In July, Senate Democrats forced through several of President Obama's controversial executive branch nominations that had been blocked for months because of Republican delaying tactics. With several key executive branch positions now filled, businesses are likely to see increased regulatory activity during the next few years.
After Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nev.) threatened to use the so-called "nuclear option" of changing Senate rules to eliminate the ability of senators to filibuster presidential appointees, Republicans allowed several nominations to move to a Senate vote. This included the nomination of Thomas Perez for secretary of labor, who was approved in late July on a straight party-line vote.
Also part of the Senate agreement, the White House agreed to withdraw the full nominations of Sharon Block and Richard Griffin to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), two nominees Obama installed as temporary "recess" appointments in 2012. The withdrawal of the nominations was a victory for NRCA and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), which had requested they be withdrawn given the ongoing legal challenge to their recess appointments.
The president announced two other Democratic nominees, and in July, the Senate approved these and two Republican nominees to NLRB. The board now consists of three Democratic and two Republican appointees and has a properly confirmed quorum in place for the first time in years.
With Perez now installed at the Department of Labor (DOL) and a fully constituted NLRB in place, NRCA expects these appointees to move forward with new regulatory initiatives that could significantly affect the roofing industry.
As expected, within weeks of Perez taking office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) moved forward with a proposed rule that revises regulations governing workplace exposure to silica dust, a known carcinogen. This proposed regulation lowers the current permissible exposure limit (PEL) by 50 percent and institutes several new requirements designed to minimize worker exposure to silica dust. The 757-page regulation significantly could affect multi-employer construction sites.
NRCA has been working for several years with other construction organizations to prepare for OSHA's silica rule. With the release of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Aug. 23, the coalition has retained legal counsel and an economist to assist with developing a comprehensive analysis and response that will be filed with the agency this fall.
Another regulation expected to move forward is DOL's so-called "persuader" rule. The regulation will impose new disclosure requirements on employers and certain consultants during collective-bargaining campaigns.
NRCA is concerned the regulation will severely limit the ability of employers, especially small businesses, to use attorneys and other consultants to help them comply with the law and communicate with employees during union-organizing campaigns. NRCA filed comments outlining these concerns in 2011. A final regulation is expected to be issued this fall, and it is likely CDW will mount a legal challenge to it.
NLRB also is expected to move forward with new regulations that have been delayed in recent years because of litigation.
Another significant proposal NLRB may advance is a rule to accelerate the time frame for holding union elections. NRCA opposes this initiative because it will result in union elections being held in as few as 14 to 21 days from the filing of a petition compared with the median 38 days under current procedures.
NRCA represents union, open-shop and dual-shop contractors and believes such a change is inconsistent with policies that maintain an equitable balance in labor-management relations.
In response to litigation filed by CDW and other plaintiffs, NLRB's original proposal was struck down in 2012 by a U.S. district court that determined the board did not have a proper quorum in place when it proposed the rule. It appears likely the board will reissue this regulation now that it has a properly functioning quorum.
These are just a few of the many regulatory initiatives you can expect to address now that Obama's political appointees are in place. NRCA will continue to evaluate and respond to each regulation that affects the roofing industry.
Duane L. Musser is NRCA's vice president of government relations.