the controversial soda tax. Daley previously supported the effort to tax sugary beverages, and his reversal ensures a majority of commissioners will vote for a repeal. However, two more votes are needed to secure a veto-proof majority.
Chicago, Ill.: A bill under consideration by the city council would set new standards for the city’s food purchasing processes. If passed, Chicago would become the first locality outside of California to implement “good food” purchasing standards that would require the city to purchase food from suppliers that meet certain health, environmental and fair labor standards.
Ben & Jerry’s: The Vermont-based ice cream maker, owned by Unilever, announced an agreement with a farmworker advocacy group that establishes labor standards for the company’s in-state milk suppliers. Some 90 dairy farms across the state will eventually be subject to a new code of conduct agreement, which includes wage requirements, mandatory breaks and living condition standards for farmworkers. For its part, the company agreed to pay an undisclosed premium to help cover the costs of enforcing the increased standards.
U.S. House: The Save Local Business Act, which would rescind the 2015 NLRB ruling that redefined the joint-employer relationship, passed out of committee on a 23-17 vote and now moves to the House floor. Leadership has not yet calendared the bill but is expected to do so in the coming weeks in light of widespread business community and House Republican support. It remains to be seen if the legislation can garner enough Democratic support in the Senate to reach the President’s desk.
Federal: The Trump Administration announced new immigration principles setting the stage for negotiations with Congress over the expiration of the Obama era “Dreamers” program. The principles include increased border security, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, funding for a border wall, a revamping of the political asylum process and of particular note for operators, a mandatory E-Verify program for employers.
California: Governor Brown signed into law a bill that prevents companies from voluntarily allowing federal immigration agents on private property without a judicial warrant. The law also requires employers to notify workers of ICE enforcement activity within 72 hours of receiving notice of an inspection.
Rhode Island: The governor signed a bill into law that bans the manufacturing and sale of mattresses, electronics and children’s products that exceed the established safety level of the chemical bromide. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2019.
KORUS: The South Korean government has reversed its stance and announced its willingness to renegotiate their bilateral free trade agreement with the United States. The switch comes after months of pressure from President Trump and the administration who seek to renegotiate the deal which began in 2007 and was revamped by the Obama Administration in 2012.
NAFTA: Reports indicate that the Trump administration is considering requesting a carve out for cross- border trucking services under a renegotiated NAFTA agreement. If the Administration proceeds, it will be a victory for the Teamsters and other advocates who have long complained that the operations of the Mexican long-haul truckers are not fairly competitive. Advocates highlight that Mexican truck companies are not subject to the same safety restrictions as U.S. operators and there are no realistic reciprocal opportunities due to the deteriorating security situation in Mexico.
Autonomous Vehicles: A Senate committee advanced legislation related to self-driving cars which had been stalled over proposed regulations dealing with autonomous trucks and trucking fleets. Removal of that language has allowed the bill to proceed. The legislation still must pass the Senate and would need to be reconciled with the recently passed House bill before it could advance to the President’s desk.
- The labor-friendly incumbent mayor and city council president in Birmingham lost elections this week to democratic candidates that ran as progressive outsiders. The organization Our Revolution (which is run by former Bernie Sanders campaign staff) was heavily involved in the mayor’s race. Similar dynamics played out in Albuquerque and Los Angeles races as well, demonstrating that the progressive wing of the Democratic party is alive and well and that the national campaigns for higher wages and benefits are not going away anytime soon. Brands need to understand that the political climate at the local level in urban markets – where they have significant operational footprints and employee bases – is very different than at the national level. Companies must remain sensitive to that dichotomy.
- The agreement announced this week by Ben & Jerry’s and the “good food” policy under consideration in Chicago are big advances for the activist community as it continues to focus on supply chains in an effort to force corporate behavior. Supply chain activists are making progress via local food campaigns, sustainability efforts and shared liability issues to force wage and hour, benefits and other concessions from employers. Brands should pay attention to this strategy and ensure that their suppliers do not present them with potential legal or reputational challenges.
Legislature Status for Week of 10/9/17
- The United States Senate is out of session this week
- The United States House is in session this week
- The following state legislatures are in session year round: Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
- The following additional states are currently in session: Michigan, North Carolina and Rhode Island.
- Oklahoma is in a special session convened on Sept. 25.
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.
