Getting Incivility Under Control

Does incivility take a toll on today’s workplace?

Well, if we’re to believe the findings of a recent study out of Michigan State University, the answer is yes—and maybe more than we’d like to think.

ThinkstockPhotos-579244800To capsulize, the researchers, who have published their work (titled Who Strikes Back? A Daily Investigation of When and Why Incivility Begets Incivility) in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that experiencing rude behavior reduces employees’ self-control and leads them to act in a similar uncivil manner. (In doing their study, they asked 70 employees to fill out a survey relating to incivility and its effects three times a day for 10 consecutive workdays.)

Of course, this finding is not all that surprising. As human beings, we’re easily influenced by those around us. Right? Probably the more interesting finding is the unintentional nature of so-called “incivility spirals”—i.e., when acts of incivility lead to subsequent acts of incivility.

As Russell Johnson, an associate professor of management at Michigan State University and the study’s lead author, explains …

“When employees are mentally fatigued, it is more difficult for them to keep their negative impulses and emotions in check, which leads them to be condescending and rude to colleagues. This happens even for employees who desire to be agreeable and polite; they simply lack the energy to suppress curt and impatient responses.”

That’s certainly a troubling thought, especially if you work at an organization in which incivility is clearly visible at the highest levels.

The study also found that incivility spirals occurred in workplaces that were perceived as political (i.e., where co-workers “do what is best for them, not what is best for the organization”).

Because the “intentions and motives of others are less clear” at such organizations, the researchers report, employees have a harder time understanding why they were targeted and how best to respond.

You’ve got to think, I might add, that this inevitably would take a serious toll on employee effectiveness and productivity.

In response to what they found, the researchers emphasize the need for managers to provide employees with clearer feedback on “the types of behaviors that are desired,” both informally through day-to-day interactions and formally through the performance-management process.

Certainly great advice. But is it enough to prevent incivility from spiraling out of control?

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The ‘Ban the Box’ Paradox

HRE columnist Peter Cappelli recently penned a piece suggesting that “ban the box” legislation, while certainly well-intentioned, may not be the best approach to helping ex-felons transition back into the workforce.

Such laws, which prohibit employers from making questions about criminal convictions part of the hiring process, have been adopted in 24 states and more than 100 cities and counties in the U.S.

The good news is that “more ex-felons seem to have gotten jobs,” says Cappelli, a professor of management and director of the Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the overall hiring of young black and Hispanic men has declined, he adds.

“In other words, we swapped one form of discrimination for another,” says Cappelli. “It wasn’t supposed to work that way. The problem is people don’t behave the way the legislation anticipated. We don’t wait until the law allows us to find out about criminal records. We start guessing.”

Researchers Jennifer Doleac, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Virginia, and Benjamin Hansen, an associate professor of economics at the University of Oregon, seem to share that view.

In their recent study (which Cappelli does reference in his column), the pair of professors tested the net effects of ban-the-box policies on employment outcomes for various demographic groups, using data from the Current Population survey.

The authors found that, among men between the ages of 25 and 34 who don’t hold a college degree, BTB policies decrease the probability of being employed by 4.5 percent for black men, and by 3.5 percent for Hispanic men.

In the same age group, black men with a college degree and white women of all educational levels benefit from this policy, according to the study. This finding suggests that, when criminal history information is unavailable, “employers pursue candidates who are less likely to have been recently incarcerated based on their remaining observable characteristics,” the authors write.

The goal of BTB laws “is to improve employment outcomes for ex-offenders and thereby reduce racial disparities in employment.”

The legislation, however, “could do more harm than good,” they continue, noting that firms that don’t want to hire ex-offenders might statistically discriminate based on race and gender in order to avoid interviewing applicants who are more likely to have been recently incarcerated.

“Of particular concern, employers might avoid interviewing young, low-skilled, black and Hispanic men when [ban-the-box legislation] is in effect,” note Doleac and Hansen. “This could worsen employment outcomes for those already-disadvantaged groups, without meaningfully improving outcomes for ex-offenders.”

