The Beltway Buzz is a weekly update summarizing labor and employment news from inside the Beltway and clarifying how what’s happening in Washington, D.C., could impact your business.
Tax Package/ERC Update. For what seems like the first time in a long time, the U.S. Congress this week was focused on something other than federal government funding. Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have teed up the “Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024” (H.R. 7024) for a vote on the floor next week (where Democrats will be needed to vote ‘yea’ for the bill to pass). The approximately $80 billion package includes many pro-growth economic provisions, such as deductibility of research and development expenses, but it would also quickly end the CARES Act Employee Retention Credit (ERC) program. While many proponents are hoping for quick passage of the bipartisan bill in time for tax season, the path in the U.S. Senate is unclear. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support passage of the bill.
BLS: Union Membership Continues to Decline. According to data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the percentage of workers who were union members in 2023 was 10 percent. This number reflects a slight decline from 10.1 percent in 2022, and it represents a new record low. The 2023 private-sector unionization rate remained steady at 6 percent. Thus, despite overt support for unions from the White House, as well as policy changes at the National Labor Relations Board and U.S. Department of Labor that benefit labor unions, most workplaces remain nonunion.
Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot Begins. The U.S. Department of State’s stateside visa renewal pilot program is scheduled to open at noon on January 29, 2024. Ahead of the launch, employers may preload DS-160 applications via the Consular Electronic Application Center. Further, the State Department has issued a frequently asked questions page regarding the program.
USCIS Guidance on Untimely Extensions of Stay. On January 24, 2024, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy manual to clarify the circumstances when USCIS may “in its discretion, excuse untimely filed extensions of stay and change of status requests.” Pursuant to these changes, untimely requests may be excused if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner. “Extraordinary circumstances” include a “slowdown or stoppage of work involving a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute” or when a certified labor condition application or temporary labor certification cannot be obtained “due to a lapse in government funding supporting those adjudications.” The policy change stems from a recommendation in an October 2023 report by the White House’s H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce, and it applies to applications or petitions filed on or after January 24, 2024.
If You Seek a Pleasant Peninsula, Look About You. Today in 1837, Michigan became the twenty-sixth state (the following day, coney dogs and red pop were declared the official state meal). The land making up present-day Michigan was acquired by Great Britain from France in 1763 as a result of the treaty that ended the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), and the land was then ceded to the United States in 1783 after the Revolutionary War (1775–1783). In 1805, Congress established the Michigan Territory, which eventually grew to include what is now Michigan, as well as parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. These other areas were eventually peeled off as part of the Wisconsin Territory, and in 1835, Michigan drafted its state constitution in preparation for admittance to the Union. However, an ongoing land dispute with Ohio over the “Toledo Strip” made Congress hit the pause button on Michigan’s acceptance into the Union. On June 15, 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed into law a bill that made Michigan an offer: give up the claim to the Toledo Strip, and in exchange get the Upper Peninsula and statehood. This was the first of many wins Michigan has enjoyed over Ohio, as the University of Michigan Wolverines football team boasts a 61–51–6 record over the Ohio State Buckeyes, including a resounding 30–24 victory in November 2023. On the professional football field, the Buzz is hoping that today’s important anniversary for Michiganders translates to some good luck for the Detroit Lions this Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.