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Workers’ rights in the Trump era

Well, a lot has happened since we last updated this blog.  We’ll do better.  On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became our nation’s 45th President.  It’s a little early to tell where he’s going to fall on issues of workplace fairness, but we have some early indications that we’re in for a bumpy ride.

One of his earliest actions was to pick Andrew F. Pudzer as the Secretary of Labor.  As the Secretary of Labor, Mr. Pudzer would head the Department of Labor, which exercises control over the department, and enforces and suggests laws involving unions and the workplace.  Mr. Pudzer is the Chief Executive of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.  His confirmation has stalled amidst allegations that he once employed an undocumented immigrant to clean his house.  As a law firm that represents workers and labor unions, we hope he is not confirmed, because Mr. Pudzer has voiced opposition to increasing overtime eligibility, raising the minimum wage, and sick leave for employees (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/politics/andrew-puzder-labor-secretary-trump.html), all things we love.  He is also a fan of automation (http://www.businessinsider.com/carls-jr-wants-open-automated-location-2016-3), which we do not love.

Now, President Trump has also vowed to force U.S. companies to move their operations back to the U.S. That’s great news – outsourcing is terrible.  But the bigger problem is automation; jobs are disappearing over our borders to be sure, but they are also disappearing here because of virtualization of human jobs – which President Trump’s Labor pick supports.  Many companies have and will return certain functions to the U.S. – but these functions will not, by and large, be performed by humans.  (http://fortune.com/2016/11/22/donald-trump-jobs-unemployment-digitization/).  Also, read the fine print.  He has also pledged to loosen regulations on companies – read looser labor and environmental regulations.  (http://www.voanews.com/a/trump-issues-new-warning-to-us-corporations-moving-jobs-overseas/3622375.html).  Have some carrot with that stick, corporate America.

President Trump has also nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court.  Judge Gorsuch was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006.  On matters of labor and employment, Judge Gorsuch has ruled in favor of employers far more often than workers.  (https://onlabor.org/2017/01/31/the-supreme-court-vacancy-and-labor-neil-gorsuch/).  There is no question that Judge Gorsuch is qualified to serve as a Supreme Court Justice and that Senate confirmation is likely.  Assuming he’s confirmed we’ll cross our fingers that the more pro-worker Justices will temper his pro-employer leanings.

But hey, on the bright side, President Trump has stated that he will push for paid maternity leave.  This would be a tremendous step forward, and we hope it happens.  There are detractors on both sides of the aisle, with conservatives complaining that it’ll lead to increased taxes if the government foots the bill for the program, and progressives complaining that it may lead to discrimination against women.  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/06/trump-aides-might-be-considering-a-major-change-to-presidents-maternity-leave-plan/?utm_term=.380b092275e7).  So, let’s hope for a bill (hey we’ll take an Executive Order ;-)) that offers paid maternity to employees regardless of gender.

Stay tuned.

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