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How Will the Upcoming Elections Affect Human Resource Executives' Jobs?

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Will the upcoming presidential election change things for human resource executives? Yes, regardless of who wins. Here's why.

Change Is on the Way
With Bush on the way out and either McCain or Obama on the way in, things are ready to change in a big way for those in human resources. That's because there's likely to be a lot of legislation enacted that could have a major impact on HR executive jobs.

Even if McCain wins the presidency (and therefore a Republican administration continues), it's a good bet that Democrats are going to win seats in the Senate and House. If that's true, the White House isn't likely to be able to do a whole lot if Congress wants to enact employment place changes like establishing unions, establishing sick leave parameters, and so on.

And if Obama wins, those who manage human resources are likely to see a whole influx of new workplace regulations, more than anyone has seen in the last 20 years.

In short, 2009 is likely to bring cataclysmic changes for HR executive jobs. The Democrats are getting ready to present all of these bills, demands that have been waiting in the wings for a long time.

In fact, this might be the biggest change since Reagan's administration for human resources in general.

Immigration and healthcare are also two major issues that impact HR executive jobs, although it's not clear yet how the election outcome is going to impact them. Obama and McCain approach immigration reform in similar ways. Their health-care proposals both have pluses and negatives for the corporate world.

The Employee Free Choice Act

However, one human resources issue is prevalent in the presidential race. This is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Basically, EFCA would let workers join a union if more than half of those bargaining would sign union-authorization cards. Businesses say this is bad because even if certain employees oppose a union, coworkers or labor organizers might pressure them. However, with no secret ballot vote, those secretly opposing the measure could not vote against it. According to detractors, this would mean that there would be a massive increase in unionization.

In addition, detractors also say that these new provisions mean that if the employer and the union can't agree on a contract within three months or 90 days, either party can ask for the federal government to mediate. This, in turn, could lead to a binding arbitration. If this ''first contract arbitration'' should occur, say detractors, this would mean that a lot of HR managers' employment decision flexibility would be gone, which would make them less profitable or competitive.

In 2007, EFCA passed the House but didn't make it through the Senate. If the Democrats acquire more seats, though, this could change. Obama supports EFCA, while McCain opposes it. Detractors of EFCA say that if Obama takes office, it could be enacted within a hundred days after Obama's inauguration.

However, that's not the only difficulty. EFCA may also go into effect if McCain is elected. If enough pro-EFCA Senate votes are present to overcome McCain's veto, this would make McCain's opposition a moot point. In addition, it's likely that McCain would compromise with EFCA and included as part of another piece of legislation in order to make that legislation go through. In addition, there are other scenarios whereby EFCA may become law as part of larger compromises within other legislation.

Incidentally, it should be noted that those who support EFCA say that many of these purported drawbacks are only in favor of unfair labor practices, not of employees themselves. In fact, there is the opportunity to do a secret ballot; in fact, unions can choose their union formation process via a majority sign up or an election.

EFCA allows employees to sign authorization cards before an employer would even be aware of a union drive. Those who oppose EFCA say that therefore, companies are going to have to be proactive in communicating to employees why a union is irrelevant. In fact, this should be part of everyday communications.

The HR Executive Role
Those with HR executive jobs will also have to be able to train supervisors so that they can inform employees why union should not be needed. Supervisors should also be able to handle employee questions about unions proactively.

Should unions in fact become more prevalent, this means that human resources will also have to get involved in a variety of labor issues, including administering and negotiating agreements and collective bargaining. In fact, those coming into HR executive jobs are going to have to become labor persons. This was true back in the 1940s and 1950s, when unions were at their strongest and most prevalent.

In short, HR executives will have to deal with unions, when they haven't had to for at least a generation. Many current HR managers, in fact, have not had to do this and have no memory of a time when unions were in force. Because HR staffs have also been downsizing, this means that there will have to be an increase in HR employment.

There are other measures to be considered, too, including something called The Healthy Families Act. This requires that if an employee has at least 15 employees, those employees must be provided with seven paid sick days per year. It didn't pass in the previous session of Congress, but Obama cosponsored the bill. If elected, it would stand a very good chance of passing. McCain has not taken a position on the bill, so it's not known what he thinks about it or what would happen if he were elected.

Another bill, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, makes it easier for employees to sue for pay discrimination. Each time an employee receives a paycheck or pension outlay, a new time period for filing a claim would start. Again, business groups say that it is bad for them because ex-employees can file claims even after they've left the company because they receive pension checks. These claims would be difficult to refute, because witnesses may very well have moved away or died.

The Civil Rights Act of 2008 is also a bad possibility for human resources, because the act would on the punitive and compensatory damages that can be awarded in discrimination cases.

Other issues that McCain and Obama are of a different mind about are things like minimum wages. McCain has told business owners that he knows raising minimum wage to keep pace with the cost of inflation would be bad for business owners and would slow job creation. However, Obama wants to raise it along with the rate of inflation.

Finally, Obama cosponsored a bill last year called the Patriot Employer Act of 2007. This bill would give tax breaks to employers who keep corporate headquarters and jobs in the United States, pay a given amount of wages, pay a minimum of 60% of employees' health care premiums, stay out of organizing drives, and top employees prepare for retirement. In addition, they would support those who serve in the armed forces. In addition, while Obama would let many of Bush's business-friendly tax cuts expire, McCain would extend most of them. This would change everything from pension plans to retirement savings' handling.

In large part, it appears that measures meant to support employees are largely favored by Obama, while McCain favors the businesses and would let the businesses themselves decide what would be good for the employees. A full force return of the unionized workforce is one major change on the scene for those with HR executive jobs regardless of who gets elected, though. While businesses largely oppose a return to unionization, proponents say that workers' rights would be protected in a way they have not been since the 1950s. It remains to be seen whether or not this is true, but there is no doubt that human resources is going to undergo a major shift for perhaps the first time in generations.
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