House Education & Workforce Committee
Opening Statement by Rep. Virginia Fox (R-NC) | Hearing on “Examining the Policies and the Priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor”
The Department of Labor is on the frontline of the issues facing workers and job creators, and it sets policies that have a widespread impact on our nation’s economy, employment growth, retirement security, and more.
Whether they relate to health care, worker protections, retirement planning, workforce development, or employee wages and benefits — it is the responsibility of this committee to ensure those policies are in the best interest of workers, employers, and taxpayers.
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: No matter what party controls the administration – this committee is dedicated to robust oversight. We take our oversight responsibilities very seriously. Today’s hearing is the latest step in our effort to hold federal government officials accountable.
The American people are counting on that accountability, especially at a time when the economy is still improving. We are all encouraged by the economic growth we have seen this year. In the third quarter of 2017, real GDP increased at an annual rate of 3 percent. That is a remarkable improvement, considering it’s twice as much as the mere 1.5 percent growth rate we saw during the final year of the Obama administration.
It’s also great to see more and more Americans getting back to work. Nearly 1.5 million jobs have been added since February. Meaningful progress has been made, but there’s no question we have more work to do after eight years of lost opportunity.
However, even though the unemployment rate is down, we still have 6.5 million workers out of work, including 1.6 million on a long-term basis. 4.8 million workers are working part-time because their hours have been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
At the same time, we have 6.1 million jobs unfilled, due in part to our nation’s skills gap. Expanding pathways to career success is a critical component to closing this gap and helping more Americans find good-paying jobs. That’s why Congress and the administration have made workforce development and skills-based education a leading priority.
This week happens to be National Apprenticeship Week, and so we are eager to hear from you, Mr. Secretary, on the steps the department plans to take to promote apprenticeships and other skills-based education programs.
This is something our committee has been focused on for quite some time now, and it is encouraging to have a partner in the White House and the Department of Labor. We look forward to further discussion of how we can work together to expand educational opportunities and empower more Americans to realize their God-given potential.
In addition, I hope that you will be able to provide committee members and the public with your views about the department’s efforts to advance economic opportunities for workers by strengthening workplace democracy, ensuring safe and healthy workplaces, enhancing retirement security, and providing workers and employers with more affordable health care options.
We are also very interested in hearing more about the department’s regulatory and enforcement agenda. This committee spent the early part of this year advancing resolutions under the Congressional Review Act to clean up the mess from the Obama administration and deliver regulatory relief for hardworking men and women.
In fact, five out of fourteen of the CRA resolutions that were signed into law originated from this committee. And just last week, the House passed the Save Local Business Act to roll back the Obama-era joint employer scheme that threatens 1.7 million jobs, according to the American Action Forum.
We know the department has its work cut out after eight years of an unprecedented regulatory rampage. But we look forward to building on the progress we’ve made together so we can get government out of the way and unleash prosperity and opportunity.
There are also a number of issues impacting retirement security that deserve our attention. This includes the need to protect access to affordable retirement advice and empower more Americans to plan for the future.
# # #
Rep. Rokita Opening Statement (R-IN) | Subcommittee Hearing on "Close to Home: How Opioids are Impacting Communities”
Good morning, and welcome to today’s joint subcommittee hearing with our colleagues from the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. I’d like to thank our panel of witnesses and our members for joining today’s important discussion on opioid abuse and addiction that is taking a toll on the nation.
The opioid crisis is having a profound impact on families, jobs, communities, and the economy, and that is why we’re here today.
The issue of drug overdoses due to opioids is only getting worse as deaths related to opioids have quadrupled since 1999. In 2016 alone, there were approximately 64,000 drug overdoses. This means that the opioid crisis is claiming the lives of 175 Americans per day.
These figures are horrifying and sad not only for the country’s future, but for communities who are losing parents, husbands, wives, teachers, and students.
Additionally, the opioid epidemic knows no age, gender, educational credential, or class distinction. This crisis is touching all Americans.
Some of the most unfortunate stories have to do with the children whose lives have been forever changed by this public health emergency.
