Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Annual Report of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class

The other day Vice President Biden's Task Force on the Middle Class issued its February 2010 Annual Report. If one could ever say with a straight face that a government-issued report makes interesting reading, this one does, not because it is great prose, but because it signals some of the directions in which this Administration is headed.

First, like the State of the Union Address, the report places emphasis on the enforcement of equal pay for women and, most particularly, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (Pub. Law No. 111-2). It makes no mention of the Paycheck Fairness proposed legislation (H.R. 11, S. 182) (see my paper on the topic here), but, as we get closer to the mid-term elections, you can bet that there will be a push for enactment of that legislation.

Second, the report genuflects to the Employee Free Choice Act, rather than recognizing what everyone else in this town knows, that is, it was dead on arrival. No mention made of the RESPECT Act (H.R. 1644, S. 969), but my guess is that that is where the action may be with an effort to tack it on to some other piece of legislation. The RESPECT Act would overrule the Supreme Court's decision in NLRB v. Kentucky River Community Care, Inc., 532 U.S. 706 (2001) , involving the definition of supervisors under the National Labor Relations Act. (See my legislative update paper for more information. Available here).

Third, the report talks about federal contract dollars "should not be awarded to irresponsible sources with unsatisfactory records of business ethics, including noncompliance with labor and employment, tax, fraud, and consumer protection laws." The report goes on to state that "substandard wages and benefits can have negative impacts on employees' productivity and stability", suggesting that there will shortly be recommendations to implement those ideas. This town has been abuzz (see Washington Post overage here and here) for about a week regarding rumors that the Administration is about to attempt to impose new wage and benefit requirements on federal contractors.

Fourth, the report places substantial emphasis on a major push by DOL to challenge misclassifications of employees as independent contractors (see my paper on the topic here).

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