John O'Connor illustration
McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor
John O'Connor
John O’Connor

Monday marks Labor Day. But given recent developments, many senior living operators might feel as if they are in a labor daze.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department issued a proposed overtime rule that promises to dramatically increase labor costs at many senior living communities.

Under the proposal, salaried workers who earn less than $1,059 a week – roughly $55,00 a year – would become eligible for overtime compensation.

If you are looking for sympathy, you won’t get it from Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su. Consider this from her accompanying statement: “I’ve heard from workers again and again about working long hours, for no extra pay, all while earning low salaries that don’t come anywhere close to compensating them for their sacrifices.” Guess we know where she weighs in.

Less than a week earlier, the National Labor Relations Board gave senior living operators a different kind of gut punch. Its members ruled that under the right conditions, union elections might no longer be required.

In a major boost for organized labor, the Democrat-leaning board voted 3-1 to let unions represent workers without elections when a majority sign authorization cards — and the employer is found to have violated a labor law.

As anyone on either side of a union drive can tell you, things can get a bit nasty when issues such as salaries, benefits and working conditions hang in the balance. Which brings us to an interesting dispute-resolution question: Who gets to determine whether an employer stepped over the line during a union drive?

Predictably, it’s the same NLRB that finds that elections can be optional. Now to say that the NLRB has been pro-labor in its rulings lately would be more than mere understatement. Completely pro-labor is more like it.

So, the board’s announcement, despite being completely one-sided and more than a little unfair, was hardly a surprise.

Nor was it really a shock one day earlier, when the board announced a final rule that revives union-friendly regulations from the Obama era.

For those of you keeping score at home, partisans in the federal government just called for measures that will jack up your labor costs and ease unionization efforts.

Who says elections don’t matter?

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.

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