In a recent UVA Today article, Doleac offers a “two-fold policy plan” to help combat discrimination against those for whom “ban the box” laws were designed, “without unintentionally hurting minority men without criminal records.”

For example, “individuals with criminal records may have histories of violent or dishonest behavior, and on average might struggle with greater emotional trauma and have worse interpersonal skills,” she says.

Providing opportunities for such applicants to demonstrate that they don’t have these problems—perhaps by having a local job-training program vouch for them—could potentially “help them overcome automatic assumptions about their temperament and suitability.”

Another “broad category of policies” that might improve upon current legislation includes education and rehabilitation programs that “would actually improve the underlying job readiness of this population,” says Doleac, who is currently working on a new technology-based project aimed at improving re-entry outcomes for individuals leaving prison.

“The reason that employers discriminate against people with [criminal] records is that, on average, that group is less job-ready than people without records.”

 

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Randstad to Acquire Monster

Randstad, a leading human resources services provider, and Monster Worldwide, Inc., a global leader in connecting jobs and people, today announced the signing of a definitive agreement under which Randstad will acquire Monster, according to this press release.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Randstad will pay $3.40 per share in cash, or a total purchase price of approximately $429 million (enterprise value).

By leveraging Monster’s multiple distribution channels to bridge two different but complementary parts of the extended recruiting industry, Randstad intends to build the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of HR services. Monster will continue operating as a separate and independent entity under the Monster name.

“In an era of massive technological change, employers are challenged to identify better ways to source and engage talent,” said Jacques van den Broek, CEO of Randstad. “With its industry leading technology platform and easy to use digital, social and mobile solutions, Monster is a natural complement to Randstad. The transaction is aligned with our Tech and Touch growth strategy and reflects our commitment to bringing labor supply and demand closer together to better connect the right people to the right jobs. We look forward to welcoming the Monster team and working together to shape the evolving global job industry.”

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Supporters of E-Cigs Fight Back

There’s some real pushback under way to what I was thinking had become a generally agreed-upon vice worth eradicating from our streets, public arenas and workplaces: e-cigarette vaping.

470456691--vapingMy eyebrows were raised on Friday when I came across this release from the National Center for Public Policy Research announcing an amicus brief that had just been filed by the NCPPR and TechFreedom in support of an earlier challenge to the Food and Drug Administration’s war on vaping.

Specifically, the initial challenge that got a major boost on Friday was filed by Nicopure Labs, a manufacturer of e-cigarette liquid, against the FDA’s Deeming Rule, which was finalized in May. That rule would force e-cigarette manufacturers to undergo an expensive and time-consuming premarket tobacco-application process unless their products were on the market prior to the predicate date of Feb. 15, 2007. As the NCPPR release puts it:

“The high cost of the application process means most e-cig businesses will be forced to shut down, eliminating choices of dramatically safer alternatives to combustible cigarettes, which will leave smokers with fewer options to compete against the most harmful form of nicotine consumption, [again,] combustible tobacco.”

It also states that:

“The FDA’s Deeming Rule fails to consider the scientific evidence readily available to the agency regarding the safety and the public health benefits of e-cigarettes.”

Is it just me or is this the first time you’ve read anything about the “public health benefits of e-cigarettes”?

I love how this guy, Tom Remington, on his blog post, compares  choosing between e-cigs and tobacco to choosing between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Mind you, I’m not 100-percent sure what position he’s taking here (something tells me he’s anti e-cigs … and don’t ask me to even hazard a guess as to who he plans to vote for), but his quote is pretty fun:

“Having a discussion about whether or not e-cigarettes are more healthy than real tobacco-product cigarettes is akin to deciding which crook, Hillary or Donald, should get your vote. Would you rather die from e-cigarettes or from tobacco? Would you rather get screwed and further forced into slavery by Hillary or Donald?”

