(Post by Rick Dacri, January 12, 2017)
President-Elect Trump has nominated Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor. Puzder is a successful businessperson, lawyer, and CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of fast food chain’s Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
The mission of Labor is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” They are also responsible for investigating minimum wage violations, overtime infractions, and worker safety laws.
Puzder has taken positions in opposition to many of the regulations the DOL oversees, including the federal minimum wage, worker eligibility for overtime, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and sick leave polices.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to begin confirmation hearings on Puzder in February.
I have put together 18 questions that I believe the Senate should ask the nominee:
- What qualifies you to be the next Secretary of Labor?
- You have opposed the raising of the federal minimum wage. Why? What do you believe is an adequate minimum wage?
- You indicated a proposed $15 minimum wage would force businesses to automate their operations and thereby eliminate jobs. Do you believe that a minimum wage increase drives the need for automation or is automation a tool for productivity? If wages collapsed, would businesses stop automating?
- According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEO pay has grown 90 times faster than the typical worker pay since 1978. Due to this unequal growth, average top CEOs now make over 300 times what typical workers earn. Do believe wage disparity is a problem in this country and what, if anything, should Labor or the Trump administration do about this?
- The Department of Labor oversees the federal wage and hour division, which ensures that workers are paid for all the hours they work. Yet in California, your franchise restaurants have been fined over $20 million for wage and hour violations. Can you address this issue and what steps did you take to remedy this problem in franchises you control. Secondly, what steps will the DOL take, under your reign, to enforce wage and hour laws?
- A Roc United survey given to your franchise store employees in California, found that a third of those employees were not given meal breaks after working at least 5 hours, in violation of the state’s worker break laws. 79% said they also served or prepared food while they were sick. Can you address these issues and what steps did you take to remedy these problems in franchises you control. Secondly, what steps will the DOL take, under your reign, to enforce break laws?
- You are also on record opposing sick leave policies, yet many workers in your franchise restaurants are preparing and serving food while sick. Are you concerned about endangering both your customers and employees? Should sick leave laws be mandated?
- Bloomberg did an investigation of your company’s franchises. They found that in 60% of the DOL investigations in your restaurants, there were minimum wage and overtime violations. Again, can you address this issue and what steps did you take to remedy this problem? Secondly, what steps will the DOL take, under your reign, to enforce wage and hour laws?
- President-Elect Trump has indicated he supports 6 weeks of paid maternity leave. You have stated that mandatory leave creates undue burdens on business. How directly do leaves create a burden, and as Labor Secretary, will you support or ignore the President-Elect’s initiative?
- According to a review of inspection records with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2000, the year your took over as chief executive of CKE, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. locations have incurred at least 98 safety violations, 36 of them listed as serious. OSHA defines a “serious” violation as one that could result in death or grave physical harm that the employer should have been aware of. Can you address this issue and what steps did you take to remedy this problem in franchises you control? Secondly, since OSHA and worker safety fall under DOL’s responsibility, what steps will the DOL take to enforce these laws?
- Your company has introduced commercials that include women wearing skimpy bikinis and lingerie while eating burgers. In response, you stated in a 2015 Entrepreneur interview, “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American. I used to hear, brands take on the personality of the CEO. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.” My questions, is this your personality, as you stated? Do you believe these ads objectify women? What kind of tone does this set in your workplaces?
- 2/3 of female workers in restaurants operated by you, claim that they have been sexually harassed by your customers. Many employees indicated that these customers mentioned those ads. Were you aware of this and what is your plan to address this?
- Do you believe that sexual harassment in the workplace is a legitimate issue and what steps should employers take to eradicate it?
- Are there any federal labor laws that you would eliminate and if so, which ones and why?
- Do you believe there are any new labor laws that should be initiated? What are they and why are they needed?
- President-Elect Trump stated that he would like to eliminate unemployment compensation fraud. How big a problem is it and how could you eliminate it? Please be specific.
- You have opposed the Affordable Care Act. What specifically is the problem with the Act? Are their components of it that you would like to keep? What would you replace the Act with, what would it cover and not cover, and will it be cheaper than the current ACA?
- You have stated that we should cut government benefit programs because workers turn down promotions to keep such benefits, such as food stamps. Please explain this and tell us how wide-spread a problem this is?
(This post was written by Rick Dacri on September 12, 2012)
Employers are on notice. The new Labor Secretary is honing in on issues of concern to the business community.
New U.S. Labor Secretary Perez has introduced an aggressive agenda. In a speech to organized labor on Tuesday, he targeted four areas of attention:
- Aggressively enforcing wage laws
- Improving workplace safety
- Stopping the misclassification of workers as Independent Contractors—a practice he calls “workplace fraud”
- Promoting unionization
While much of this was expected, it should be a wake up call to some employers to make sure their houses are in order. DOL has aggressively pursued wage and hour issues, particularly around violations of overtime and break regulations. DOL, the states and the IRS have been clamping down on Independent Contractors. In fact, the IRS has published a 20-point test that all employers who employ ICs should review. OSHA has been targeting specific industry groups while unions struggle to remain relevant.
While we can expect that the DOL will continue to push these issues, as a matter of good business practice, employers should review all their systems and policies to ensure you are complaint. Penalties are severe. Call me if you need some help.
If you want to know more about how I can help you, click Dacri & Associates.
