President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address on Feb. 7 emphasized several workplace issues focused on the economy and job creation.
In his speech, he highlighted the 3.4% unemployment rate — a 50-year low— and near record low unemployment for Black and Hispanic workers. He also touted the creation of 800,000 manufacturing jobs and the potential to create “hundreds of thousands of new jobs across the country” due to companies that have announced more than $300 billion in investments in American manufacturing in the past two years.
Biden also spoke on “[restoring] the dignity of work,” emphasizing a ban to noncompete agreements, the right to form a union and guaranteeing all workers a living wage.
“Let’s also make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family and medical leave, and affordable childcare that will enable millions more people to go to work,” he said.
Maryland Lawmakers Propose a Four-Day Workweek
Maryland lawmakers want to subsidize employers that choose to experiment with a four-day workweek, according to a CNN report.
The “Four-Day Workweek Act of 2023” (HB-181) would subsidize employers that agree to try out a 32-hour workweek without reducing their full-time employees’ weekly pay, which is based on 40 hours of work. The bill applies to public and private employers with at least 30 employees.
Although four-day workweek experiments have been conducted in the U.S. and Europe, no U.S. state has offered to subsidize the cost of the experiment for its employers, said Maryland Delegate Vaughn Stewart, one of the bill’s lead sponsors.
To qualify for the credit, employers would have to participate in the program for no less than one year and no more than two. They would also have to share data on their program’s results with Maryland’s Department of Labor.
The bill in its current form caps what the state would spend in total on program participants’ credits at $750,000 a year for five years. The state of Maryland plans to hold hearings on the bill this month. If it’s passed, the program will begin on July 1.
New York City Ends COVID Vaccine Mandate for City Workers
As reported by the New York Times, New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently announced vaccination for the coronavirus would become optional for current and prospective city workers, starting Feb. 10.
“With more than 96% of city workers and more than 80% of New Yorkers having received their primary COVID-19 series and more tools readily available to keep us healthy, this is the right moment for this decision,” Adams said in a statement.
The vaccine mandate for city workers was set in October 2021 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and was one of the most aggressive steps in the nation to increase vaccination rates, said the Times.
City healthcare workers will still have to be vaccinated for now, because they are also regulated under state, federal and employer vaccine mandates.
The city shared more than 331,000 city workers had been fully vaccinated. About 1,780 city workers were terminated for not getting vaccinated; those workers cannot automatically return to their previous positions but can apply for positions with their former agencies through the normal hiring process, city officials said.
DOL Launches Informational PUMP Act Campaign
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced it is launching an effort to alert families throughout the nation of changes in federal law that now extend the rights to pump breastmilk at work to more women, including those employed as teachers, farmworkers and care workers.
The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022, extends the rights of nursing mothers to have time and a private space to pump breastmilk at work.
The PUMP Act includes the following provisions:
- Extends rights and protections to have break time and space to pump breast milk at work to include millions of working women not previously covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- Allows working women to take legal action and seek monetary remedies if their employer fails to comply with federal law.
- Clarifies when an employer must pay the worker for time spent pumping breast milk if they are not completely relieved of work duties.
- The campaign by the department’s Wage and Hour Division — which enforces the PUMP Act and the FLSA — provides information about worker protections for nursing mothers includes national outreach and a website providing guidance, fact sheets and other resources for workers and employers.
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