For a much more complete and sobering look at why clamping down on the e-cigarette business isn’t necessarily a good thing for health but IS a big victory for Big Tobacco, read this opinion piece on the Washington Post site by Jonathan Adler. Here’s just one compelling thought to come away with, as Adler writes it:

“With the new FDA rule, Big Tobacco is getting just what it wanted. … [A]s a consequence of the FDA rule, the e-cig market will shrink, and Big Tobacco will be in a better position to dominate what’s left. A vibrant competitive market will be replaced with a cartel, much like the one we see in the cigarette market.”

So what does all this have to do with HR? Probably not as much as other topics we’ve raised here, but I do know many of you are grappling with your smoking policies, and many of you have opted to lump vaping in with the rest of your organization’s prohibited activities.

I guess this might just give you something more to think about as you go about drafting or enforcing such a policy … like who’s hands you might be playing into(?) Or where the real truth lies(?) If, indeed, these things are so much healthier than cigarettes, for all concerned, and can help move the quitting process along, are you sure you want to deny your employees any and all access(?)

Maybe just put all this in your pipe and smoke it(?) (Sorry.)

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Flying High with Employee Motivation

ThinkstockPhotos-186381804You could fill the Grand Canyon with all the studies researchers have produced on ways to motivate employees. But one published this summer stands out. It’s an elegantly simple illustration of how the most effective strategies may also be the cheapest.

Three economists from the University of Chicago and London School of Economics worked with Virgin Atlantic Airways to try several ways of persuading pilots to save fuel. (It turns out that airliners in some ways are like cars — if you drive with a heavy foot, you use more gas.) Along the way they saved the airline more than $5 million, cut carbon emissions by 21,500 metric tons — and learned a thing or two about human behavior.

A working paper on the study was published in June by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The authors — Robert  Metcalfe, Greer Gosnell and John List — highlight their findings this week in a piece published online by the Harvard Business Review.

In a nutshell, the study confirms that you can work wonders simply by telling employees you’re watching them and providing targets to hit. This simple strategy may even work better than offering incentives.

Here’s how the study worked: In January 2014, Virgin Atlantic told pilots that their fuel-saving performance would be monitored for the next eight months.

To test different motivational strategies, the researchers divided the pilots randomly into four groups. Group No. 1, a control group, received no further attention. Pilots in group No. 2 got a monthly summary of how well they carried out specific company suggestions for saving fuel. That report — and I think this is important — was delivered by mail to their home.

The third group got those reports, plus individualized targets set at 25 percent above their pre-experiment performance. And group No. 4 got all of that plus a small incentive: £10 donated to the cause of their choice for each target they hit.

When results were tallied, it turned out that pilots in all four groups improved their practices and saved fuel. The study authors note this confirms a well-known principle called the “Hawthorne effect” — namely, that people act better when they know someone is watching. Those that received reports by mail at home got an especially strong reminder that the company was paying attention to their performance.

The more interesting effect was that both groups 3 and 4 did much better than the others, improving their fuel-saving practices by up to 20 percent. The fact that the improvement was similar for both groups, regardless of whether an incentive was offered, is telling, the study authors say. It suggests that in such a situation, setting targets alone is the most cost-effective strategy for getting employees to do the right thing.

It’s worth noting that Group No. 4 did distinguish itself in another way: In anonymous surveys after the experiment, pilots who had been offered incentives reported significantly higher job satisfaction. This suggests that while incentives may not mean better results, they can improve morale.

Why is setting targets so effective? The study authors think that set a higher expectation for job performance, and “captains successfully adjusted their habits to meet it.”

Writing about the study in his Financial Times column, economist Tim Harford put it succinctly: “If you want people to do a good job, tell them what success looks like to you — and that you’ve noticed when they’ve achieved it.”

Intuitively, we also can imagine that setting targets also helped by activating competitive instincts, the way “gamification” strategies do — who can resist a challenge to hit a target? I also have a hunch about why the incentive didn’t make much difference in fuel-saving behavior: I think it implicitly told the pilots that improving performance was optional. Why would the company offer an incentive if it could make improvement mandatory?

This points to how easily employers can go astray if incentives aren’t part of a broader strategy to recognize success. Among those who have studied this is Stanford University management professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, who wrote in 2007 about how financial rewards can backfire, incentivizing the short-sighted or otherwise harmful behavior.  Focusing on executive compensation, he notes that “financial incentives offer the mirage of a quick fix.”

