As we turn the calendar page to January 1st, 2012, we look ahead to a year that will be dominated by details to the U.S. Presidential Election campaigns. It appears the President Obama will face a serious challenge from the Republican candidate, most likely Mitt Romney and the economy will be the key issue.
What is fortunate from the human resources perspective is that the campaign and current Congressional impasse suggests that no new or radical labor law changes will take place in 2012. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a major case affecting the Health Reform Act or “Obama care” during the year and will likely focus on whether the new law’s requirement that all Americans buy health insurance is constitutional.
No major element of law becomes effective during 2012 so there won’t be much to
change if the Supreme Court invalidates Obamacare.
The Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Democrats control the Senate and each side is firmly determined not to yield any political advantages to the other that might affect the Presidential campaign. Since it’s unlikely more liberal labor laws will be created, President Obama has decided to pursue his vision of reform through the various government agencies.
For example, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted 2-1 in November, 2011 to pass a measure to speed the union representation process to 21 days.
That means that once a union presents authorization signatures authorizing an election, a company only has 21 days to challenge signatures, argue over the appropriate bargaining unit and organize its own union-free campaign. Critics argue that this new expedited election process strongly helps union organizing efforts.
As a response to this NLRB action, the House of Representatives voted twice to limit the NLRB’s power. President Obama remains undeterred and proposed 2 new candidates for the NLRB’s empty seats, both pro-labor Democrats. Given the stalemate in Congress, it’s unlikely either candidate will be confirmed by the Republicans and if not, the board will be rendered powerless as it needs at least 3 members to legally rule on labor issues.
So, 2012 is shaping up as a year when all attention will shift to the Presidential race with the winner, either Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney, determining labor policy for the next 4 years. If the economy recovers sufficiently and no crises emerge, Mr. Obama will be back at work in early 2013 promoting more ways to ‘share the wealth’ between management and employees, or between the wealthiest 1% of society vs. the other 99%. It’s ironic that the political impasse resulting in President Obama’s inability to pass liberal labor legislation may actually give him 4 more years to put pressure on management.