Trump: Concrete friend, regulation foe

Private sector employers, employees and job seekers will soon have a friend in the White House. Before looking at the new administration’s promise, a brief look back to November 2001, when this column noted Donald Trump’s appreciation for quality construction. The then-celebrity developer had assessed post-Twin Towers building practice in a prime time exchange with ABC 20/20 host Barbara Walters, citing “more concrete,” as a means of constructing “a great building a lot tougher than the World Trade Center turned out to be.”

Thanks to major-project experience, the future U.S. president brought sound perspective on concrete in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and will arrive at the White House with enthusiasm for both building and public works construction. Equally important as tools, trades and permits, President-elect Trump knows how excessive regulations negatively impact private and public coffers. He will hopefully make good on campaign observations by scrutinizing federal agency agendas, perhaps sunsetting two existing regulations or rules for each new measure enacted. He can start at the Department of Labor (DOL), which has seen federal courts block action on rules his predecessor seems to hold dear.

The U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont, issued in late October a preliminary injunction order preventing the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council from implementing any provision of its final rule—plus companion DOL guidance—supporting the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. The rule and guidance outline new reporting and disclosure requirements surrounding 14 federal employment laws or provisions. Critics dub FAR’s measure “the blacklisting rule,” as it bars from federal work those contractors or subcontractors that have violated, or allegedly violated, laws or rules under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, National Labor Relations Board, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal agencies.

“Public policy demands that governmental agencies be enjoined from acting in a manner contrary to the law,” writes Judge Marcia Crone. “It is in the public interest to ensure delivery of economical and efficient services from government contractors to federal government agencies, which would likely be impaired by the arbitrary and unnecessary burdens imposed by the Executive Order, FAR Rule, and DOL Guidance … The Order and Rule present an imminent threat to Plaintiffs’ members’ First Amendment rights by virtue of the fact that their public reports of alleged violations may be used by their competitors and adversaries to gain competitive advantage … [Plaintiffs] will likely suffer increased costs, loss of customers, and loss of goodwill, regardless of whether they are actually disqualified from government contracts, by being labeled labor law violators.”

A colleague in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman, issued a preliminary injunction late last month blocking enforcement of a DOL Wage and Hour Division final rule doubling the weekly earnings threshold, from $455 to $921, at which Fair Labor Standards Act-defined executive, administrative or professional employees are exempt from overtime pay eligibility. The rule was to be effective this month and responded to the “Updating and Modernizing Overtime Regulations” presidential memorandum.

“Under the premise of updating regulations … DOL has disregarded the actual requirements of the [FLSA] and imposed a much-increased minimum salary threshold that applies without regard to whether an employee is actually performing ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional’ duties,” writes Judge Amos Mazant III. “DOL’s use of, and conclusive emphasis on, the salary test defies statutory text, Congressional intent, and common sense.”

President-elect Trump and his agency heads will have higher priorities than defending Obama administration measures that harm employers, employees and job seekers. Reflecting on a federal court’s negative view of a third DOL stunt, the ‘persuader rule,’ Associated Builders and Contractors Vice President of Legislative and Political Affairs Kristen Swearingen speaks for those across construction and private industry, expressing hope “that under a Trump administration, the department will take input from the industries it regulates seriously in developing less burdensome rules that better facilitate the conditions for growth and prosperity.”