If this post was helpful, you may also want to read:
The National Labor Relations Board announced today that it has postponed the implementation date for its new notice-posting rule by more than two months in order to allow for “enhanced education and outreach to employers, particularly those who operate small and medium sized businesses.”
The new effective date of the rule is Jan. 31, 2012.
The decision to extend the rollout period followed complaints from businesses and trade organizations indicating uncertainty about which businesses fall under the Board’s jurisdiction. No other changes in the rule, or in the form or content of the notice, will be made.
Check back periodically for updated information.
With the recent NLRB rule changes, getting unionized will become a whole lot easier. At the same time, you can take steps today to minimize the potential of a union knocking on your door.
While the NLRB may appear to be working against you, companies often get unions because they deserve them. When employees feel disengaged, treated poorly, or when their wages and jobs are threatened, they reach out to anyone who offers a lifeline. The union’s promise of job protection, improved wages and benefits, along with workplace due process plays well in this depressed economy. Whether unions can ever deliver on their promises is not relevant. Fighting a union drive or worse, negotiating your first contract is hugely expensive and derails all attention needed to effectively run your business.
Now is the time to make sure your house is in order. Waiting for the first sign of a union sniffing around is just plain foolish. Immediately putting up a “not welcome sign” is good for you, your employees, and the long-term viability of your company.
So how do you eliminate the potential wedge unions will surely drive between you and your employees? What union arguments will resonate with your workforce? The easy response is to simply ask your employees. Employee satisfaction surveys are a great tool to determine what your employees are thinking and an accurate predictor of your vulnerability to unions. Rarely are employees not willing to talk. You just have to listen.
A simple, uncomplicated strategy focused on your employees will not only make unions unnecessary, it will also increase the productivity and performance of your workforce. This strategy should contain five key elements:
- Communication — talk to your people-frequently. Make sure they know what it means to be unionized. Be clear about your position-tell them and put it in your policies. Let them know they can always talk to you and that there should never be a need to turn to a third party. At the same time, employees also want to know about what’s happening with the business. When the boss talks to his/her employees, rumors disappear. Keep them informed.
- Provide an outlet for problem resolution — Things happen and employees need a safe, comfortable vehicle to address concerns and get issues resolved. When problems fester, they often grow until they blow. Early correction means employees stay focused. Unions will guarantee your employees due process. Why cede that right to the union?
- Develop your supervisors — they are the foundation of your business. They should be your eyes and ears, employee problem-solvers, and the go-to person to get things communicated and done. And when it comes to unions, they will be your first line of defense in preventing or fighting a drive. Invest in them.
- Pay fairly – in a tough economy when survival is an issue, it is difficult to talk about pay. Two things, however, are important to keep in mind: 1) employees expect to be paid fairly for the work they do and, 2) employees understand the times. Nothing fires up talk about unionization more than a workforce that believes it is being treated unfairly. Market survey your wages annually. Correct inequities and communicate what you’re doing with your workforce. At the same time, affordability is always an issue. You can’t pay what you don’t have. Again, tell your employees. If you’ve always been straight with them, they’ll understand. But, when the good times return, remember those who stood by you.
- Take care of your employees – setting clear expectations and holding your employees accountable for good performance is a must. When employees do their part, employers must do the same. Make your place a great place to work. That means tools to do their job, supervision that cares, a clean, safe place to work, and people who are respectful.
It doesn’t take a lot to make your place a great place to work. And when you do it, union organizers will by-pass you for the other guy. Your workplace will hum and the new and proposed NLRB rules will not be a concern for you.
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(Post written by law firm Verrill Dana)
The Employee Free Choice Act may be a lame duck, but the NLRB seems dead set on changing the representation election process – and not for the better. On June 21, 2011, the NLRB proposed amendments to its existing rules and regulations governing procedures in union representation cases. The proposed amendments would:
- Allow unions to file petitions and other documents electronically;
- Standardize timeframes for pre-election hearings (seven days after service of hearing notice) and post-election hearings (14 days after the tally of ballots);
- Mandate employers provide a final voter list (also known as an Excelsior list) with employee phone numbers and e-mail addresses in electronic form within two (2) days of the direction of election;
- Require parties to identify pre-election issues (like voter eligibility) and describe their supporting evidence within seven (7) days after an election petition is filed;
- Consolidate all election-related appeals to the Board in a single post-election appeals process – thus eliminating pre-election requests for review of the Regional Directors decisions, including voter eligibility determinations; and
- Make Board review of post-election decisions discretionary rather than mandatory.
What does this all mean? It means organized labor may soon have their much desired “quickie” election. If adopted, these new rules would allow representation elections to be held within 10 to 21 days from the filing of a petition and significantly limit an employer’s right to communicate with its workforce and to petition the government for redress.
These new rules underscore the importance of educating your workforce about unionization before a petition is filed. Under the new rules, once a petition is filed employers have a small window of time in which to educate workers. Accordingly, employers should take the time to do the following now:
- Educate employees about union authorization cards and what they really mean. Remember, unions need at least 30% of employees to sign authorization cards before they can file an election petition;
- Educate employees about the risks and downsides of unionization. Do not assume your employees understand what it means to be represented by a union. If you don’t educate them, unions will.
- Conduct a supervisory audit to assess employee morale and proactively address employee concerns. The best way to keep unions out of your facility is to create a work environment where employees say “we don’t need a union.”