Business groups lobby against key Biden labor nominee
David Weil, President Biden’s pick to run the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, is facing fierce opposition from several business groups.
The Senate Health Committee on Thursday will hold a nomination hearing for Weil, who held the wage division post in the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017. During his tenure, Weil pushed to classify independent contractors as employees and criticized gig companies and franchises for relying on contractors.
Business lobbying groups, including the National Restaurant Association, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and International Franchise Association (IFA), sent a letter to committee leaders Tuesday urging them to reject Weil’s nomination.
Michael Layman, IFA’s vice president of federal government affairs, told The Hill that Weil “cannot be trusted to enforce the law in a neutral manner.”
“Weil has embraced the harmful PRO Act, and IFA is concerned he will attempt to bypass Congress and enact its most damaging components through regulatory fiat,” Layman said.
The top priority of business groups is defeating Democrats’ PRO Act, which would overhaul labor laws to boost unions’ ability to organize. The bill would dismantle right-to-work laws and expand the definition of an employee to include many workers who are currently considered contractors, among other measures.
While the union-backed bill is stalled in the Senate, Weil could effectively enact some of its provisions at the Wage and Hour Division, which has broad powers to enforce minimum wage and overtime pay laws.
Weil, who is currently dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, issued rules to reclassify most contractors as employees and hold corporations accountable for their franchisees’ labor practices during the Obama administration.
He also extended mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million workers, a measure that was blocked by a federal judge following a lawsuit by business groups.
The Trump administration replaced Weil’s rules with business-friendly policies, but the Biden administration has rescinded those measures. The Biden administration blocked a Trump administration rule that would have enabled gig companies such as Uber and Lyft to more easily classify workers as contractors.
Business groups are making the case to Democrats that Weil’s labor policies would hurt small businesses that are currently contractors or franchisees. They’re hoping moderates such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) can derail Weil’s nomination in the evenly split Senate.
While Manchin sponsored the PRO Act, Sinema has not thrown her support behind the bill. Sinema is a strong supporter of the restaurant industry, which opposes Weil’s nomination.