Future of Work Agenda Includes Controversial Workplace Proposals

Earlier this week, flanked by lawmakers at a Capitol Hill press conference, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka highlighted a report laying out an ambitious workforce policy agenda. The 42-page document, entitled “The Future of Work, Wages, and Labor:  Policy & Recommendations,” sets forth a laundry list of labor and employment priorities. 

Some recommendations enjoy broad bipartisan support. For example, certain suggestions address the benefits and challenges technological advances and the increased use of automated intelligence will create for the workforce.1

Other agenda items are far more controversial. If there is a change in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, which pundits speculate is increasingly a distinct possibility, this agenda will likely receive a favorable reception, including potential congressional hearings before the House’s Education and Workforce Committee, and possibly even consideration on the House Floor. Under these proposals, employers can expect to see efforts to dramatically limit their authority with respect to unionization, wages and hours, terms and condition of employment, and employee benefits. 

Among the report’s key recommendations to “curb the shareholder economy” are:

  • Union “Card Check” Registration.  The report proposes increasing unionization through adoption of a union “card check” certification process, which strips workers of the right to a secret ballot election in union organizing campaigns, and exposes them to potential coercion by the union and co-workers.
  • Expansion of “Joint Employer” Liability.  Another recommendation would seek to hold employers and franchisors liable for a wide range of employment practices, even where duties and functions of the workforce are outsourced or performed by independent contractors or franchisees.
  • Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay Increases.  The authors call for increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and, going forward, indexing it to inflation.  Another proposal would more than double the salary threshold below which an employee must receive overtime pay to almost $47,500 (again, indexed for inflation going forward).
  • Prohibit Mandatory Arbitration and Non-Compete Clauses.  The report supports the adoption of legislation to “[e]ffectively ban all mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment” (following on the current trend of prohibiting arbitration in cases of workplace sexual harassment) and eliminate non-compete clauses in almost all instances.
  • Paid Leave and Restricted Scheduling.  Employers would be required to provide seven paid sick days to employees, and the government would be required to establish a national paid family and medical leave program (who would bear the cost of this program is unstated).  Work schedules would need to be provided to employees weeks in advance, with financial penalties for shift changes or “unpredictable” schedules.
  • Corporate Governance.  All publicly-held companies would be required to add worker representatives to their corporate boards, and companies would face increased tax rates where CEO-to-worker pay ratios do not fall within certain limits.

The outcome of November’s congressional mid-term elections remains highly speculative, and will no doubt be among the closest-watched in history.  In the weeks to come, look for Littler’s Workforce Policy Institute ™ to offer analysis and predictions about what the outcome of those elections will mean for companies and their workforces.

See Footnotes

1 These are issues on which Littler’s Workforce Policy Institute™ and the Emma Coalition have been in the forefront (read WPI and the Emma Coalition’s recommendations on how to address the incoming “TIDE” of automation here).

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.