Regulatory Wrap-Up: Weekly review of retail-related judicial, legislative developments – Sept. 10
Arkansas – A business-backed group, Arkansans for a Strong Economy, initiated a lawsuit challenging the validity of the signatures submitted to place an $11/hr minimum wage initiative on the Nov. ballot.
Michigan – The Michigan legislature considered and approved the ballot initiatives that would raise the minimum wage and require businesses in the state to provide paid leave. The action is a procedural move designed to give lawmakers the flexibility to amend the laws later. If the legislature rejected the bills then the measures would have proceeded to the ballot. If they had been approved by voters (as expected), the legislature would have needed a supermajority to amend the language; whereas, now lawmakers only need a simple majority. The minimum wage bill, as currently written, will increase the state minimum wage to $12/hr by 2022, eliminate the tip credit by 2024, introduce a youth wage as well as time and a half for work done beyond 40 hours per week.
Missouri – The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a DC-based non-profit, committed three million dollars to promoting passage of the minimum wage ballot initiative. The so-called dark money group has already provided a million dollars in funding to Raise Up Missouri.
San Jose, CA – The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals revived an employee’s suit against Marriott Inc. for unpaid wages. The case could impact several localities in California that have similar laws. At issue is a union opt-out provision that allows employers with union contracts that include benefits such as health care to pay less than the city’s minimum wage. The suit is filed as a potential class action seeking back pay for servers that were paid less than the established minimum wage.
St. Paul, MN – Following several months of study, the Citizen’s League submitted a 400+ page report to the city council outlining three recommendations for an ordinance to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15/hr. The three plans all arrive at $15/hr but over different time periods. Minnesota currently has no tip credit and two of the plans do not alter that. The third potential plan would install a tip credit at full-service restaurants that serve liquor, but only for a probationary period. The mayor, who opposes any exemptions and a tip credit, has asked the city council to work quickly so that he can sign the measure into law before the end of the year. The city council will meet Sept.12 to determine next steps.
Study – A UC-Berkeley study analyzed the effects of minimum wage policies on food-service workers in Chicago, DC, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. It found that cities which raised their hourly minimum wage above $10 enjoyed stronger economic growth.
Connecticut – The state labor department announced that it collected $4.9 million in fees and wage violations from employers during the course of the last fiscal year.
Michigan – As stated above, the Michigan legislature considered and approved the ballot initiatives that would raise the minimum wage and require businesses in the state to provide paid leave. The action is a procedural move designed to give lawmakers the flexibility to amend the laws later. If the legislature rejected the bills then the measures would have proceeded to the ballot. If they had been approved by voters (as expected), the legislature would have needed a supermajority to amend the language; whereas, now lawmakers only need a simple majority. The paid leave bill would require companies with ten or more employees to provide 72 hours of annual sick leave effective April 1, 2019.
New York – The governor announced his support for a bill, which has been approved by the legislature and awaits his signature, that would expand the existing paid family leave requirements to include up to ten weeks of bereavement leave. The leave could be used in the event of the death of a spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, parent-in-law, stepparent, grandparent or grandchild and is funded by a 0.126 percent payroll deduction from the employee.
General Mills – The manufacturer announced an expansion to its existing paid leave program for salaried and non-union U.S. production workers. Effective Jan. 2019, the company will offer up to twenty weeks of maternity leave, twelve weeks of paternity leave, two weeks of caregiving leave and four weeks of bereavement leave.
Federal – Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill requiring employers with at least 500 employees to cover the cost of government assistance programs (food stamps, public housing, etc.) on which their workers may rely. The bill has little chance of advancing but will provide an election-year platform on various wealth disparity issues. Senator Sanders named the bill the “Stop BEZOS Act” which stands for Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act and also attacks his latest symbol of corporate greed, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
NLRB – The National Labor Relations Board extended the deadline to Oct. 5 for public feedback on whether it should keep or revise the standard set forth in the 2014 ruling Purple Communications. The ruling opened the door for workers to use their employers’ email systems for union business.
Washington – Yes to Affordable Groceries (a coalition of retailers, unions and manufacturers) has successfully placed an initiative to preempt local sugar taxes on the Nov. ballot. If passed, the initiative would prevent future localities from taxing sugary beverages but would not nullify the existing Seattle ordinance.
Whole Foods – Several Whole Foods employees, backed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), sent an email to workers at 490 stores urging them to support an effort to unionize the grocer’s workforce. Whole Foods, once renowned for worker wages and benefit offerings above industry norms, has eliminated some policies such as offering stock options for entry-level employees since Amazon bought the company in 2017.
Federal – The Internal Revenue Service clarified that the general deductibility rule for businesses is unaffected by the proposed rulemaking regarding state and local tax deductions. The proposed rulemaking is in response to efforts of high income tax states to create charitable donation “work arounds” to the $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions for individuals. The IRS’s clarifying statement allows businesses to continue to deduct charitable donations above the $10,000 limit as allowed under existing state or local tax credit programs.
Portland, OR – An initiative qualified for the Nov. ballot that would impose a one percent gross receipts tax on businesses with more than $1 billion in national revenue and over $500,000 of revenue in the city. If passed, the initiative is expected to raise approximately $30 million per year to be spent as directed by a newly established committee to fund clean energy infrastructure projects and green jobs training for underserved communities. The initiative has yet to be given an official number as the city council could choose to enact the measure directly rather than sending it to the ballot.
California – The legislature advanced a technical corrections bill to the governor’s desk making changes to the landmark privacy law that was signed earlier this summer. Among other minor changes, the bill extends the effective date of the law from Jan. 1, 2020 to July 1, 2020 or six months after the attorney general adopts enforcement regulations, whichever occurs first. The governor is expected to sign the bill but industry advocates are likely to pursue additional changes during the next legislative session beginning in 2019.
- This week’s announcement by the CEOs of the major hotel chains regarding sexual harassment and worker safety – “The Five Star Promise” – is a landmark inflection point in the ongoing national narrative around the business community’s response to the #MeToo movement as well as employee protections in the workplace. As employers in and around the entry-level employment marketplace, especially in retail and now in lodging, make similar commitments to their employees, the restaurant industry will increasingly be isolated in the court of public opinion and employee relations.
- Congress has only a few legislative days remaining in the year in which to confirm a supreme court justice as well as finalize the budget process. In spite of that short window, a lot can still happen affecting operators. The budget process alone affords opportunities for riders affecting labor department regulations, technical corrections regarding tax depreciation and even potential action on joint employer. While long shots, anything and everything can happen in the final days of a budget resolution process and we need to stay vigilant to ensure our priorities can be addressed.
Legislature Status for Week of 9/10/18
- The United States Senate is in session this week
- The United States House is in session this week
- Three state legislatures are meeting actively this week:
- MA, NJ & PA
Check out our Working Lunch podcast each week that includes further analysis into these legislative issues, policy, politics and much more. You can find Working Lunch on the Nation’s Restaurant News website, or by clicking here, and when you download the podcast and subscribe on iTunes here.
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