BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube April 11, 2014




U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, the newly appointed U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee member, on Thursday signed off on H.R. 4320, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, and H.R. 4321, the Employee Privacy Protection Act.


The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced by House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., addresses the National Labor Relations Board's "ambush election" rule, which drastically shortened the waiting period for employers to react to the filing for a union election and the election itself.


In June of 2011, the NLRB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to significantly change decades of procedures that govern union elections, Kline said. The NLRB's proposal will allow employers just seven days to find legal counsel and prepare their entire case for a pre-election hearing before an NLRB election officer; give workers as few as 10 days to consider the consequences of joining a union before the vote; severely limit an employer's ability to raise additional issues or concerns throughout the pre-election hearing process; and, require employers to provide to the union intrusive information about their employees, including home or cell phone numbers, personal email addresses, and work schedules.


In August of 2011, the board also adopted a new standard for determining which group or "unit" of employees will vote in the union election. This would make it almost impossible for anyone to challenge the bargaining unit chosen by the union and will serve to divide employees and raise an employer's labor costs.


The Employee Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Representative Phil Roe, R-Tenn., gives workers more control over the disclosure of their personal contact information to the NLRB for the purposes of a union election, protecting the privacy of workers and their families, Byrne said.

"Having represented employers in union elections for many years in the private sector, I know firsthand the importance of preserving the balance between workers and employers in the workplace," Byrne said. "The NLRB's 'ambush election' rule represents nothing less than a direct assault on this delicate balance, tossing aside decades of negotiations and precedent. It impedes employers from being able to fully voice their concerns in a union election and allows the NLRB to collect sensitive and private data from workers without their consent."

The Business Council of Alabama in its 2014 Federal Legislative Agenda pledged to monitor efforts of the NLRB with respect to unionization.


Roby's Committee Move Creates Opening for Byrne


U.S. Rep. Martha Roby's departure from the House Education and Workforce Committee opened a spot for the newest member of Alabama's congressional delegation. Roby, R-Montgomery, left the committee in December and joined the House Appropriations Committee.


Byrne, joined the committee this week. It has jurisdiction over federal education and labor policy. Byrne has a strong background in education policy.  


"As a former member of the State Board of Education and chancellor of the Alabama community college system, I have seen firsthand how good education policy supports our students' progress, and how the federal government's intrusions can hamper their success," he said.


"His experience, knowledge, and leadership will be invaluable as the committee continues its work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, strengthen early childhood programs and protect the rights of workers and employers," Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said in a statement.


Byrne also serves on the Armed Services and Natural Resources committees.



Federal contractors must now submit wage and salary data by race and gender to the Labor Department under a presidential memo released Tuesday. The data could be used as the basis for civil and criminal prosecution of violations of equal pay laws, Federal Times reported.


President Barack Obama's executive order prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss compensation. The order does not compel workers to discuss their pay or require employers to publicly release pay data, according to an unnamed official quoted by Federal Times.


President Obama jumped ahead of Congress this week while it considered the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would significantly expand the reach of pay equity laws and make it much more difficult for employers to justify legitimate pay differences.  


On Tuesday, Senate Republicans filibustered the bill after complaining Democrats were not allowing votes on their amendments. 


Obama on Tuesday said an "embarrassment" in America is the fact that women make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. A study released in January showed that female Obama White House staff members make on average 88 cents for every dollar a male staff member earns, the New York Times reported.


The BCA's 2014 federal legislative agenda includes opposition to efforts of the administration and federal departments/agencies with respect to overregulation and overreach as it relates to tracking and record keeping requirements of developing affirmative action plans.



U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, praised the U.S. Commerce Department for upholding fair-pricing rules on Vietnamese catfish that declared Indonesia as a surrogate pricing country. Alabama has more than 5,800 direct jobs in the catfish industry, creates $158 million for the economy, and produces more than 100 million pounds of catfish annually. Alabama's catfish industry complies with U.S. health, environmental, and consumer protection standards.


In March 2013, Sessions led the effort which resulted in a Commerce Department decision to use Indonesia as a surrogate country for Vietnam to best calculate the price-per-pound of frozen fish fillets. That subjected Vietnamese imports to appropriate and reasonable standards to ensure domestic catfish producers would not be victims of unfair pricing, Sessions said.