Between 2000 and 2014, the number of babies born drug-dependent increased by 500 percent. In my home state of Indiana, a recent pilot program from the state Department of Health found that about 1 in 5 infants assessed at hospitals around the state tested positive for opiates.
More and more children are being placed into foster care or are cared for by another relative due to parental drug abuse. According to a recent analysis, nearly a third of the children who entered foster care in the U.S. in 2015 did so at least partially because of parental drug abuse.
It is one thing to read the statistics and accounts in the news about communities in the midst of the opioid crisis, but these accounts do not compare to the real voices we need to hear from in order to understand this crisis.
I had the opportunity to host a school safety summit last week in my district. One of the two big topics was the opioid crisis. I heard from Dustin Noonkester, one of the founders of “Brady’s Hope.” Dustin lost his son to opioid overdose. This organization is a resource to members of the community on how to spot abuse, how to address opioid misuse, and how families can help one another treat opioid addiction.
These are the stories that give me hope that this crisis can be overcome.
This epidemic can no longer be ignored, and it is important that we hear from those who are on the ground and facing the tragic truths of the opioid crisis every day.
The witnesses we have gathered here today understand the opioid problem better than any of us here in Washington, because they see it, and fight it, in their communities.
I am pleased this committee can come together to understand this true public health emergency and its impact on communities across the United States.
To read PDF version, click here.
Rep. Guthrie Opening Statement (R-KY) | Subcommittee Hearing on "Close to Home: How Opioids are Impacting Communities”
The opioid crisis is a public health emergency and Congress must continue working to face the epidemic that has had an impact on all aspects of our society.
Unfortunately, a problem as widespread as the opioid epidemic, which has already had an impact on over 11.5 million Americans, also has taken a devastating toll on local economies and the national economy as a whole, as we’re only beginning to see more clearly.
As the opioid public health emergency continues to worsen, the economy will continue to suffer.
Data from the CDC analyzing opioid overdose deaths by age groups in 1999 and 2015 showed that the people most likely to die of an opioid overdose are between the ages of 25 and 39 years old.
These are people who had entire lives, careers, and untold contributions to make to their communities and our country ahead of them.
Numbers are important, but people with their own stories are at the heart of this crisis.
To Americans who live in some of the areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis, including my home state of Kentucky, they are seeing their coworkers, bosses, friends, and family members suffer from this horrible affliction.
The administration and Congress are coming together to identify community-based solutions to combat this crisis, but the day-to-day hard work fighting this outbreak is already being done on the ground by the people that face this issue every day.
The witnesses we have gathered here today have seen the impact the opioid crisis is having on their communities every day, and it’s important we hear their stories of how it has specifically impacted them as individuals, as well as their friends, families, and coworkers.
When it comes to finding solutions for workforce development needs, and creating more good-paying jobs, we look to state and local entities who are leading by example, and the opioid crisis is no different.
Our witnesses before us have learned a lot in their communities about how to spot opioid abuse and implement successful forms of treatment. It is important we hear about these experiences in order to inform the Congressional response to the crisis.
At this Committee, we talk a lot about how we are addressing the shortage of skilled workers across the country, and how we want to empower people to build the lives they want for themselves. For many workers ensnared in this epidemic, it is critical that they receive the treatment they need to help them return to the workforce, and find a good job once they are drug-free. We also have to acknowledge that the opioid crisis is resulting in too many lives ending far too soon, and we have to look at ways to stop it.
I’d like to welcome Tim Robinson from my home state of Kentucky who is testifying here today. Tim is the founder and CEO of Addiction Recovery Care in Louisa, Kentucky, which is a network of 13 addiction treatment centers. Thank you for the work you are doing to serve your community and the Commonwealth. I look forward to hearing your testimony today.
I appreciate the witnesses for appearing before this committee, and look forward to hearing how they have responded in their own communities to combat this crisis.
To read PDF version, click here.
