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Local Legislation to Watch

  • May 12, 2017


It’s critical to keep up with local legislation.

President Trump can influence, but certainly can’t control, issues and legislation at the state and local level.  Local issues rose in importance during the Obama administration, when gridlock in Washington forced states and cities to address minimum wage, scheduling, paid family leave, and overtime legislation.

National Pay Issues are Local Issues

Here’s a story about how a national minimum wage proposal played out at a local level.

In February 2014, President Obama proposed a national minimum wage of $10.10/hour and signed an Executive Order that required this new minimum wage for federal contractors. Federal contractors became subject to the $10.10/hour minimum wage on January 1, 2015.

In April 2014, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was up for re-election. An alderman from the south side of Chicago, who was previously a community organizer and had SEIU backing him, pushed Emanuel into a runoff. Shortly thereafter, Emanuel ran on a platform of a $13/hour minimum wage for the city.

Similarly, mayors in Kansas City and St. Louis both unveiled new minimum wage issues to avoid having a primary run from the left of the party. Both cities now have $15/hour minimum wages. In New York, Bill de Blasio won as an SEIU candidate. Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges used to be against a local minimum wage increase, and preferred a state or regional minimum wage. But she changed her position and is now speaking at Fight for $15 rallies to win re-election.

The Fight for $15 won’t be going away anytime soon. Nineteen major cities have mayoral campaigns around this issue in 2017. And although the 2016 election is in the history books, don’t forget that every minimum wage ballot measure passed in the last election. As of today, every major metropolitan area and 29 states have minimum wage laws that exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Paid Leave Expansion/Pay Equity Legislation

Movement in these areas continues unabated at city and state levels.

The paid leave issue began in 2-3 cities, with the support of roughly 500,000 activists. Paid leave is now in 30 jurisdictions and is growing organically. It is becoming a mainstream, non-partisan issue, and according to Align Public Strategies, it enjoys an 80% approval rating.  Jurisdictions that already have paid sick leave will amend legislation to include paid family and medical leave. This has already happened in Washington, DC, and this bill will become the template for more cities.

Restrictive Scheduling Legislation

This is a battle that the restaurant, hospitality, and retail industries are losing in almost every jurisdiction. New York City is about to pass a law that will be the template for future bills in other jurisdictions.

Wage Theft Enforcement

Once a city passes a $15/hour minimum wage, an enforcement mechanism quickly follows. This is usually in the form of a wage board that ensures that employers comply with the minimum wage. This is a strategy that was developed by the labor community to eventually create mini-NLRBs throughout the country. A wage board is the first step towards this vision. In the future, the wage board could ensure compliance with leave laws, scheduling and other wage laws.

Los Angeles already has a wage board. Hilda Solis, the former Secretary of Labor, is currently on the city’s Board of Supervisors and is pioneering the local enforcement model.

State Overtime Legislation

States will revisit overtime rules, especially if they have Democratic governors and legislatures.

Get Involved in Local Legislation

It’s critical for companies to get involved at the local level to protect their brands and interests. Employees already about the issues, since social media is flooded with them. Even the President can’t control these conversations through tweets.

Workplace policy is being created at the local level. Consider that the city of Seattle is writing rules so Uber and Lyft drivers can unionize. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo submitted a state budget that makes union dues tax-deductible.

History tells us that the labor movement declines after social goals such as insurance, safety, pensions, and Title VII protections are achieved. In many respects, when we attain these social goals, unions become irrelevant.

Employers of choice are way ahead of the war on talent because they understood and acted on these social goals long before they were widely accepted.  You can emulate these employers by:

  • Understanding what your values and vision really mean, and how they are acted upon every day
  • Choose a philanthropic goal that resonates with your workforce, and gives their jobs a bigger meaning
  • Take a position on local legislation. Better yet, get involved and help your local representatives draft legislation.
  • Teach your hiring managers how to articulate why you’re an employer of choice.


Guest blogger Liz D’Aloia founded HR Virtuoso to help companies optimize their employment application processes. HR Virtuoso creates customized, company-branded short form employment applications that work on any mobile device. This allows companies to get far more applications, and also keep their existing applicant tracking system. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso, Liz rose through the ranks of transportation, retail, and mortgage companies as a Senior Employment Attorney and VP of HR. Liz is a nationally recognized blogger, speaker, and HR practitioner. Please contact her directly at liz@hrvirtuoso.com with blog ideas, speaking engagements, and consulting requests.  Follow us @hrvirtuoso.