Anyone trying to read the tea-leaves of the recent elections might want to take a step back and slow down before predicting how they will impact American manufacturers in 2015. The recent, dramatic drop in oil prices may have had a positive impact on the manufacturing sector, but could not have been predicted just a few months ago when the price per barrel of crude oil dropped from $100 to under $80. So too, the confusing results from recent elections make future predictions difficult.
Republicans may have taken control of Congress, but the Obama Administration’s agencies still aggressively seek to “change” the legal backdrop. The EEOC, NLRB, DOL, OSHA and OFCCP (the “Alphabet Agencies”) continue to explore increased workplace oversight and regulation. One could justifiably wonder who will “win” the inevitable “tug of war” between a pro-labor administration and a pro-business legislative branch, especially when no one seems to be exploring compromise.
And, while it may be an “easy call” to claim 2015 will only result in stalemate, at least on the state and local level, “status quo” is not a certainty. While voters sent the GOP to Washington with new majorities, those same voters increased and complicated employment regulations on the state and local level. Voters overwhelmingly voted to increase the hourly minimum wage in four “conservative” or “red” states (Alaska — $8.75; Arkansas — $7.50; Nebraska — $8.00; and South Dakota — $8.50) and two “liberal” or “blue” cities (San Francisco and Oakland — $12.25). Voters also approved an “advisory” minimum wage increase in Illinois ($10.00). One state (Massachusetts) and three cities (Trenton, and Montclair, New Jersey and Oakland, California) approved paid sick leave laws, bringing the number of jurisdictions with mandatory paid sick leave up to 19. Two states (Alaska and Oregon) and the District of Columbia voted to approve the use of recreational marijuana, bringing the number of states permitting the use of recreational or medical marijuana to a solid majority.
The success of these ballot initiatives may either be a “flash in the pan” or a roadmap for more ballot measures in 2015. For this employment lawyer, I will predict only that I’ll need to get some more popcorn for this show.
Links to relevant ballot initiatives:
Minimum wage laws: http://www.hr-headaches.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2014/11/map.jpg.
Sick Leave Laws:
Alaska: http://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/sb/14GENR/HD1-JD4-GEN14-SP.pdf (sample ballot with ballot question); http://www.elections.alaska.gov/results/14GENR/data/results.htm (election results)
Oregon: http://voteyeson91.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/053text.pdf (ballot question); http://gov.oregonlive.com/election (election results)
District of Columbia: http://dcmj.org/ballot-initiative/