In Missouri and beyond, businesses stand eager to expand job growth, seek out new opportunities, and in the process, create better prospects for American workers. However, after eight years of Washington, D.C., policies that worked against employers, there’s a lot of regulatory red tape to clear out of the way.
The previous administration meddled with one cornerstone of the economy in particular: the workplace. And the National Labor Relations Board — the agency that oversees union elections and investigates alleged unfair labor practices — was one of the most aggressive regulators of all. Rather than act as an impartial enforcer of the law, the President Obama-era board carried out a one-sided agenda aimed at growing labor unions at any cost.
For starters, the NLRB drastically shortened the time frame for a workplace unionization vote to as few as 10 days. This “ambush election” rule denies workers the opportunity to get complete information about the pros and cons of joining a union and makes it harder for employers, particularly small businesses, to respond to a union organizing campaign. Worse still, the rule requires employers to turn over to union organizers personal information about their workers, including their schedules, phone numbers, and email and home addresses.
Next, the agency rewrote the rulebook on what groups of workers can form a union. In fact, the NLRB allowed unions to organize tiny pockets of workers — known as “micro unions” — even in workplaces where the majority of employees opposed union representation. As just one example, the NLRB permitted a union consisting of just the cosmetic and fragrance salespeople at a Macy’s department store, even though most of the store’s 150 employees didn’t want a union in their workplace.
Pushing its authority further still, the board even aggressively claimed jurisdiction over labor practices on Indian tribal lands, undermining tribal sovereignty and depriving the tribes of the ability to run their own economies.
Perhaps worst of all, the NLRB blurred the definition of what the word “employer” even means. By rewriting the so-called “joint employer” standard, the NLRB tried to hold businesses involved in franchising or subcontracting liable for workplaces they don’t control and workers they don’t employ. This liability-expanding policy might create more jobs — but only for trial lawyers and government enforcers.
These are just a few examples of the opportunity-killing policy shifts pursued by the Obama-era NLRB. Small businesses in Missouri and elsewhere paid the price. But Congress and the board now have an opportunity to restore balance and common sense to the workplace.
First, there is a new majority on the NLRB that can begin unwinding the harmful policies of the past eight years.
Second, Congress can vote on legislation that has already been introduced in the House of Representatives to ensure that actions by the new NLRB are enshrined into law. The “Save Local Business Act” would re-establish the common-sense notion that two businesses are only “joint employers” if both exercise direct control over the same workers — meaning that both take actions like hiring, paying and disciplining them.
Another bill, the “Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act,” would provide additional time for workers to learn all the facts about unionization before an election takes place. The bill states that no election shall take place earlier than 35 days after an election petition is filed. The legislation would also toss out the NLRB’s “micro union” decision, and return to the long-held standard for collective bargaining units that actually represent the majority of employees at a workplace.
The [“Employee Privacy Protection Act”] would allow workers, not the NLRB, to choose the means by which they wish to be contacted by a union during an organizing campaign.
Finally, the “Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act” would affirm the rights of Indian tribal employers to govern their own labor practices on their own lands.
So Missouri’s elected officials have a chance to help small businesses, and create a better climate for job growth. They should seize the opportunity and stand with employers by paring back the regulatory agenda of the Obama-era NLRB.
Randy Johnson is senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits, and Glenn Spencer is vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
To read online, click here.
To learn more about the Save Local Business Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/jointemployer.
Rep. Guthrie Opening Statement (R-KY) | Hearing on “Public-Private Solutions to Educating a Cyber Workforce”
When Americans think of data breaches and cyber-attacks, names like Equifax come to mind. This and other recent high profile data breaches have made private and sensitive information vulnerable to identity theft as well as other cyber-crimes.
Cyber-crimes are constantly appearing in the news, and Americans want to know what is being done to protect their data, as well as other vulnerable targets that comprise our national infrastructure.
Organizations in the public and private sectors are actively seeking skilled professionals to fill the numerous jobs available in the growing cybersecurity field, and are coming up short in the number of Americans able to fill these essential positions that ensure our American cyber-infrastructure is safe.