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A Groundbreaking New Pay Equity Law

Beginning July 1, 2018, employers in Massachusetts will be prohibited from asking job candidates about their salary history before offering them a job or asking candidates’ former employers about their pay. The new law, the Pay Equity Act, is designed to reduce the pay disparities between men and women in the workplace.

Although other states (including California and Maryland) have also enacted recent legislation designed to reduce pay inequity, Massachusetts is the first state to ban employers from asking about candidates’ salary history. The law, signed earlier this week by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, not only had bipartisan support in the state legislature but also from business groups such as the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Nationally, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Because companies tend to use candidates’ pay history as a guideline in making offers, these inequities can follow candidates throughout their lifetimes, pay-equity advocates say.

The Massachusetts law, which amends and expands upon the state’s pre-existing pay equity law, also makes it illegal for employers to ban employees from discussing their pay with others and will require equal pay employees whose work is “of comparable character or work in comparable operations.” The law also bars employers from reducing the pay of any employee in order to come into compliance with the Pay Equity Act.

The law also increases the penalties for violations, according to an analysis by law firm Holland & Knight:

The law expands the remedies available to plaintiffs by extending the statute of limitations from one year to three years, and creating a continuing violation provision under which a new violation of the law occurs each time an employee is paid an unequal amount. This provision may permit employees to recover years of back pay discrepancies as well as liquidated damages. Fines are increased from $100 to $1,000 per violation. There is no requirement that an employee file first with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). Lawsuits may be filed directly in court.

Notably, however, the law features a safe harbor provision for employers that have been accused of pay discrimination, writes attorney Victoria Fuller of White and Williams:

Employers may avoid liability for pay discrimination under the Act if they can show within the last three years and before the commencement of the action, they have completed a good-faith self-evaluation of their pay practices and can demonstrate that reasonable progress has been made towards eliminating compensation differentials based on gender for comparable work in accordance with the evaluation.

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Hope Reigns Supreme in the HR Suite

As a good HR leader, you probably have a handle on hiring trends within your organization’s industry.

But what about your profession? What’s the employment forecast for HR?

At the moment, the prognosis is pretty good. And the younger the HR practitioner, the brighter the outlook, according to the 2016 HR Jobs Pulse Survey, recently released by the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management.

The SHRM poll asked 365 U.S.-based HR professionals to gauge their faith in their own job security and ability to find work if they were to leave their current employer.

Overall, 75 percent of all respondents reported confidence in their job security, with that number climbing to 85 percent among early-career HR professionals.

Those at the earliest stages of their careers were found to be “particularly confident” in the stability of the profession, “which suggests that new entrants to the profession are feeling optimistic about their future as HR practitioners,” says Alex Alonso, SHRM senior vice president of knowledge development, in a statement.

Some of these younger professionals, however, are a bit unsure about their chances outside their current organization, at least in comparison to their more experienced colleagues. Sixty-three percent of early-career respondents said they were “somewhat” or “very” confident that they could find a new job. Overall, 88 percent of respondents described their prospects the same way.

Regardless of age, most of these HR practitioners intend to stay put anyway, as just 19 percent of those polled said they were looking for a new job.

The roughly one-fifth of those pursuing other opportunities have their reasons for doing so, of course. Not surprisingly, money tops the list, with 42 percent citing “more compensation/pay” as their primary motivation for seeking new employment. Thirty-seven percent said they were in search of “better career advancement opportunities.”

Just 27 percent of those surveyed said their companies were hiring for HR positions, however. That percentage remains unchanged from 2015, according to SHRM.

What kind of talented HR practitioners are organizations looking to find? According to the SHRM survey, HR generalists continue to be in the highest demand (49 percent), followed by HR professionals with employment and recruitment skills (31 percent).

Ultimately, while hiring remains fairly flat for HR positions relative to last year, the findings suggest an air of optimism in the HR suite, says Alonso.

