2017 proved a big year for the U.S. retail industry from swipe fee wins to tax code reform.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the trade association of the world’s largest and most innovative retail companies, outlined a number of RILA-led advocacy efforts on key public policy challenges that will impact the industry for years to come.
Retailers have historically paid one of the highest corporate tax rates among all industries. RILA was one of the first business groups to organize a meeting with President Trump, Vice President Pence, NEC Chair Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss the need for pro-growth tax reform and the harmful effects of the border adjustment tax proposal. Thanks to a closely coordinated grassroots and media campaign and more than 300 meetings with the House, Senate, and Administration, RILA helped defeat the harmful border adjustment tax and helped push tax reform across the finish line. With Congress having just passed an historic rewrite of the tax code, retailers will have the ability to modernize stores, invest in their workforce and continue to transform the shopping experience for consumers. The fierce competition of today’s retail environment means the ultimate winner in tax reform will be retail customers.
RILA Beats Wall Street
Upholding debit card swipe fee reform was a top priority for America’s retailers in 2017. Swipe fees take a huge bite from America’s retailers, trailing only labor as the second highest operational cost for most merchants. At the beginning of the year, big banks began a massive lobbying campaign to repeal the Durbin Amendment in the House’s “Financial CHOICE Act,” threatening to raise costs for businesses and consumers. RILA led a coordinated lobbying, grassroots and media campaign to educate lawmakers on the high cost of swipe fees and the importance of reform. After an intense campaign, the House sided with America’s retailers and consumers to pass a financial reform package that preserved swipe fee reforms.
RILA’s sister organization, the Retail Litigation Center, played a major role in the progress of two major cases Ohio et. Al. v American Express and South Dakota v. Wayfair, Overstock and Newegg. The RLC worked with retailers and other stakeholders to support a petition before United States Supreme Court to consider the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Overstock and Newegg, a case that could overturn the Quill Corp. v. North Dakota decision, which forbids states from requiring out of state retailers to collect sales tax. The 25-year old decision created a loophole that has distorted free market competition by giving out of state Internet-only retailers an automatic price advantage over local stores. The RLC also played an important role in Ohio, a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that considers the legality of American Express rules that prevent retailers from educating or offering benefits to consumers for using credit cards with lower fees. The RLC filed a brief along with major retailers to highlight the negative impact Amex’s current steering rules have to American retailers and consumers.
Role Back Joint Employer, Micro Union Decisions
In December, the National Labor Relations Board reversed two harmful Obama-era decisions. First, the NLRB reversed the precedent set in the Browning-Ferris case that changed the decades long held definition of joint employer. RILA has lobbied aggressively to reverse the decision and agreed with the Board’s ruling, which described the past decision as, “ill-advised as a matter of policy, and its application would prevent the Board from discharging one of its primary responsibilities under the Act, which is to foster stability in labor-management relations.” The NLRB also reversed the 2011 “micro-unions” decision and reinstated the traditional community-of-interest standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit. The original micro-union decision was particularly harmful for retail employees, because it took away the flexibility and upward mobility that so many seek. For that reason, RILA has been on the front lines lobbying against the micro-unit standard by strongly supporting legislative efforts in Congress to block the misguided decision.