Two brief items to pass along as we head into the weekend:

  • In his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama urged passage of the Healthy Families Act, a measure that would require private sector US employers to allow employees to accrue up to seven paid sick days per year (see our post here).  In response, Congressional Republicans have already proposed, or intend to propose, alternative legislation.  On January 22, representatives from Alabama and Utah reintroduced the Working Families Flexibility Act, which passed in the House of Representatives but was not passed by the Senate during the previous congressional session.  Rather than requiring paid sick leave, this bill would allow employers to offer employees up to 160 hours of compensatory time off in lieu of overtime wages for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek, provided they have worked at least 1,000 hours in the previous 12 months.  Another lawmaker has announced intentions to introduce legislation that would offset the cost of paid sick leave by providing tax incentives to those employers who provide sick leave benefits to their workers.
  • The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its annual report setting forth union membership data for 2014.  In the private sector, union density in 2014 was 6.6%, down 0.1% from the prior year.  Unionization continued to vary widely by state, with 30 states having union membership rates below the US average (primarily the southern states), and nine states with union density below 5.0%.  The report further indicated that more than half of all US union members live in only seven states – with more than half of those in California and New York.