The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Clinton v. Trump Workforce Policy

The upcoming election promises to fuel both federal and local interest in workforce regulation, as the leading candidates from both parties have focused their campaigns addressing inequality through a variety of measures, including changes to the laws governing the workforce.

Indeed, while Mr. Trump has yet to release many details on his specific policy proposals, he has already signaled his interest in making the Republican Party a “worker’s party.” It is unclear if this means Mr. Trump will reverse, stop or continue with President Obama’s workforce agenda if he does win. We suspect it will depend on specific issues.

Mr. Trump clarified at a press conference on July 27 that he favors raising the federal minimum wage to $10, up from the current $7.25, and his daughter Ivanka Trump, during her convention speech, said the pay gap is due more to motherhood and child rearing than discrimination and vowed her father would fight for equal pay for equal work. However, Trump has avoided any specific discussion of these issues himself.

We do expect that a President Trump would take a more nationalistic approach to workforce policy, which would likely result in greater regulation of the workforce than other post-Nixon Republican administrations. If Republicans retain control over the House and Senate, Mr. Trump may able to drive home his agenda through Congress as well as executive action, particularly in the shorter run when his victory may be seen as a mandate for the party.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has focused on proposals aimed at increasing the minimum wage (she is advocating for a $12 minimum wage), mandating equal pay, paid family leave and sick days, improving access to childcare and increasing union density. While President Obama largely has been forced to implement his workforce agenda through the executive branch, a President Clinton may not face the same limitations — Democrats may win one or more chambers in Congress in the upcoming election, which greatly increases the chance that many of these proposals will gain attention in Congress and become law.

There will be substantial pressure on moderate lawmakers of both parties concerned with the impact of these proposals to pass something, as polls show public support for these types of measures is high. Recent Gallup polls show solid majorities favoring increases to minimum wage (56% favor $20 by 2020), expanded overtime eligibility (67% support generally) and mandatory paid vacation (75%), paid sick leave (75%) and 12 weeks of paid family medical leave (62%).