As the election dust settles, it appears that the results will be a mixed bag for both industry and organized labor. While the labor unions delivered the winning votes in key states for President Obama, they were also rebuffed in Michigan in an attempt to put collective bargaining in the state constitution and also failed to establish collective bargaining for home health-care workers.

Election-weary voters in Wisconsin handed control of the state Senate back to Republicans, which gives Gov. Scott Walker the capacity to hold the line against the unions. Washington and Georgia adopted initiatives opposed by the unions to allow establishment of charter schools. The NEA poured millions of dollars into an initiative in Idaho to overturn a state law limiting collective-bargaining by sweetening the deal with some pay-for-performance measures and won.

Referring to Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said, "Without organized labor, none of those would have been in the president's column." Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU, claims 100,000 of its members donated time to the campaign and knocked on 5 million doors. Undoubtedly, SEIU and other unions will be looking for a payback, but that may prove difficult for the president.

It is conventional wisdom that U.S. presidents attempt to drive their ideological agenda in their second term. However, it is unlikely that labor unions will fare any better with their major initiatives during the next four years. What Obama will be focused on is how to get business to start spending some of their massive accumulations of corporate cash. That would be the best way to finally pull the country out of recession and obtain significant growth in jobs. Former Republican Michigan Gov. John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, has waved the business cooperation flag, suggesting that the Republican-controlled House needs to seek compromise to avoid the pending fiscal cliff of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases.

The top priorities of most business leaders are to rewrite the corporate tax system and reduce regulatory requirements. Any distractions that would alienate business leaders, such as an attempt to implement the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize known as “card check,” will not have serious backing. Do not expect any serious move to increase the minimum wage unless the economy comes roaring back.  The president will appease labor with appointments to the NLRB, EEOC and vigorous enforcement of Fair Labor Standards Act and other labor laws through the Department of Labor. The current speculation is that U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a friend of organized labor, will remain in place at least for the early part of the second term.

Business leaders can be comforted that the Republican-controlled House will be a check against major reforms wanted by labor issues. However, this administration’s proven focus on imposing their agenda through regulation will provide the unions their venues to address worker issues. Business can expect to see ramped up enforcement of health and safety laws from OSHA. It is likely that OSHA will finalize its Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which was under development for much of the first term. You can also expect to see stricter and more time-condensed injury reporting obligations.