After two years of little action on labor issues in Washington with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and President Trump in the White House, activity may increase in 2019 with the Democratic takeover of the House.
As noted in the January 24, 2019 Week In Review, the “Raise the Wage Act” was introduced in the House and Senate to increase the federal minimum wage. The House bill currently has 193 cosponsors while the Senate legislation has 30 cosponsors.
The Raise the Wage Act would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, index the rate to increase, and eliminate the “tip credit” where tipped employees can be paid less than the minimum wage because their tips make up the difference.
In addition to legislation to increase the federal minimum wage, the Trump Administration may issue new overtime regulations. As noted in the September 5, 2018 Week In Review, the US Department of Labor (DOL) held several “listening sessions” to hear from the public about a possible new rule on overtime compensation.
In January, DOL sent a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the “white collar” overtime exemptions to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. OMB review is the final step before publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. Review of the rule could take several months after which a proposed rule could be issued.
In 2016, the Obama Administration issued an overtime rule that would have more than doubled the minimum salary level required to exempt executive, administrative and professional employees from eligibility for overtime. A federal judge blocked that rule.
The Trump Administration rule is likely to increase the minimum salary required for exemption from overtime, but not as high as the Obama Administration rule would have established.
Another issue that may be considered is federally-mandated paid leave and paid vacation time. Although it has not yet been introduced in the 116th Congress, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act has been introduced in the last several Congresses.
The FAMILY Act would require that employers provide paid family and medical leave to employees for up to 12 weeks annually for the birth or adoption of a new child, the illness of a family member, or a employee’s own medical condition.
The Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act may also be considered. Last introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the 114th Congress, the bill would mandate employers with 15 or more employees to provide a minimum of 10 days of paid vacation to their employees, including part-time employees who work an average of 24 hours a week.
Senator Sanders said this bill “is not something that would just benefit workers and their families, but also their employers and even society as a whole” and that ”studies show that nine in 10 Americans report that their happiest memories come from vacations.”
SAF will continue to actively inform lawmakers of the impact of these proposals on the floriculture industry and to ensure that our members’ voices are heard in Washington.