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"The real threat, and what we really need to be watching for in the next year, is not legislation, but regulation," West recently told me during MDM's January 2011 Executive Briefing webcast. "Particularly onerous regulations from the Department of Labor in all of its manifestations."
The "alphabet soup" of federal agencies – including the National Labor Relations Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – have mounted aggressive agendas this year to regulate employers and how they manage their workplaces, West says.
And while Congress is supposed to have some measure of oversight over these agencies, in practice they have been relatively lax in exercising that power. "It is typical for the party in power in the White House and Congress to not do oversight of its own team," West says. Democrats didn't do a lot of oversight for the agencies under the Obama administration, just as Republicans didn't exercise effective oversight during the Bush administration.
As a result, the agencies have been allowed to push forward with regulations that will implement policies that have already failed on the legislative front, such as Card Check or union access rules that were part of the failed Employee Free Choice Act.
"(Regulation) is the biggest threat coming at the business community at large in the next 12 to 18 months," West says.
But there are things you can do to protect your company.
First, be aware which regulation is being implemented. "The biggest problem for many companies is knowing whether they are in compliance," West says. And noncompliance can be costly. NAW provides its members with as much information as possible to facilitate awareness through its government relations committee. Other associations have similar resources.
Second, take an active role in existing coalitions that lobby against "anti-business" policies, such as those headed by NAW.
Third, contact your congressmen. "The most powerful voice in Washington is the voice of engaged businesspeople and citizens," West says. Encourage strict, effective oversight of agency actions.
Hear the interview with Jade West in the January 2011 Executive Briefing on the 2011 Political Outlook.
Read more about the Political Outlook for 2011 from Jade West.