Stanley Black & Decker enters drone security market
Stanley Black & Decker, the world’s largest tool manufacturer, has formed a strategic partnership with Sunflower Labs, a San Francisco-based startup focused on home security products. The move provides Stanley Black & Decker an entry into the surveillance drone market.
Under terms of the partnership, Stanley Black & Decker and Sunflower Labs will work together on new and innovative security solutions, the companies said in a press release.
Sunflower Labs manufactures home security drone camera systems — including the Sunflower Home Awareness System, which combines outdoor sensors with an aerial camera for a full view of what's going on around homes.
"Security is more than locks and alarms, it's about understanding what's happening on your property at all times," said Alex Pachikov, Sunflower Labs CEO. "We're thrilled to have a partner in Stanley Black & Decker, the world's second largest commercial electronic security provider, who shares that belief."
Stanley Black & Decker is also the second-largest commercial electronic security company in the world. About 18% of Stanley Black & Decker’s total revenue in 2016 was derived from security products including cameras, sensors and locks.
"Sunflower Labs is pairing the state of the art in sensor and quadcopter technology to bring insightful security to property owners, giving them better context into activity on their grounds and providing real time verification of events," said Larry Harper, VP of Stanley Ventures. "We look forward to working with them to bring this innovation to market and to broadening the application of their technologies into the commercial security market."
Sunflower Labs’ “Smart Lights” system includes sensors that learn the pattern of normal activity. When unusual activity is detected, the Sunflower Flying Camera is deployed, sending an alert and streaming video to the Sunflower app on the owner's smartphone to provide a holistic picture of the situation, the company said.
To date, Sunflower Labs has raised $6 million in funding for product development.
Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Oct. 6, 2017.
Western: regional species perimeter foundation
Southern: regional species slab construction
Crow's Market Recap: A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow's Weekly Market Report.
Price trends in SPF lumber continued. Producers sold limited offerings at persistently higher price levels, keeping order files extended, sometimes as far out as early November. Buyers held out when possible, preferring to digest prior purchases and wait out mill order files.
- Most #2 Southern Pine prices continued to gain, but more modest sales activity placed less upward pressure on prices than in prior weeks. Yards continued to report good sales but approached the market more cautiously.
- Coastal species lumber prices continued down the same path, as largely flat green Doug Fir prices lagged the gains taking place in dry. Customers continued to replenish with conservative volumes that could ship relatively quickly.
- Although some Inland producers reported decent sales some commented that their sales volume was a little lighter this week. In no case, however, were any signs of weakness noted.
- Price volatility in studs was minimal. Some prices edged moderately higher while a few producers showed a willingness to discount. In general, 2×4 availability was more plentiful than 2×6. Supplies of 2×6 9’ remained relatively tight.
- Whether it is Radiata Pine or Ponderosa, the supply side seems to be in reasonably good shape. Radiata Pine from New Zealand continues to flow into the US in heavier volumes than for some time.
- Ponderosa Pine 4/4 boards are “moving steadily,” according to the producer consensus. Among the Common grades, only 1×6 #3 was noted for weakness. In Ponderosa #2 Common, the only change was in 1×12.
- Western Red Cedar producers reported steady sales activity as the fourth quarter commenced. Buyers continued to purchase near-term needs in volumes they could sell before the conclusion of their building season. Others purchased to cover fourth quarter needs. More buyers are now looking further ahead, forecasting requirements for the first quarter.
OSB markets presented a scattered picture with regard to prices. Most regions maintain active retail business, as builders try and make the best of the waning season. Buying continues hand-to-mouth, and no one wants a long position. The repeating theme perpetuates price strength.
- Sales activity in the Southern Pine plywood market remained steady, leading to higher prices. Producers reported order files into the week of Oct. 23, with one producer garnering orders as far out as Nov. 20. Buyers often purchased truckload volumes to cover near-term needs in light of high prices.
- Sales activity in the Western Fir plywood market was often described as “slower” or “steady.” Mills, however, did bump quotes a few dollars and sell at moderately higher levels. Buyers purchased panels that will ship the weeks of Oct. 23 to 30. Buyers chased orders, needing deliveries.
- The Canadian plywood market tried unsuccessfully to find a solid trading level. Pricing continued its downhill glissade from record highs, while mills reached out and listened for offers.
- Particleboard sales volumes were little changed from the prior week, leaving producers’ order files stable or slightly eroded.
- MDF sales were often considered a notch better in both the West and East than particleboard, despite ample MDF imports available. Thermally fuse laminate sales were steady.
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