A recent study by Intel Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) examined the global cybersecurity workforce shortage and confirmed that the talent shortage was real and widespread. Eighty-two percent of participants report a shortage of cybersecurity skills.
The same report found that more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and job postings are up 74 percent over the past five years. Additionally, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is expected to continue to grow to over 1.8 million by 2022.
This skills gap is not unique to the cybersecurity sector. Many other industries such as manufacturing and transportation are facing a shortage of skilled workers to fill good-paying jobs. However, when dealing with cybersecurity, the stakes are even higher because we are dealing with national security.
Fortunately, the discussions we have today will not be the beginning of the conversation in Congress on closing the skills gap.
The House unanimously passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which allows states to dedicate additional resources towards high-demand fields such as cybersecurity based on changing economic, educational, or national security needs.
Additionally, the Committee on Education and the Workforce has been carefully observing the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that was signed into law in 2014.
This law streamlined the confusing maze of workforce development programs, and increased the amount of funding available to the states to meet specific workforce demands based on conversations with public and private stakeholders in each state.
Today’s hearing will examine solutions to filling the skills gap that currently exists in the cybersecurity field, and how coalitions across government, academic institutions, and private industries can pave the way to successfully close this skills gap and keep our country’s cybersecurity infrastructure safe.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how Congress can assist in the conversations already taking place between institutions of higher education and public and private entities in the cybersecurity field.
To read PDF version, click here.
Let me begin by welcoming our witness panel and our guests today. Thank you for taking the time away from your important work to testify and help Congress better understand these workforce issues. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Members of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee to hold this joint hearing on developing our nation’s cyber workforce. I would like to thank Chairwoman Foxx and Chairman Guthrie for their work on this critical issue. It is an important time for cooperation here on Capitol Hill and it is my sincere hope that the public will be encouraged that Members on both sides of the aisle are focused on important issues that really matter.
Cybersecurity is an issue that affects every sector of our economy and our society. The risks are broadly shared and this joint hearing shows the need for an integrated approach to address the challenge of the cyber skills gap. Cyberattacks are growing in frequency and sophistication, but the availability of qualified cybersecurity professionals to deal with these challenges is not keeping pace. We cannot speak to the shortage of workers without recognizing the importance of the academic pipeline that produces today’s workforce as well our next generation of experts who will need to keep pace with technology and the ever evolving threats.
The dearth of cybersecurity talent is a major resource constraint that impacts our ability to protect information and assets. More than 200,000 cybersecurity jobs in the US are unfilled and the demand for positions, like information security professionals, is expected to grow by 53 percent through 2018. This slow moving crisis is very likely to only get worse.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection subcommittee recently heard testimony that indicated that the struggle to find qualified personnel to fill cybersecurity roles in government and business is not only a short term problem, but is expected to grow and become even more acute in the future. Technology innovation and criminal tactics move very fast,, and with each new wirelessly-connected baby monitor or interconnected energy-efficient pipeline that comes online, new threats and vulnerabilities emerge to exploit those technologies. Just as the connected world expands and new products improve our quality of life, simplifying many tasks, our vulnerabilities move in parallel and demand a skilled workforce who can protect the functionality and preserve confidential data.
Public and private hiring systems must likewise shift and adapt to a new way of thinking about hiring and recruiting; we need intellectual capital that better reflects the qualifications and skills of a new type of cyber worker.. For their entire lives,younger Americans just enter ing the workforce have possessed more technology in a single smartphone than some ever imagined. Consider that the iPhone 7 operates at 1.4 gigahertz and can process instructions at a rate of approximately 1.2 instructions every cycle in each of its 2 cores. Put simply, the iPhone 7’s clock is 32,600 times faster than the best Apollo-era computers and could perform instructions 120,000,000 times faster. You wouldn’t be wrong in saying an iPhone could be used to guide 120,000,000 Apollo era spacecraft to t e moon, all at the same time. The rate of innovation in the information technology sector is simply astonishing.
