Labor Relations

US Department of Labor headquarters sign

The issue

Since President Trump took office, the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board have rolled back pro-union policies adopted under former President Obama. Both have reversed an expanded definition of “joint employer” that exposed independent companies to seemingly limitless liability and increased lawsuits over labor disputes. Federal overtime rules have been modernized in a reasonable manner after a U.S. District Court judge struck down Obama-era regulations that would have greatly increased the number of workers who must be paid time and a half when working more than 40 hours a week. In addition, the NLRB has reversed a ruling that allowed creation of “micro-unions,” and has significancy revised regulations that allowed “ambush” union organizing elections to take place with little warning to employers.

NRF welcomed the moves as “restoring common sense” to rules governing workplaces. However, legislation has been introduced that would broadly expand the power of the NLRB and codify both the Obama-era joint employer definition and other initiatives put forward by organized labor. NRF has told Congress the Protecting the Right to Organize Act supports “radical proposals that have been rejected by the courts, the agencies charged with administering them and/or Congress.” The PRO Act is not expected to become law, but NRF is working to ensure that the sweeping measure is defeated.

Other labor issues include state and local laws limiting flexibility in retail scheduling, flawed SEC pay ratio regulations, and long-stalled efforts at immigration reform.

Why it matters to retailers

store employee stocking shelves

Faced with years of declining membership in strongholds such as manufacturing, union leaders have targeted traditionally non-union industries. Among them is retail, where only about 5 percent of employees are union members. Both the micro-union ruling and the ambush election regulations sought to make unionizing retail workers easier, the first by allowing unions to concentrate on smaller groups and the second by giving retailers less time to respond. The micro-union ruling also had the potential to make it difficult for retailers to move workers between stores or departments or cross-train them for different jobs. The expanded joint employer definition exposed companies to more lawsuits over labor disputes, potentially laying the groundwork for unionization attempts.

NRF advocates for balanced labor laws

NRF is a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which was formed to oppose anti-business and anti-worker labor laws, regulations and rulings that threaten job creation and economic growth. NRF supports workplace rules that promote workplace flexibility and economic growth, while opposing onerous policies that intrude on business operations, undermine employees’ privacy rights, and lead to unnecessary costs for retailers. NRF worked with the White House and Congress and in the courts to oppose the joint employer, ambush election and micro-union measures.

warehouse working moving a pallet of merchandise