Mid-Term GOP Victories Bring Change to Employment Policy

Remember, remember, the 5th of November.  409 years ago today, a failed attempt to overthrow the British monarchy with copious amounts of gunpowder met with failure, and the conspirators enthusiastic resistance to government authority failed to change who was in charge.

Today, the day after mid-term elections, a more peaceful process (e.g. voting) has resulted in a change of whos in charge in the U.S. government, though with far less potential explosions or deaths. Victories by the Republican Party at the mid-term elections will shift the balance of power in Washington, leaving a lame-duck Democrat President with a Republican Congress for his last two years in office. With the change of the balance in power comes new friction over the future of U.S. workplace and employment policy.

Wall Street, and with it many large employers, views GOP gains as mostly a victory for big business. While issues like minimum wage and paid sick leave are no longer seen as necessarily partisan issues, the presumption that the Republican-led Congress will treat business interests more favorably remains. Labor unions fear further crackdowns on their actions, at a time when union membership is already at an all-time low level, while energy companies see greater potential for domestic production amid lower costs and regulation. Fresh debate about what protections are necessary for both union and non-union employees will arise, including which workers should be treated as employees vs independent contractors. In short, many of the age-old questions that arose when last a Republican president was at odds with a Democrat Congress will once again be part of the political debate for the next two years.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. For employers and employees alike, the next two years will see some changes in the relationship as Washington politicians attempt to exert influence. Debate about the future of Obamacare will drive changes to the law and its implementation, and labor unions will likely see a further fading of their influence in the 21s century. For most of us, the skirmishes in our nations capital are a world away, fought by people with agendas far different than the constituencies they are supposed to represent.

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