The election of businessman Donald J. Trump as U.S. president promises to bring about change in Washington.
What that change will look like and how it will bear on the sheet metal industry is hard to predict, but studying Trump’s statements during his campaign provides some clues on the shift in strategy.
The Affordable Care Act
President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement was a focal point for criticism by Trump during his campaign. Trump stated he would seek to repeal Obamacare entirely and also stated he may amend the act. While he has not provided complete details, the remarks he has given suggest he would be pushing a plan that allows health insurance to be sold across state lines, expands access to health savings accounts and creates more competition for prescription drugs. Much remains to be seen about how Trump will manage what is sure to be one of the highest priorities on his list.
Obama implemented many of his policies through executive orders, particularly in labor and employment. These include the rules on “fair pay and safe workplaces,” or the so-called blacklisting rule, which obligates contractors on government projects to report violations of 14 federal laws found by administrative agencies and courts. It also includes rules that require contractors to provide employees with paid sick leave. Trump previously said that he would repeal “every single Obama executive order.”
The Labor Department’s rule, effective Dec. 1, 2016, requires employers to pay time-and-a-half to salaried employees earning up to $47,476 annually or $913 per week -— more than double the current threshold. Between the effective date and inauguration, employers are generally either raising salaries for some workers to above the overtime threshold or limiting employees to no more than 40 hours a week.
While Trump hasn’t made any specific comments on the rule, 21 state attorneys general — all but one led by Republican governors — have filed a legal challenge to block the rule from taking effect.
Editor’s note: On Nov. 22, 2016, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction, preventing the rule from going into effect.
The National Labor Relations Board currently only has three members out of five available seats, so Trump will be able to appoint two new members immediately. In keeping with the business-friendly approach Trump expressed during the campaign, he is expected to immediately fill those seats with employer-friendly nominees. However, that process is complicated somewhat by the NLRB’s general counsel, Richard Griffin, whose term does not expire until November.
Trump has emphasized that rebuilding public infrastructure will be one of his highest priorities. In his Nov. 9 victory speech, Trump said: “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”
Once the new administration’s cabinet is filled out, it will likely offer a better sense of what to expect. But until then, it’s all just a guess.
Attorney Michael McNally is a shareholder with the Minneapolis law firm Felhaber Larson and practices in the areas of labor law and employee benefits, with extensive experience in the construction industry. He is labor council for the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.