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Biden expected to usher in an era of worker-friendly labor policies

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

Labor activists eager to capitalize on the pro-worker sentiment fueled by the pandemic will soon have a friend in the White House.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to push to make it easier for workers to unionize and hold employers accountable for working conditions, a sharp U-turn from the business-friendly employment policies pursued by President Donald Trump.

Among the most immediate changes will be new leadership at the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Labor, the latter of which is currently helmed by Eugene Scalia, a former corporate attorney who has been criticized by labor leaders for siding with industry over employees.

"They are supposed to be worker advocate agencies," said Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter. "Making sure employers don't run the table is important."

Business leaders worry about a return to tighter regulations that add red tape and costs..

Still, "this is a time we should give everybody a benefit of the doubt, and until we see hard proposals we can hope for the best," Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch said.

 

Labor policies often swing back and forth as Republicans and Democrats trade control of the White House and install new leadership at the Labor Department, which enforces wage and hour laws, and the NLRB, which enforces labor law in relation to unionizing and collective bargaining.

A divided Congress will blunt big changes, as legislation that burdens business will face an uphill battle if the Senate remains in Republican hands (two seats hang in the balance in Georgia, where a runoff is scheduled for January). But next year could usher in a more worker-friendly era via executive orders handed down by the president and rules set by agencies in the new administration.

Here are five workplace policies that may see changes.

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