As has been our tradition, January is the time to predict the big developments in the coming year which will impact on manufacturers. Notwithstanding my “Lawyer’s Shrug,” here is my take on 2017.
Minimum Wages. Even though President Trump ran on a populist platform to raise wages for American Workers, I believe it unlikely Congress will raise the minimum wage in 2017 and I believe the Department of Labor will halt its efforts to revise upward the minimum salary threshold for white collar workers. I expect to see more states, however, raise the mandated minimum wage for hourly workers and (like the New York recent wage order) raise the salary threshold for exempt employees. These changes impact greatest on manufacturers with multi-state locations and in lower wage localities. Expect greater enforcement actions by state governments and the private plaintiffs’ bar.
The National Labor Relations Board. President Trump will likely nominate two Republican conservatives to fill vacant positions on the NLRB. Additional vacancies which arise during the next four years may be filled by either conservative Democrats or conservative unaffiliated or third party nominees. Expect to see the beginning of the roll-back on the pro-labor initiatives of the Obama-era. I do not expect to see a repeal of the NLRB’s “Quickie Election Rule” in 2017, although I would not be surprised if the amendment process was begun toward the middle or end of 2017. I just do not think there is enough time to complete the appointment and amendment process in the remaining eleven months.
Immigration. I do not expect Congress will provide any meaningful guidance on immigration. Expect at least some high-profile workplace “raids” to round up undocumented workers and substantial fines on the employers which have hired them.
Multi-Employer Pension Plans. Several multi-employer pension plans are expected to become insolvent in 2017. Under the current statutory scheme, once insolvent, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) assumes management of the fund and cuts benefits for all participants. As the first funds begin to fail, the PBGC will again warn Congress and the President that it does not have sufficient funds to cover the expected shortfall in subsequent years. My hope is that these events will cause Congress to revisit the impending crisis and develop a plan for the long term. While that may be my hope, I do not expect it to happen in 2017. Rather, I expect the Treasury Department to begin approving so-called “Rescue Plans” submitted under the 2014 Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act. (None of the plans to have been submitted under that law have been approved as of yet.)
I think these predictions are reasonably safe bets. That said, I can also safely predict that after the last eight years of the Obama Administration, the sudden change in governing philosophy will come with some unexpected surprises.