Donald Trump has selected Andy Puzder to serve as his Secretary of Labor. The CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc. which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s is an interesting selection by Trump who had toyed with appointing Victoria Lipnic, the current head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a former Workforce Policy Counsel to the House.
Puzder is an interesting man, he attended Kent State, but dropped out in 1970 following the Kent State Shootings. In his own words, “I spent the next three years attending concerts and marching on Washington”. After moving to Cleveland he graduated college and got his law degree. As a young corporate lawyer he helped rescue Carl Karcher, founder of Carl’s Jr. from financial troubles. Years later, when CKE Restaurants fell into more financial difficulties after purchasing Hardee’s, Puzder was named CEO by the Board and tasked with turning it around.
Mr. Puzder has not been without controversy during his tenure. Franchisees overseen by CKE have been targeted by DOL in the past. Hardee’s Food Systems was found in violation of wage laws and ordered to give back pay to a group of 456 workers in 2006 and 2007. This money was owed for overtime on hourly employees. It is perhaps unsurprising then that Puzder has signaled that he opposes the Obama Overtime Rule which has already been blocked by the courts, and is most likely dead on arrival in a Trump Administration.
In addition, advocates calling for an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage will find Puzder opposes large raises of the minimum wage. $15 per hour will be out of the question because Pudzer opposed the Obama Administration attempt to raise it to $10.10 from the current $7.25. When asked about the effect of raising the minimum wage, Mr. Puzder said it could lead to increased automation because machines are, “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”
The effect of a business executive running the labor department will be interesting to watch. Like Mr. Puzder, the Secretary of Labor has traditionally been a loyal supporter of the president, but unlike Mr. Puzder, most former Secretaries of Labor were career bureaucrats not as well versed in the corporate and financial worlds.
The Painting and Finishing Employers Association of New England (PFEANE) & the Glass Employers Association of New England (GEANE) would like to recognize the 2016 Construction Safety Contractors of the Year. Continue reading “Construction Safety Awards”
Massachusetts put new energy codes into effect on August 12, 2016 which are mandatory January 1, 2017. In 2017, all building permits and formal documents must comply with the new energy codes.
The new energy code is based on the 2015 International Energy Code Council (IECC). The stretch code is also being updated and is broken into three types:
R-use buildings 4 stories or fewer shall comply with an approved energy rating index, such as:
Use of Energy Star Homes 3.1 Path; Passive House Institute US Approved software; Other BBRS approved Software or rating standard (RESNET approach
Large buildings and high energy buildings must better ASHRAE 90.1 by 10%
There is no standard energy code nationwide, so states use a various codes depending on their local regulations. With this change, Massachusetts will join other states like Vermont and Washington who are notably efficient under the 2015 codes, while California and Florida continue using 2012 codes.
The map above depicts state by state residential energy codes. Massachusetts will switch from blue (IECC 2012) to green (IECC 2015) with these changes.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has proposed new rules to govern the merger of troubled multi-employer pension plans. The PBGC has authority under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA),
to support mergers if it benefits the failing plan without harming the stronger plan. In addition, PBGC can provide funding to promote a merger if it is needed to help plans avoid insolvency. Mergers help reduce administrative costs and increase pension security.
The MPRA was an attempt by Congress to provide PBGC better tools to deal with the growing issue of pension insolvency. The proposed rule is a logical interpretation of the MPRA giving reasonable options to troubled multiemployer pension plans.
The proposed rule provides guidance for requesting help in a merger. PBGC can provide financial assistance, technical assistance, and mediation. Also, the rule provides an informal avenue for multiemployer plan sponsors to explore merger discussions with the PBGC before filing a formal request. Finally, the proposed rule allows plan sponsors to apply for both benefit suspensions under the MPRA and a merger under the statute. The PBGC realizes that pension insolvency is not a zero-sum endeavor stating, “some plans may need both benefit suspensions and a financial assistance merger to become or remain solvent.”
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on June 6. The deadline for submitting comments is Aug. 5.
Although the proposed rule is a commonsense step to facilitate pension mergers, many are still in precarious positions. The most prominent in the Central States fund whose emergency rescue plan was denied by the Department of the Treasury on May 6, 2016.
The Treasury Department found several issues with the methods Central States used in notifications to participants and in their proposal to cut benefits and reestablish financial stability. Central States has announced that it will run out of money by 2025. As of the end of last year, the fund showed $16.8 billion in assets and $35 billion in retiree obligations. This is a 48% funding ratio. That’s bad news because the average funding ratio for PBGC multiemployer plans in the construction industry was 44%.
Most experts believe that government action is the only way Central States will avoid bankruptcy. However, given the national political scene this is unlikely, instead they are getting creative to cover the costs. For example, many employers have been exiting the plan due to its predicament. Central States has increase the amount collected in withdrawal liability, the fee an employer pays to exit the plan. Also Central States offers a Hybrid method where employers pay the withdrawal fee and remain in the plan, but are free from incurring any additional liability.
The Glazing and Painting Industries recently dedicated their Brentwood, N. H. Training Center in honor of Richie Mauro, the past owner of Tower Glass. Richie was a long time trustee of the Training Fund and past president of the Glass Employers Association of New England. Richie will be remembered as an advocate of quality construction, superior training, a friend, a man that had incredible passion for the industry, a proud union man, a generous man, a loyal man, a family man and a man that so richly deserved to be recognized by the industry for his tireless efforts to improve the industry!
Over the last 12 months the BTEA, Board of Director Tom Steeves, T.J. McCartney along with input from labor, especially Jeff Sullivan, Painters & Allied Trades Business Manager, have been discussing avenues to work in and hire minority workers, engage in community activates, assist in the need for affordable housing and expand work opportunities. It has become evident that in working with Mayor Marty Walsh’s office to increase the union presence in the minority communities and support pre-apprentice programs, these two existing programs need the BTEA member’s support, “Building Pathways” and “Operation Exit”.
Building Pathways is a 6-week program designed to prepare qualified applicants for an apprenticeship in the building trades and a pathway to a rewarding career in construction. Operation Exit is a program out of the mayor’s office that trains at-risk men and women for careers in the building trades and also helps them rebuild their lives. There are numerous success stories from both programs and we are asking BTEA members to support these initiatives and hire some of these young talented applicants. Please contact your local apprenticeship and training funds for the opportunity to hire some of these candidates.