In March 2014, Sessions wrote the Commerce Department secretary urging her to uphold the last administrative review and maintain Indonesia as the surrogate country for Vietnam in determining fair price for catfish imports from non-market economies.


"I am pleased that the Commerce Department's administrative review has upheld their previous finding that Indonesia is an appropriate surrogate country for pricing Vietnamese catfish," Sessions said. "Before this surrogacy was established, Vietnam was able to skirt the rules of fair trade and underprice its goods resulting in enormous harm to the U.S. catfish industry. Much more needs to be done to ensure our workers in Alabama can compete on a level playing field, but this is a move in the right direction."


Congress has 75 working days to pass three things this year 

Washington Post (O'Keefe 4/4) "[April 4] marks the 41st day this year that either the House or Senate has been in session. The House plans to vote quickly Friday morning on a spending bill and head home for another weekend. The Senate is already celebrating its long weekend.


"The two chambers will maintain a schedule of working three full days a week for three consecutive weeks before a week-long recess all the way until August, when lawmakers are scheduled to break for the month and return for just a few days in the fall ahead of Election Day.


"Congress is going to need to do something by the end of the summer to replenish the rapidly dwindling Highway Trust Fund, which gets most of its money from the federal gas tax and provides money for major road construction projects. By the end of September, lawmakers also must pass a new budget for the new fiscal year. A law that provides federal support for insurance policies to cover large-scale loss due to acts of terrorism expires by the end of the year.

"Bottom line: As if this wasn't already evident to anyone keeping tabs, Democrats running the Senate and Republicans running the House plan to do very little to rock the political boat until Election Day. Very little legislation - only the things that must-pass - will find its way to the Oval Office for President Obama's signature. Ambitious, bipartisan legislation will just have to wait until after the elections."

Senate Democrats press Obama to give Keystone the green light soon

The Hill (Barron-Lopez 4/10) "A group of Senate Democrats is urging President Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline by the end of next month, saying the process 'has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify'. The letter spearheaded by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who faces a tough reelection bid this year, requests that Obama set a hard deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry to make his national interest determination.


"The senators also press Obama to set a timeline for himself and to make a final decision on the pipeline by May 31. That deadline would give Obama a few weeks to decide the fate of Keystone, which would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf refineries. Right now, the State Department is winding down its interagency review, which is expected to wrap up in early May. Kerry would then need to make his recommendation to Obama, leaving the rest to him.


"'We need a definitive timeline laid out, a timeline that reduces the comment period for federal agencies, officials and other entities. A timeline that requires Secretary Kerry to present you with his national interest determination shortly after the comment and consultation period ends. This decision must not drag on into the summer'," the letter sent to the White House Thursday morning states.

"'This process has been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope', the 11 Democrats wrote. 'It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify. This is an international project that will provide our great friend and ally Canada, a direct route to our refineries'."

Jobs act success highlighted in Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal (Case 4/4) The impact of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which Congressman Spencer Bachus, Vestavia Hills, helped guide into law during his chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, was highlighted April 4 in a Wall Street Journal column by AOL co-founder Steve Case, now a venture capitalist. The JOBS Act was signed into law on April 12, 2012, after receiving broad bipartisan support in the House and Senate. The intent of the legislation was to help small companies and entrepreneurs start up new businesses, access financing, and create jobs, said Bachus, who was House Financial Services Committee chairman from 2011-2012.


"The legislation has three central provisions. The first makes it easier to launch and back startups through the use of crowdfunding. The second allows venture-capital firms and others seeking investment to make 'general solicitations' - appeals via mass media, or social media - to potential investors. The third is called the 'IPO on-ramp'. This provision makes it easier for a company to go public, in part by allowing its owners to make less onerous 'disclosures'.

"Taking companies public matters for the economy, not just for the owners and investors. The success of the JOBS Act provides three lessons for Washington policy makers polarized by ideology and hidebound in their attitudes toward policy innovation. The JOBS Act is making it easier to take companies public, where they can grow. Once the SEC finishes rule-making for crowdfunding and general solicitation, the public's participation will also increase. But perhaps the JOBS Act's greatest contribution will be if it provides a model to tackle other hard problems, with innovation, compromise and courage." 

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