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The Union Leader

News & Notes for Our Valued Clients

Unions-America.com January 2019

We hope 2019 has gotten off to a great start for all of our clients. We look forward to an exciting and productive New Year!

EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK - A longtime union issue, while never really having gone away, is nevertheless making a bit of a comeback in 2019. There is increasing momentum nationwide to revisit the issue of pay equity - the pay gap between men and women, and between white and minority employees.

Demanding a proactive pay analysis has long been a bargaining issue for unions, but non-unionized businesses are increasingly feeling the need to hit the issue head-on. Many states and municipalities have passed their own pay equity legislation in the past decade, most with more teeth than the federal law.

According to government statistics, while the pay equity gap has shrunk over the years, it still definitely exists. The most current numbers show, on average, U.S. women on average earn 80 cents per each dollar earned by men; that number is pretty much universally agreed upon. Different research and different studies show varying results for other minorities, with black women earning as little as 63 cents per dollar and Hispanic women as low as 54 cents.

Seeing possible loopholes in the federal government's "pay equity" definition, some states have moved to different models of "pay parity" legislation, which is more simply defined as showing there is no pay gap across an entire workforce. Here are three examples:

*        California - The 2016 Fair Pay Act adopted an expanded "substantially similar" standard.

*        Massachusetts - The 2018 Pay Equity Act uses simple language that makes it unlawful for employers to pay men and women different rates for "comparable work."

*        Oregon - A statewide pay parity act, passed in 2017 and updated for 2019, requires that "work of comparable character be equally rewarded."

While it is illegal to reduce men's wages to achieve pay equity/parity, there is an inherent challenge for unions when employers deem some positions are to be "red circled," or frozen, to allow for others to catch up. Such instances require creative expertise at the bargaining table.

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LOOKING AHEAD FOR LABOR - The year 2018 brought us the Janus decision, which essentially rescinded "fair share" payments by non-union members. What monsters are lurking for organized labor in 2019? There are two issues expected to be addressed by President Trump sometime in March that will cause heartburn for union members.

*        Overtime - Late last year, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced his department would revisit the Obama administration's expansion of the number of workers covered by the federal overtime rule - those working over 40 hours per week. Obama said the rule covered any employee who makes up to $47,000 annually, more than twice the level under previous administrations.

The Obama administration's interpretation was challenged in court in Texas, and has been in a type of no-man's-land for two years. The Trump administration is expected to reinterpret the cut-off level below Obama's $47,000 level, although it is unclear where exactly the new level will be set. Trump contends the Obama administration put it too high, although Acosta did tell Congress the old level of $23,000 had not kept pace with the economy, so some increase is expected.

*        Workplace Violations - Trump is also expected to direct Acosta to rewrite the rules on when a company can be considered a "joint employer" with another and accordingly be held legally liable for workplace violations. This is especially a big issue to large corporations with franchises - think McDonald's, for example. The Obama rules changed the legal standard from "direct control" to "indirect control." Trump intends to revert back to the "direct control" model.

These setbacks are occurring because Obama didn't (or couldn't) pass legislation to enact the changes; he simply did an end-run around Congress through the federal rule-making process. Trump will now do the same to reverse course, especially considering the 2018 mid-term elections put the U.S. House back in firm Democrat control. The future of these and other labor-related rules will likely hinge on the 2020 presidential election.   

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TECHNOLOGY TRENDS - Every new year brings out list after list of various "experts" predicting what the latest and greatest technology will be, and 2019 is no different. Here are three that seem to have general agreement, no matter who's doing the prognosticating:

The Year of 5G - Nobody seems to much remember 1G or 2G. We sort of remember it was a big deal when 3G came out, and then 4G came along. 2019 should see the advent of 5G on virtually every platform and device. The tekkie people in your union, your family and/or your friend circle will gush about download speeds and milliseconds. For most of us, 5G just means that, all things being equal, stuff will download and display quicker than ever on your computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.

AI Marches On - Artificial Intelligence, AI for short, will become more common in every phase of our lives. While AI is obvious in things like the super-computer Watson, or "help" devices like Alexa or Siri, it will also cause a significant 2019 surge in electric cars, with an eye on further developing self-driving cars. Despite the hefty price tag, Tesla had a great year in 2018. This year, Audi, Aston-Martin, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche will all debut fully electric cars. Those are all luxury cars, so yeah, they'll be expensive. But there will be other models creeping toward mass market affordability - at least relatively speaking. The Mini E and Volvo XC40 models will be under $50,000. Tesla will debut a Model 3 base car at around $35,000, and Volkswagen has an e-Golf coming this year with a $30,000 price tag.

8K is Coming … Though You May Not Notice - Much like our discussion of 5G above, 8K resolution television becomes a reality this year. 8K comes with some interesting factors, however. The consensus is that you won't notice much of a difference unless you're viewing a screen of over 70 inches. Yes, those are coming - in fact, Samsung will soon debut a 98-inch "home" TV. But perhaps the more interesting note about 8K is that many industry experts expect 8K to be the final leap, so to speak. Whereas everyone assumes that we'll eventually see 6G and 7G, etc. for computing-related devices, the human eye simply can't perceive any greater detail or clarity than 8K. As one TV industry insider put it, "This is it, there will be no great race to 16K or 32K." That also means if you wait a couple of years, 8K TVs will drop in price dramatically as they become the standard.

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CONTACT US - Our customer service center is always ready to assist you. We have professional support staff trained to get you answers and/or help you through an issue as quickly as possible. E-mail us at support@UnionActive.com or call (888) 248-5557, Ext. 3.

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PRODUCT FEATURE - The start of the New Year is a very good time to think about your Unions-America website. Here in the 21st Century, your website is truly the front door to your union. While the best union organizing will always be person-to-person contact, the reality is potential members interested in your union are going to look at your website as their initial introduction. It's also the gateway to your union for the general public and the media. Take a look at your website and try to envision it as a first-time visitor would. Is it welcoming? Well-organized? Is it "responsive" - the technical term meaning does it automatically scale to the correct proportional size for any device (computer, laptop, phone screen, etc.)? Have you upgraded to our latest version?

We can help you with these questions and many more. Don't be afraid to call or send an email (see Contact Us above) even if you're not having a particular problem. We can do a website walk-through with you and suggest changes and improvements, and double-check to see that you're using our best and most powerful technology. We're here to make your Unions-America website the best and most powerful communications tool possible!

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