Inside Washington D.C. : HR Public Policy according to SHRM

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Employment Law and Legislative Developments

Yesterday was the opening day of the 2010 SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference.   I’d like to thank the fine people at SHRM Public Affairs for granting me press credentials to cover the conference this week, especially Julie Malveaux and Jennifer Hughes for helping make that happen.

And with that, here is my summary of the day one activity.

SHRM and Public Policy

SHRM does a good job at staying on top of policy developments as they relate to the potential impact on employers, and with sharing information with members regarding policy.  Yesterday, Mike Aitken from SHRM gave a 90 minute overview of his view of current public policy issues and their status in Washington DC.    He discussed 4 major policy issue categories during his talk.  While I can’t cover all that he said, here are some of the high points, and the four categories.

Health Care Reform is the 900 lb gorilla in the room in the Capitol right now.    According to Mike, this topic is overwhelming the focus on everything else, including labor law reform such as the Employee Free Choice Act.    SHRM has worked with Congress to ensure that the views of the profession are heard in Congress.  These include:

  • Strengthen and improve the employer-based health care system
  • Encourage greater use of health prevention, promotion, and wellness programs
  • Strengthen the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to ensure that a national, uniform framework for health care benefits
  • Reduce health care costs by improving quality and transparency
  • Ensure tax policy contributes to lower costs and greater access

Labor Management and Civil Rights Issues was the other category that Mike spent most of his time on.    The major takeaways here were:

  • Employee Free Choice Act is derailed by the health care issues right now, and frankly seems to be on life support.
  • Labor reform alternatives or compromise with unions as a “payback” for supporting Democrats in past elections that could include so-called “quickie elections” for union recogntions (currently 42 days), mail in ballots for elections, the use of “baseball”  or last offer arbitration to settle initial union contracts, and granting more liberal access to employer premises and property in order conduct union organizing activities
  • Recess appointment of controversial nominee Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board.  Aitken does not believe this will happen

Aitken also briefly discussed Workplace Flexibility and Leave Benefits, and Tax and Benefit Issues in his talk.

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