What I Learned From The 2016 Election

Over the last seven presidential elections I have shared my thoughts as to how the results could affect various segments of the business community and foodservice in particular. These comments are based on information from various industry economic sources and surveys.

Fred G. Sampson
Fred G. Sampson

First, I can’t remember a time when the media was as active in and, in many instances, not only reporting on the campaigns but also attempting to shape them. Next came the equivalent of tsunamis of social media communications by candidates as well as voters themselves… and the 24/7 newscast featuring talking heads with moving trailers at the bottom of the screen announcing the very last-second events. You might agree that on this presidential election, “We were overinformed.”

As to how the results will bear on foodservice, almost every industry was concerned since the election result relates to Supreme Court appointments. Based on President-elect Trump’s campaign comments, he will appoint justices in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Next there was the matter regarding the National Labor Relations Board; the present board attempts to ease the procedures for employees to unionize. Again, that was a concern of almost every industry, and it would seem that it, too, will not pose a problem.

It was one of the most remarkable elections in our history—a person who never ran or held an elected position defeated an almost unbeatable foe who outspent him three or four to one. He not only did not outspend her, but received overwhelming media coverage despite his ongoing battle with this same media, and so much so that he didn’t have to spend millions.

In addition to the above, I can’t remember a time when not only were many states dealing with various types of minimum wages, but local jurisdictions such as cities likewise were establishing wage rates and other employee benefits: namely, paid leave, health insurance, wages, and tip credits, as well as rights to work laws and soda taxes.

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It is still too early to determine how quickly the new administration will move on a list compiled by the National Restaurant Association, all of which will impact the industry. For the most part, President-elect Trump did not get into specifics on many issues; therefore it is difficult to do any planning at this time. Still, here is the list.

  • Minimum Wage: Trump has had multiple positions on the minimum wage over the course of the campaign. He seemed to settle on $10 an hour.
  • Overtime Regulations: Trump stated that he would like to see “a delay or carveout” for small businesses.
  • Pay Equity: Trump is not committed to a position on this issue. His daughter Ivanka floored the conservatives during the Republican National Convention by saying her father “will change the labor laws” and support equal pay and paid family leave.
  • Taxes: Trump has proposed large tax cuts across the board, coupled with proposals to cut spending.
  • Immigration: Employers dependent on migrant labor and visa workers should be concerned with Trump’s punitive approach to immigration. Trump will feel pressure to show immediate progress on this issue and some employers may end up in his administration’s crosshairs. Others may face worker shortages.
  • One area that I find worrisome is not only the action of states, but the number of cities that legislated laws, which, for the most part, were in state or federal jurisdictions. It would seem that when you establish laws by counties, you create an uneven economy and an unfair competitive environment. It reminds me of the early no-smoking laws.

I also found it of interest that the National Restaurant Association has commented on two cities: Youngstown, Ohio, and San Jose, New Mexico. They passed scheduling mandates. Scheduling has become a favorite issue for labor activities, and this issue will appear on future ballots. The Youngstown mandate will likely be challenged in court on preemption grounds.

I have written two articles on this issue. It is part and parcel of the Service Employees International Union’s organizing efforts, including the $15 an hour minimum wage.

My final observation: It seems like the two major parties have changed sides; the Republicans look more like Democrats and the Democrats look more like Republicans.

Fred G. Sampson is the retired President Emeritus of the New York State Restaurant Association. He began working with NYSRA in 1961. Within the next four years the NYSRA more than tripled its membership and expanded from one regional chapter to eight. Sampson played roles in representing restaurants on issues including paid sick leave, minimum wage, liquor laws, a state-wide alcohol training program and insurance plans. Comments may be sent to fredgsampson@juno.com