Trump administration and congressional GOP will return to a packed schedule, but maintain attack on working people

Congress returns from a month-long recess next week to a packed agenda. Lawmakers must pass a government spending bill by September 30 in order to avert a federal government shutdown.  They must also increase the debt ceiling or risk defaulting on the national debt. In spite of Republican control in both chambers of Congress, action on these critical measures is complicated by divisions within the party over whether to tie the debt limit vote to spending cuts. Funding for President Trump’s border wall and the need to consider disaster relief funding for those areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey loom over any government spending measure. One thing is clear—September is likely to be filled with congressional chaos. In the midst of that chaos, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans will continue to advance the anti-worker agenda they have been working to carry-out since taking office. While those actions may not get attention proportional to their impact, EPI will continue to monitor and report on these important issues. Here are some critical actions to look out for this month:

Trump continues to attack workers’ retirement, costing them billions in retirement savings

Just this week, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a proposal to delay full implementation of the fiduciary rule (the rule that requires financial advisers to act in the best interest of their clients) for another 18 months. This delay would cost retirement-savers 10.9 billion over the next 30 years. Public comments on the proposal are due September 15. It is expected that DOL will quickly finalize this delay. Workers should be able to invest for retirement without worrying about their financial advisers steering them toward investments that pay a lower rate of return for the saver, but offer a higher commission to the adviser. The only people who will benefit from the Trump administration’s DOL actions here are unscrupulous financial advisers and financial services companies.

Trump continues efforts to take away the rights of millions of workers to get paid for working overtime  

The Trump administration has refused to fully implement and enforce a rule that went into effect on December 1, 2016 that updated the overtime salary threshold, significantly increasing the number of people who qualify for overtime pay. The new rule protects any worker making less than $47,476, including salaried managers or professionals. On July 25, 2017, the Trump administration filed a “request for information” in an effort to weaken the updated overtime rule. Public comments on the proposal are due September 25. By opening this request for information, the Trump administration is trying to take away the ability of millions of hard working Americans to get overtime pay or more time with their families.

On Thursday, Federal District Judge Mazzant issued a ruling declaring the updated rule invalid. Unsupported by the record, Judge Mazzant held that the department does not have the authority to set a salary threshold so high that it “will effectively eliminate the duties test.” This ruling is deeply flawed and undermines the rights of working people to get paid for their time on the job. If the Trump administration truly wanted to help working people,  it could appeal the decision and defend the rule and the 12.5 million working people whose rights to overtime hang in the balance.

Trump delays silica rule putting workers at continued risk of lung disease

On April 6, 2017, the Trump administration delayed enforcement of a rule that limited permissible exposure of workers to respirable crystalline silica in the construction industry. DOL was supposed to enforce the rule in June 2017, but delayed enforcement until September 23. This delay hurts the roughly 2 million construction workers who are exposed to silica dust in their workplaces.

Congress continues to advance agenda that reduces workers’ wages and rights

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is scheduled to hold a hearing on September 6 on “The Sharing Economy: Creating Opportunities for Innovation and Flexibility.” The hearing comes after the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint this week against a “sharing economy” company Handy Technologies, Inc., alleging that the workers who perform cleaning services are employees in spite of the company’s classification as independent contractors. The classification deprives workers of numerous labor and employment rights including the right to join a union and bargain collectively.

September is likely to be a hectic month for Congress and the administration. Significant legislative deadlines loom large. The Perkins Project Policy Watch will continue to track any developments.

We have a redesigned site featuring a complete inventory of all actions by the Trump administration, Congress, and federal agencies that affect working people and the economy. Our team of economists and labor lawyers assess these actions to determine if they help working people or benefit the wealthy few. The record thus far is alarming.