Beltway Buzz, July 22, 2022
Respect for Marriage Act Advances. On July 20, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 267-157 to approve the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404). All Democrats and forty-seven Republicans voted in favor of the measure. The bill states: “No person acting under color of State law may deny full faith and credit to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State pertaining to a marriage between 2 individuals, on the basis of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of those individuals.” The fast-moving bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, where members of both parties are trying to figure out how they should respond. Will Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) find time in his cramped legislative agenda to schedule a vote? Five Republican senators have indicated early support for the bill—will five more colleagues join them? If so, this would provide the sixty votes necessary to defeat the legislative filibuster.
POTUS Establishes Emergency Board to Resolve Rail Disputes. After years of unsuccessful bargaining between certain rail carriers and labor unions, things have reached a tipping point, with both sides considering implementing work stoppages. Such a situation would obviously threaten further disruptions to troubled supply chains throughout the country. As a result, on July 15, 2022, President Biden signed an executive order establishing the presidential Emergency Board, which will be tasked with helping resolve the ongoing labor dispute. Authorized by the Railway Labor Act, the Emergency Board will now investigate the matter and make nonbinding recommendations for settlement within thirty days. Federal law prohibits the parties from engaging in shutdowns or strikes while the Emergency Board investigates and for the thirty days following its recommendation. This means that if the parties do not agree on new contract provisions (or to an extension of this cooling-off period) by September 16, 2022, they may engage in work stoppages.
NLRB and FTC Enter Partnership. On July 19, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) executed a memorandum of understanding to “promote fair competition and advance workers’ rights.” The memo follows through on a promise—discussed previously by the Buzz—that NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo made in February 2022 to enter into partnerships with federal agencies such as the FTC and the Internal Revenue Service. According to the memo, the new partnership will result in “enhanced coordination and cooperation” and will focus on the following issues:
Issues of common regulatory interest include labor market developments relating to the “gig economy” and other alternative work arrangements; claims and disclosures about earnings and costs associated with gig and other work; the imposition of one-sided and restrictive contract provisions, such as noncompete and nondisclosure provisions; the extent and impact of labor market concentration; the impact of algorithmic decisionmaking on workers; the ability of workers to act collectively; and the classification and treatment of workers.
The memo further states that the NLRB and FTC agree to participate in information sharing, cross-agency training, and coordinated outreach and education. The memo is in response to the interagency collaborations outlined in the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment report.
OSHA Spotlights Trench Hazards. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a warning reminding both employers and employees of the dangers associated with trenching and excavation work. In a recent announcement, OSHA notes that twenty-two workers died in trench-related accidents in the first half of 2022, compared to fifteen workers in all of 2021. As a result, OSHA promised to conduct more than 1,000 trench inspections nationwide in conjunction with its current National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.
Anti-NDA Bill on the Move. In June 2022, the House Committee on the Judiciary voted 22-13 to advance the Speak Out Act (H.R. 8227). The bill follows passage of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, and would prohibit predispute nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) relating to allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The legislation would apply to claims that are filed after enactment of the bill. The bill enjoys bipartisan support, as four Republicans voted in favor of the bill in committee, and Republican senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are original cosponsors of a companion bill in the Senate. Next steps for the bills are unclear. The legislative clock is ticking on the 117th Congress, and Democratic leaders will have to determine where this fits within their current legislative priorities.
Remembering Seneca Falls. The movement that paved the way for ratification of the 19th amendment (granting women the right to vote) in 1920 began 174 years ago this week. On July 19 and 20, 1848, approximately 300 attendees gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to “discuss the social, civil, and religious condition of woman.” Led by reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the two-day Seneca Falls meeting was the first women’s rights convention. The meeting resulted in the publication of the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, which made the argument that women should have “immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.” Inclusion of the right to vote in the document was very controversial but was ultimately included at the urging of Frederick Douglass, the only African-American attendee at the convention and publisher of North Star, the local abolitionist newspaper.