Deciphering Obama’s Views Toward Employer Compliance

Barack Obama has not yet been sworn in as President of the United States, but the past two months have revealed a great deal about his attitudes toward federal governance.  In fact, the histrionics emerging from the Republican camp during the final weeks before the election have made his pragmatic choices so far rather, well, boring.  So those on the left are complaining that he’s doing too little to change the status quo while those on the right remain fearful of what happens when he takes office.  The only ones who seem to be winning in the guessing game are the gun dealers, who are selling a LOT of guns.

So what can we expect from Mr. Obama as far as corporate enforcement, compliance, prosecution of labor violations, etc?  Well, he hasn’t said exactly, but here is the complete, verbatim excerpt under the topic of “labor” from the new Administration’s published economic agenda (Obama/Biden Labor Policy Comments )…you decide for yourself…


Obama and Biden will strengthen the ability of workers to organize
unions. He will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Obama and Biden will ensure that his labor appointees support workers’
rights and will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking
workers. Obama and Biden will also increase the minimum wage and index
it to inflation to ensure it rises every year.

  • Ensure freedom to unionize: Obama and Biden
    believe that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join
    a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Obama
    cosponsored and is a strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act
    (EFCA), a bipartisan effort that makes sure workers can exercise their
    right to organize. They will continue to fight for EFCA’s passage and
    Obama will sign it into law.
  • Fight attacks on workers’ right to organize: Obama
    has fought the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) efforts to
    strip workers of their right to organize. He is a cosponsor of
    legislation to overturn the NLRB’s “Kentucky River” decisions
    classifying hundreds of thousands of nurses, construction workers, and
    professional workers as “supervisors” who are not protected by federal
    labor laws.
  • Protect striking workers: Obama and Biden support
    the right of workers to bargain collectively and strike if necessary.
    They will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, so
    workers can stand up for themselves without worrying about losing their

  • Raise the minimum wage:
    Barack Obama and Joe Biden
    will raise the minimum wage, index it to inflation and increase the
    Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers earn a
    living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic

I support Obama with enthusiasm, but even I recognize that the decision to address the topic in this fashion has Fortune 500 CEOs squirming and GCs sweating.  This official policy preamble, combined with the public outrage over the Wall Street/Detroit bailout efforts, leave little doubt that in the minds of both the majority of Americans AND in the Obama administration…the bad guys are the corporations.
So what can companies do to prepare?  Here’s my short list of suggestions, based upon 20 years of witnessing the chaos of what we collectively describe as “federal corporate compliance”:

  • Companies which have not already done so MUST initiate internal self-audits in the areas of I-9, SSN, EEO, and collective bargaining policy ASAP.  The warning shots have been fired by the “pro-business” Republicans for the last 4 years and as Tyson can tell you, some have not been warnings.  The Obama Administration is indebted to the egalitarian/”working man” population which led to its election and vilifying corporate America via strict enforcement will be their version of the Bush Administration’s efforts to show how “tough on immigration” it was by separating families.
  • “Inventory” audits which merely bring things up to speed are worthless without the technological and operational tools to insure compliance becomes ingrained in the corporate culture.  Companies must not only invest in new technologies and compliance teams but their leadership needs to stop looking at compliance as a tangential pain in the neck and view it for what it has become…as critical to the bottom line as production of goods and services
  • States will be emboldened by tightened federal enforcement and national employers will need to keep tabs on the state laws most seem to ignore.
  • In an era of great change where virtually 100% of U.S. employers are unable to fully comply with the myriad federal laws affecting their workforce management, the watchwords for avoiding sanctions are “good faith”.  Companies which move to comply and bend with the new administration’s inevitable policy changes will be spared; those with their heads in the sand will see their heads roll.  Period.

Bottom line: my Nostradamus-like dire warnings for this past year seem to be validated by what is happening in Washington.  If your company is serious about meeting these challenges with the best compliance planning possible, contact Terry Madden at 1-8… or email me at It’s time to get busy, folks.