Workplace Issues Take Center Stage During State of the Union Address


Patrick Brady By Patrick Brady February 2, 2018

In his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump highlighted a series of workplace issues—some as accomplishments during his first year in office (growing jobs, enacting tax cuts and restrictive regulations), while others designated as priority issues for Congress to tackle in 2018 (immigration reform and infrastructure). 

The president credited his $1.5 trillion tax cut with prompting businesses to give bonuses to approximately 3 million workers, while highlighting that 2.4 million new jobs have been created and unemployment claims are at a 45-year low. He continued, "The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion and more in value in just this short period of time. That is great news for Americans—401(k), retirement, pension and college savings accounts have gone through the roof." 

As he transitioned to his 2018 agenda, President Trump challenged Congress to tackle workforce development and paid family leave, stating, "As tax cuts create new jobs, let's invest in workforce development and let's invest in job training. …" He later continued, "Let's open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential. And let us support working families by supporting paid family leave." 

SHRM supports creating more opportunities for work-based learning, including modernizing and rejuvenating apprenticeships. We also support enhancing employer-provided tuition assistance (under Section 127 of the tax code), which was preserved in the recent tax bill, by increasing the yearly allowable benefit and including student loan repayment. 

To help workers balance the challenges of work and family, SHRM is committed to expanding paid leave and workplace flexibility initiatives through a voluntary approach and is advocating strongly in Congress in support of the Workflex in the 21st Century Act introduced by Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA). In short, the legislation would provide both guaranteed generous paid leave that could be used for any purpose—including parental and sick leave—and a range of workflex options for employees. It also would meet the needs of employers by providing predictability, pre-empting the growing list of divergent state and local leave laws. 

President Trump also expressed support in reforming our criminal justice system to give those formerly incarcerated a second chance through employment. "That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time to get a second chance at life." SHRM supports a revitalized national discussion about hiring from untapped talent groups such as veterans, individuals with disabilities and individuals with criminal records. Additionally, SHRM supports removing barriers to hiring to ensure that all individuals have opportunities for employment. That is why SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is an adviser to Safe Streets & Second Chances, a new initiative to reduce the high rate of recidivism by effectively rehabilitating and equipping incarcerated individuals with the tools and skills needed to become productive members of their communities. 

Turning to immigration, the president also called for support for his four-pillar immigration plan. The framework would:

  1. Provide legal status and eventual citizenship to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants.
  2. Create a $25 billion fund for a border wall and include other enforcement measures.
  3. Reduce some family-based visa categories.
  4. Eliminate the diversity visa lottery, farming out what would have been diversity visas to whittle down existing backlogs in family- and employment-based visa categories. 

SHRM and its affiliate, the Council for Global Immigration, support reforms to create a reliable, entirely electronic employment verification system that accurately authenticates a new hire's identity. In addition, there must be enough visas for employers to fill skills gaps and access the best talent for the workforce, along with protections, education and training for U.S. workers. We also support a bipartisan solution that enables beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to continue to work and attend school in this country. 

SHRM will continue to engage the administration and Congress on many of these issues to ensure that the HR perspective is conveyed as policy solutions are developed and considered to address these issues. 


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