Labor Policy, the Real Trump Agenda Has Yet to Start

Labor Policy, the Real Trump Agenda Has Yet to Start


"Up to now, Trump's labor policy, understood in the sense of union relations and industrial policy, has not been dictated by any agenda, but rather by the desire to cut back on what Obama had done". Davide Zecca, Professor of Public Law and Constitutional Law, reinforces the analysis by recalling some of the cases in which the presidency has intervened in relations between employers and employees, either soliciting measures from the Department of Labor or shaping the composition of federal courts and agencies with his own appointments.

"Through an administrative regulation, for example, Trump has reformed the Overtime Rule, the norm  that regulates overtime pay and indicates the wage threshold beyond which it is not due: in 2004 Bush had set it at $455 a week, Obama had increased it to $913 in his first term, but his decision was brought to courts and now the threshold is set at $684. As for Trump's direct influence on the Supreme Court, I am thinking of the Janus v. AFSCME ruling in which the justice appointed by the White House, Neil Gorsuch, was decisive in defining for public employees the non-legitimacy of deductions on wages to pay for union dues in the case of unregistered members".
There are also cases of interventions to reshape quasi-judicial bodies, such as the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board. "We can recall, in recent times, the SuperShuttle case that has reclassified workers in the gig economy as "contractors", thus depriving them of the protections afforded by status of employees", continues the academic.

The current job crisis falls into this context; Congress has responded by approving the CARES Act, which includes various measures to support the unemployed (for example, the duration of unemployment benefits has been extended to 39 weeks). "The behavior of the Trump administration in recent weeks has alternated popular interventions, such as the $600 federal weely subsidy paid to a large swath of the population, and more questionable ones, such as the decision to suspend the visa program for foreign workers until the end of December”, explains Zecca. “All this acting mainly in an indirect manner rather than with explicit Congressional provisions, also in order not to compromise too much the relationship with the many voters among the blue collars. If he were to be re-elected, however, I expect Trump's action to become more proactive and take the form of a real agenda".

by Emanuele Elli


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