“Confidence in the stability of the profession has increased slightly,” he says. “The vast majority of HR professionals … had some level of confidence that they could land a new job if necessary.”

 

 

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Eliminating the ‘Mad Men’ Mind-set

Less than two weeks from today — August 15 — federal contractors that work with the U.S. government will need to comply with modernized rules when it comes to sex discrimination in the workplace.

According to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s fact sheet, the revisions will bring the “guidelines from the ‘Mad Men’ era to the modern era,” as well as protect women and men from discrimination on the job.

The U.S. Department of Labor is publishing new sex discrimination regulations that update – for the first time in more than 40 years – the department’s interpretation of Executive Order 11246 to reflect the current state of the law and the reality of a modern and diverse workforce.

“Updated rules on workplace sex discrimination will mean clarity for federal contractors and subcontractors and equal opportunities for both men and women applying for jobs with, or already working for, these employers,” the department said in a release.

“We have made progress as a country in opening career opportunities for women that were, for decades, the province of men. Yet, there is more work that lies ahead to eradicate sex discrimination. This is why it is important that we bring these old guidelines from the ‘Mad Men’ era to the modern era, and align them with the realities of today’s workplaces and legal landscape,” said director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Patricia A. Shiu.

The final rule updates OFCCP’s sex discrimination regulations to make them consistent with current law. It makes explicit the protections against compensation discrimination; sexually hostile work environments; discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions; and discrimination based on unlawful sex stereotypes, gender identity, and transgender status. The regulations also promote fair pay practices.

The rule implements Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies with federal contracts and subcontracts from discriminating in employment on the basis of sex.

But before the new rules take place, says Brett Draper, a partner at Alston & Bird’s labor and employment group:

“[E]mployers should review current policies to determine what changes should be made to processes in order to keep up with new regulations and ensure compliance.”

The new rules add to the growing employment obligations imposed on federal contractors through various guidelines and regulations, adds Clare Draper, also a partner with the law firm.

“While the OFCCP seeks to minimize discrimination in the workplace through these expanded requirements, the burden on businesses to comply grows as well. Businesses should take immediate action to protect themselves from exposure that can arise through OFCCP compliance reviews, class actions and other legal actions.”

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Changing of the Guard at Google

By now, many of you may have read that Laszlo Bock is stepping down as head of Google’s people operations, passing the baton to Eileen Naughton, who currently is vice president of sales and operations in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The news was first reported last week by Fortune.

Some of you may recall Bock was HRE’s 2010 HR Executive of the Year—and for good reason. Though only four years at the helm of Google’s HR organization at the time, it was already quite clear that he brought a fresh new way of thinking to the HR world.

As then Google CEO Eric Schmidt pointed out in our October 2010 cover story, “Building a New Breed,” “Innovation and data are at the core of who we are at Google, and Laszlo applies those same principles to HR. He drives cutting-edge people programs and uses rigorous analytics to guide decision-making—all in the name of finding, growing and keeping great Googlers.”

If you’re looking for a single place to go to get at what some of the “cutting-edge people programs” are, I suggest you pick up Bock’s 2015 book: Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. It’s all there.

Last year, the National Academy of Human Resouces also acknowledged Bock’s extraordinary contribution to the HR profession by naming him a Fellow in the Academy.

Unlike Bock, who held HR posts at General Electric before joining Google, Naughton is the latest example of an “outsider” taking the HR reins of a high-profile business.

Before joining Google, Naughton served as president of the Time Group and vice president of investor relations for Time Warner. She also served as president of Time Inc.

The Fortune story points out that she is one of the highest-rated managers at Google by employees and is “a founding member of Google’s women’s organization, Women@Google, along with former Google exec and current Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.”

Like Bock (who is staying on as an adviser to CEO Sundar Pichai), she will report to Alphabet (Google parent company) CFO Ruth Porat and will oversee HR in its entirety, including diversity and inclusion (which, like at many Silicon Valley companies, continues to be a weak spot for the firm, though one it’s making great strides to address).

