Employers Group Blog Connection

The Importance of Lobbying by HR Executives

Posted by Nicole Vierzba on Fri, Jun 10, 2011

Human Resources Officials Tell LERA Forum
That They Often Get Involved in Lobbying


Many human resources executives spend a good deal of their time on lobbying activities, particularly with regard to union and health care issues, panelists said June 7 at the Labor and Employment Relations Association National Policy Forum.
“HR executives play a pretty important role in lobbying,” according to David Lewin, a University of California at Los Angeles professor who chaired the discussion titled, “Corporate Lobbying on Labor Policy: Role of HR executives.”
Dennis Dabney, a senior vice president for labor relations at Kaiser Permanente, said that when he worked in human resources at First Energy Corp., “I found myself immersed in regulation and legislation.”
“Every employer that I know of, every association I belong to,” was concentrating on the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, Dabney said. “As soon as that died down, health care reform came along, and it was the same energy,” he said.
The focus of HR executives is not the legislation's merits but its “dollar impact” on the company, Dabney said.
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“We partner with our union,” he said, because legislation and regulations affect jobs. “We find we can be more successful” by going forward “with one voice.”
For example, First Energy executives worked with union officials to try to dissuade the Environmental Protection Agency from declaring a certain material hazardous, Dabney said. He asserted that the action would have caused job losses, and both the company and the union believed the material was not hazardous.
Legislative Lull Predicted
“Not much is going to happen legislatively over the next two years” because of the conservative bent of the House, according to Daniel Yager, chief policy officer and general counsel for the HR Policy Association. Nevertheless, he predicted there will be a great deal of regulatory activity.
A poll of HR Policy Association members two years ago revealed that the amount of workplace regulation is a key factor they consider when deciding whether to move jobs overseas, Yager said. He asserted that association members want a less adversarial regulatory environment.
In the United States, we seem to have “a winner take all approach,” but instead we should replace conflict with consensus to achieve competitiveness, Yager said. He suggested that instead of having bureaucrats fashion rules, the government could let all the stakeholders devise a rule that is workable to all parties and adopt the rule as long as it comports with the statute.
Yager recommended that a bipartisan commission be formed to examine the Fair Labor Standards Act and recommend updates to Congress that are more compatible with the telecommuting and flexible hours of the contemporary workplace. He also suggested that employment and labor laws be accompanied by an analysis of their hiring and retention costs and that they contain sunset provisions that force Congress to re-examine them periodically.
The HR Policy Association wants to “move away from a litigious system” and toward arbitration, Yager said. He also expressed support for the idea of greater federal preemption of state labor and employment laws. He said the uniformity would help businesses that have operations in several states.

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Topics: advocacy, human resources, executive