The Beltway Buzz is a weekly update summarizing labor and employment news from inside the Beltway and clarifying how what's happening in Washington, D.C. could impact your business.
Su Slips. Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su's chances of becoming the actual secretary of labor continued to dwindle this week. Multiple media reports indicate that the administration is no longer pushing for Su's confirmation, though it hasn't gone as far as withdrawing the nomination altogether. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this week to call on President Biden to withdraw Su's nomination, stating that her delayed confirmation vote is a "telltale sign that she does not have the votes." Wary of issuing regulations that could negatively impact votes on the Senate floor, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) regulatory agenda has slowed considerably while Su's nomination has been pending. If the administration gives up on the nomination, employers should watch for an acceleration of the rulemaking agenda.
New I-9 Flexibility. The Buzz has been tracking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) efforts to modernize the I-9 verification process. Well, late last week, DHS announced changes that will allow certain employers to complete the I-9 verification process remotely. Claudia P. Martorell and Christina M. Kelley have the details.
OLMS and LM-10 Update. On July 28, 2023, the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) published final revisions to Form LM-10. The preamble of the final rule states, "Under the revision, the Department adds a checkbox to the Form LM-10 report requiring certain reporting entities to indicate whether such entities were Federal contractors or subcontractors in their prior fiscal year, and two lines for entry of filers' Unique Entity Identifier and Federal contracting agency or agencies, if applicable." The rule goes into effect on August 28, 2023. In the preamble to the rule, OLMS argues that the disclosure is necessary for the following reason:
By learning of the federal contractor status of their employer, those employees would have convenient access to the information that would allow them to meaningfully exercise their organizing and collective bargaining rights such as their First Amendment right to choose whether to contact their representatives in Congress to inquire about the federal appropriations underlying the contracts with their employers, or the employers' activities undertaken pursuant to such contracts, or allow the employees to work more effectively with advocacy groups or the media to disseminate their views as employees to a wider audience.
This focus by OLMS on employer—rather than union—reporting has caught the attention of Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Labor Su expressing his concern that OLMS "has recently demonstrated a concerted effort to distort federal statutes to favor unions." In particular, Senator Cassidy is concerned OLMS might be stretching the law to require employers to provide information relating to wage payments made to officers, supervisors, or employees as compensation for their regular employment duties. The Buzz expects that this will not be the last we hear about this particular issue at OLMS.
Fight for Fif...SEVENteen! This week, Senate HELP Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2023 (S. 2488) to increase the federal minimum wage. Specifically, the bill would gradually increase the minimum wage annually until it hits $17 per hour (five years after the effective date), at which point the amount would increase "by the annual percentage increase, if any, in the median hourly wage of all employees as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics." The bill would also phase out the tipped minimum wage and eliminate the subminimum wage for young workers and workers with disabilities. Despite some initial support among Democrats (twenty-nine original cosponsors in the Senate and strong Democratic support in the House), the bill is unlikely to make it through the Senate and stands no chance in the House.
Child Labor Update. The U.S. Congress continues to explore ways to root out child labor violations. Late last week, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member Scott, and Representative Daniel Kildee (D-PA) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking it to assess "the capacity of government agencies to monitor, research, and conduct enforcement of our child labor laws, and the effectiveness of current efforts to address the employment of illegal child labor." Additionally, Congressman Kildee and Congresswoman Hillary Scholten, both House Democrats representing Michigan, launched a Child Labor Prevention Task Force. According to a press release, the task force will:
- "Push to advance legislation to fight illegal child labor, including increasing penalties for child labor violations.
- Meet with congressional leadership, committee chairs and ranking members to ensure illegal child labor is more urgently addressed.
- Conduct oversight of federal agencies to ensure the federal government is taking strong enforcement actions to rid our supply chains of child labor.
- Hold informational events with experts and officials from the administration to educate Members of Congress and staff about illegal child labor."
Preventing illegal child labor is obviously a bipartisan issue, so the Buzz would not be surprised for this issue to gain traction in Congress.
The Heat Is On. With much of the United States experiencing extreme heat, Democrats in the Senate and House this week reintroduced the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness, Injury, and Fatality Prevention Act of 2023. The bill would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue "an interim final rule establishing a worker heat protection standard and related record-keeping and reporting requirements" within one year of enactment. Democrats are unlikely to get the support needed to pass the bill, as Republicans have process concerns with the bill. On the regulatory front, according to the latest regulatory agenda, OSHA's pending heat standard isn't scheduled to be proposed until March 2024.
Red, White, and Blueberry. This week the U.S. Senate passed, by unanimous consent, a resolution extolling the virtues of blueberries. Sponsored by senators from blueberry producing states, the resolution notes that 731,400,000 pounds of blueberries were harvested in 2022. The resolution:
- "designates July 2023 as 'National Blueberry Month';
- recognizes the contributions of blueberry growers in the United States and their families; and
- recognizes that purchasing blueberries grown in the United States supports farmers, jobs, communities, and the economy of the United States."
As a service to our readers, here is a recipe for some really fabulous blueberry pie bars.
The Buzz will be on hiatus next week but will return on August 11, 2023.
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