Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Human Resources and the Mid-Term Election

Today is Election Day!!! After today, we will no longer be bombarded with political ads slinging mud right out of our TV sets. After today, most of the nightly news will go back to the typical and sensationalist news of the day. I really won’t miss the political mudslinging, but election season is always an exciting time in my mind.

Regardless of political stripe, persuasion, or philosophy, it’s a great time to check the pulse of the nation and determine if we are on the right course or if, as a nation, we need a course correction. And today’s election should prove to be more spell binding and exciting than the typical mid-term election.

All the news is a twitter with election coverage, and every pundit is pontificating and speculating as to the future composition of the House and Senate. At the risk of alienating our significant non-American readership, here today we take a passing glance at the American Election.

SystematicHR (at least Donald Glade) will remain neutral and unbiased (I can’t speak for Double Dubs). I will, however, color the election in terms of Human Resources.

As I said earlier, regardless of your political leaning, we can all recognize differing approaches to HR issues between the Parties. Clearly, these issues will not sway most people’s votes given the reality and gravity of today’s larger issues, but let’s take a look at them here.

Some of the issues at play in the current election that could affect the HR professional’s job include:
  • Social Security reform – reduced benefits, later retirement, private accounts, increased taxes, SS wage base are all potentially in play.
  • Medicare prescription drug coverage – the last legislation passed has cost the government much more than anticipated; a Democratic controlled Congress would surely take this on.
  • Minimum wage legislation – with the Federal minimum wage not changed in nearly 10 years, the parties have been fighting over this issue for a while now. With individual states also having the right to set minimums above the federal level, six states (Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio) also have state minimum wage increases on the ballot today.
  • Union regulation – legislation could be introduced making unionization easier to achieve
  • Ergonomics regulation – Only 60 days after taking office, President Bush signed a repeal of ergonomic regulations which were to become effective October 15, 2001, dooming office workers across the country to wrist and back pain. No, seriously, this was some pretty comprehensive OSHA stuff that the Democrats would love to get back. Check it out: “ergonomic legislation” gets 682 hits on The Google!
  • FMLA expansion – all sorts of tinkering with the FMLA has been discussed. Keep an eye out!
  • FLSA regulation – The Democrats were generally unhappy with the final regulations published by the DOL in 2004, and may bring it up if given a chance.
  • Health care reform – On EVERYONE’s list in some fashion whether it’s through universal health care, health care pooling, or Health Savings Accounts, we will definitely be hearing about it when Congress reconvenes; but can anyone get legislation passed in this contentious arena?
There are plenty of issues to which both parties can attach themselves. There are differing perspectives, proposals and outcomes depending upon which party will control Congress.

I have no illusion that HR issues will sway the electorate, but I encourage all of you to educate yourselves on the options and approaches of both of the parties, and write your representatives to let them know how you, the HR professional, feel about these issues. You’ll feel good about yourself while fulfilling your civic duty.
And remember: Vote Early, Vote Often!

About the authorDonald Glade is President and Founder of Sourcing Analytics, Inc., an independent consulting firm specializing in helping companies optimize their HR / benefits / payroll service partnerships through relationship management, financial analysis, and process improvement.

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