Only time will tell, of course, how Naughton will build on Bock’s legacy at Google. Will she be able to view HR through a very different lens, much like Bock? Who knows—maybe her lack of HR experience will be an asset in that regard(?) But this much is certain: She has a tough act to follow.

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The Democratic Party Platform: A Cheat Sheet

ThinkstockPhotos-476244660Turnabout is fair play — at least when it comes to politics in 2016. Last week I gave you a rundown on HR-related provisions in the Republican Party platform. Now it’s time for the Democrats.

Reflecting the unusual character of this year’s race, the document — formally approved on Monday — contains many direct attacks on GOP candidate Donald J. Trump. In some cases the narrative has to stretch a bit to do so. In declaring the party’s support for small business, for example, the platform says:

“The Democratic Party will make it easier to start and grow a small business in America, unlike Donald Trump, who has often stiffed small businesses—nearly bankrupting some—with his deceptive and reckless corporate practices.”

Anyway. Back to HR. Following are the main provisions of interest.

Minimum Wage: Language in the platform on the federal minimum wage reflects some tension between the party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Clinton favors a raise from $7.25 an hour today to $12, leaving states and cities to set higher minimums. Her now-vanquished rival, Bernie Sanders, pushed for $15. What emerged in final platform language was a compromise: $15 … “over time.” The party also calls for eliminating minimum-wage exemptions for tipped workers and those with disabilities.

“No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. … We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it [to inflation].”

Employer incentives: The party also favors federal support for employers who “provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union without reprisal.” The language doesn’t specify the form of this support, but suggests such employers would get preference in existing programs.

“The one trillion dollars spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class.”

‘Card Check': The platform reiterates a long-held argument in favor of allowing unions to organize workplaces where a majority of workers have signed cards indicating approval — with no election. The idea, called “card check,” has been proposed in Congress for more than a decade, so far without success.

The provision is part of a larger argument the party makes in favor of stronger legislative and regulatory support for labor unions.

“A major factor in the 40-year decline in the middle class is that the rights of workers to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits have been under attack at all levels. … We oppose legislation and lawsuits that would strike down laws protecting the rights of teachers and other public employees. We will defend President Obama’s overtime rule, which protects of millions of workers by paying them fairly for their hard work.”

Mandatory Arbitration: Federal regulators have been going after companies that require workers to sign arbitration agreements that waive their rights to sue or join class-action suits. The topic got a big boost this month with news that former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes is citing such a clause in the contract of former Fox commentator Gretchen Carlson to keep her sexual-harassment lawsuit out of court.

The 2016 platform adds the cause to a list of labor measures.

“We will support efforts to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses in employment and service contracts, which unfairly strip consumers, workers, students, retirees, and investors of their right to their day in court.”

Paid leave: After a passing reference to the party’s support for gender-based pay equity, the Democratic Party platform gets more specific about laws that would mandate family and medical leave.

“Democrats will make sure that the United States finally enacts national paid family and medical leave by passing a family and medical leave act that would provide all workers at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue. We will fight to allow workers the right to earn at least seven days of paid sick leave. We will also encourage employers to provide paid vacation.”

Profit-sharing: Suggesting a program that may appeal to some employers, the party also backs an unspecified government incentive to some that provide profit-sharing bonuses to employees.

“Corporate profits are at near-record highs, but workers have not shared through rising wages. … we will incentivize companies to share profits with their employees on top of wages and pay increases, while targeting the workers and businesses that need profit-sharing the most.”

International trade: Trade policy is a sore subject for both parties, with Trump and Sanders railing against NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Democratic Party platform walks a narrow line, calling for tougher bargaining — without shutting the door on the TPP.

“Trade agreements should crack down on the unfair and illegal subsidies other countries grant their businesses at the expense of ours. … These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Immigration: The 2016 party platform reaffirms longstanding calls for comprehensive immigration policy reform — but makes no mention of increasing employment-based visa allowances to help companies recruit talent abroad.

“Democrats believe we need to urgently fix our broken immigration system—which tears families apart and keeps workers in the shadows—and create a path to citizenship for law-abiding families who are here, making a better life for their families and contributing to their communities and our country.”

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