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How Could the 2020 Elections Affect Employment Regulations

(3-5 minute read)

By Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs, Grand Rapids Chamber


It’s undeniable…

Elections have consequences, and 2020 is shaping up to be impactful in many ways.

While it may seem like the elections are right around the corner, they are a long way off. So, buckle up for the near-constant coverage!

In that coverage, we are already seeing issues surrounding and impacting employment law, and the workplace taking center stage.

Let’s look into the crystal ball and see what we can expect.


The Race for the White House

There are 20+ announced presidential candidates on the Democratic side, with Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris, and Buttigieg currently leading a race that is still very much up in the air.

Many of these candidates are highlighting issues like a $15 federal minimum wage, Medicare for all, paid parental leave, union-friendly laws, and gender pay equity.

This is a similar list of issues Democrats have worked to advance on Capitol Hill after winning control of the House of Representatives following last fall’s midterm elections.

The proposals vary among the candidates from incremental reform to aggressive change.

The Republican side of the presidential equation is set.

The current Commander In Chief tends to act on instinct. Positions and statements are made and then reversed. Tariffs are on and then they are off. This creates a lot of uncertainty, but in the areas of employment law and the workplace, we have seen more modest changes, such as a reasonable increase in the overtime wage threshold this spring.

The glaring exception is the administration’s approach to immigration – from enforcement to visas, it has had a negative impact on a number of industries. The Grand Rapids Chamber continues to advocate for H-1B visas so that members still have the ability to access needed talent.

If President Trump wins reelection, it would be very surprising to see a dramatic shift in the administration’s approach to these policies.


Control of Congress

Apart from the race for the White House, the Senate will be a key battleground in 2020 as well.

34 Senate seats are up: 12 Democrats and 22 Republicans. The Democrats need to net three seats to control the Senate – a possibility.

On the other hand, Republicans need 18 to take back the House – a big number, and history is not on their side. The last time the House flipped in a presidential year was in 1952.

If Democrats are, however, able to win the White House and Senate, you can absolutely anticipate more legislation impacting wages and other employment issues passed in a hurry.

Additionally, they may resurrect the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, a national paid-leave program that would let workers receive a portion of their pay when they need time away from their jobs for family or medical reasons. In the current landscape, federal law offers eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for such purposes.

Also likely to resurface is the Healthy Families Act, which would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year. Employees could use these to recover from illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability.

While employers support providing paid sick leave, there is typically strong opposition to far-reaching and potentially burdensome mandates, especially when they may conflict with the state laws, such as the new law in Michigan.

Of course, if it remains a house divided after the elections, those will be nearly impossible to get enacted, and we get to watch the debate continue.


The Chamber’s Work

The Grand Rapids Chamber’s Government Affairs team and member companies engage in this work because we know decisions made in the halls of government – whether at the local, state or federal level – have a big impact on your business and the business environment.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Chamber’s advocacy efforts, please contact me at In particular, we are looking for more HR professionals to join our Health Care & Human Resources Committee. Together we can work to create a thriving community that benefits everyone.

You can find more information on our policy committees here.




July 23, 2019




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