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GOP Platform Addresses the American Workplace

By Roy Maurer  9/4/2012
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TAMPA—Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for president at the Republican National Convention Aug. 30, 2012; issued a rebuke of President Barack Obama’s term in office; and declared that “What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound. It doesn’t take a special government commission to tell us what America needs. What America needs is jobs.”

Romney outlined plans he said will create 12 million jobs by providing skills and education to workers and to students; completing new trade agreements; cutting the deficit and reining in government spending; and cutting taxes and reforming regulations on business.

Republicans approved a party platform that would halt implementation of President Obama’s health care reform law, mandate E-Verify nationwide, strengthen retirement security, weaken the power of unions, promote flexibility in the workplace and advance the inclusion of workers with disabilities.

A 21st Century Workforce. The platform declares that “the greatest asset of the American economy is the hard-working American.” In addition to cutting spending, keeping taxes low and curtailing bureaucratic regulations, the platform called for “replacing outdated policies and ineffectual training programs with a plan to develop the 21st century workforce to make the most of our country’s human capital.”

Republicans propose consolidating the myriad federal workforce training programs into state block grants so that training can be coordinated with local schools and employers. The party aims to grant more work visas to holders of advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math from other nations. The platform asserted that the employer-employee relationship of the future will be built on employee empowerment through employee stock ownership plans, family-friendly workflex options, and portability in pension plans and health insurance. It also renewed a commitment to the inclusion of Americans with disabilities by advocating for setting a standard in hiring and contracting for the services of persons with disabilities, supporting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for its goal of minimizing the separation of children with disabilities from their peers, and endorsing the Employment First program to replace dependency with jobs in the mainstream American workforce.

Health Care. The platform stated that a Republican president on his first day in office would use his waiver authority to halt progress in carrying out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, labeling it confusing, unworkable and budget-busting.

It proposed a Republican plan based on fostering personal responsibility while increasing preventive services to promote healthy lifestyles, and a system that promotes the free market and gives consumers more choice.

“We believe that all Americans should have improved access to affordable, coordinated, quality health care, including individuals struggling with mental illness,” the platform read.

Some of the ideas to achieve these goals include: allowing states to regulate local insurance markets including the receipt of Medicaid block grants; assisting patients with pre-existing conditions through reinsurance and risk adjustment; promoting nonlitigation alternatives for dispute resolution; promoting price transparency so that consumers will know the actual cost of treatments before they undergo them; capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits; empowering individuals and small businesses to form purchasing pools in order to expand coverage to the uninsured; and supporting technology enhancements for medical health records and data systems.

Retirement Security. The GOP platform addressed the many private pension plans that are increasingly underfunded and the endangered integrity of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is itself seriously underfunded. As the first step toward possible corrective action, Republicans are asking for a presidential panel to review the private pension system and to make public its findings.

The platform addressed public pension plans and the many municipalities that face bankruptcy because of “excessive outlays for early retirement, extravagant health plans and overly generous pension benefits.”

Labor Relations. The GOP platform urged elected officials across the country to change their laws regarding public-sector unions and follow the lead of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who spearheaded an effort to curb the ability of his state’s public employees to bargain collectively. The platform called for enacting a nationwide “right-to-work” law that would prohibit union contracts at private-sector workplaces from requiring employees to pay any dues or other fees to a union. In states without such laws, workers at unionized workplaces generally have to pay such dues or fees. Right-to-work laws exist in 23 states. The Republican platform also called for barring the use of “card check” anywhere as a way for workers to unionize. The platform would repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, a law requiring that all federal construction projects pay a prevailing wage, usually equal to or not far below union wage levels. The platform also attacked the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that under President Obama the board has become “a partisan advocate for Big Labor, using threats and coercion outside the law to attack business.”

Immigration. The platform made clear that “we oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it.” It insisted that the use of the E-Verify program—an Internet-based system that verifies the employment authorization and identity of employees—be made mandatory nationwide.

Republicans demanded that the Justice Department halt lawsuits against Arizona, Alabama and other states that have enacted tough measures against illegal immigrants. It said federal funding should be denied to universities that provide in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. Finally, it advocated making English the official national language.

Roy Maurer is an online news editor/manager for SHRM.

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