I believe the Federal Government and our cybersecurity leaders can create more alliances with community groups, universities and career and technical schools to better develop our talent pipeline. The Department of Homeland Security supports a number of efforts to strengthen its workforce, from programs to recruit new cyber talent to those that allow private sector experts the opportunity to share their knowledge working at DHS. We need to encourage government-university-employer collaborations that are meaningful and robust. Demonstrating cyber know-how no longer comes in discrete forms such as having a bachelor’s degree or not, or obtainin g a cyber certification. Cyber competitions, bug bounty programs, and coding camps are all new forms of workforce development.
I am looking forward to discussing with our witnesses today some of the best practices in building public-private partnerships to expand the cyber workforce pipeline.
The cyber capabilities of our workforce help support economic strength and sustain our technological advantage. It is my firm belief that America will only remain the world’s preeminent superpower so long as it remains the world’s cybersecurity leader. Leadership matters, and if we don’t encourage and develop the talented men and women who lead this work, we will be both poorer and less safe.
To view the PDF version, click here.
How Congress can help your favorite local restaurants
By Chris Duggan
San Diego is transforming into more than America’s Finest City. It’s becoming a culinary hot spot. Previously known for its fish tacos and oceanside cuisine, creative chefs from across the United States and even Mexico are filling the city with everything from exotic flavors to good old American barbecue. Foodies from all over are packing into our local eateries to check out the hype.
Unfortunately for our booming food industry, a decision out of Washington, D.C., is threatening the livelihood of the country’s restaurant and hospitality industry. The National Labor Relations Board in 2015 redefined what it means to be a joint employer, or when two companies share supervision of an employee.
It’s no longer clear whether outsourcing the laundry makes a bed-and-breakfast owner liable for workplace safety at the neighboring dry cleaner or if contracting out some renovations puts an authentic Mexican restaurant owner on the hook for construction workers’ unpaid overtime.
The wide-ranging uncertainty that is infecting entrepreneurs could have widespread economic impact, too. Despite chefs and restaurant owners flocking to San Diego from all over, our fine city is experiencing a flat unemployment rate and a year-over-year decline in hiring.
How can that be so? No doubt, much can be attributed to an unstable employer environment.
Business owners are now using their limited resources to buy extra liability insurance and invest in legal counsel to protect the businesses they built. This is money that could be used to expand and hire more employees. The consequences of the joint employer ambiguities on the hospitality industry are a big deal in an area where nearly 35 million visitors spent $10.4 billion locally on tourism last year — supporting 184,000 leisure and hospitality jobs. To help invigorate economic momentum and job growth in San Diego, lawmakers must consider a fix to this standard.
Recently, there has been a welcome flurry of activity in our nation’s capital to try and provide restaurant owners and small businesses with some much-needed clarity. In fact, the Department of Labor moved in June to roll back the controversial decision with an executive order. Both developments prove that policymakers on both sides of the aisle hear the restaurant and small business community’s concerns. But in order to sustain a clear understanding that small business owners can rely upon, Congress must act.
Fortunately, there is already a piece of bipartisan legislation in Congress that would immediately fix this two-year old problem. The Save Local Business Act (House Resolution 3441) would return us to the common-sense definition where a business owner is accountable for his or her own employees, not those of other companies. Additionally, workers would be employed by the companies that hired them, not every other entity they consult for, contract with or provide services to.
Bringing back straightforward employer-employee relationships will make the workplace a less confusing place, where both sides can be confident in the lines of communication and responsibility. This will, in turn, have a positive impact on restaurateurs that are eager to return their focus to making great food.
H.R. 3441 is exactly what San Diego restaurants need. Hopefully, the California congressional delegation will sign onto this bill and continue leading the way for our bustling hospitality community. Our innovative chefs, restaurateurs and best-in-class workers who make this America’s Finest City are counting on it.
Duggan is the director of local government affairs of San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and San Bernadino counties for the California Restaurant Association.
To read the full editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, click here.
To learn more about the Save Local Business Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/jointemployer.
Obama's fiduciary rule is already hurting small savers. Here's how to roll it back
By Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)
Saving for retirement is a difficult challenge for Americans across the country. By one estimate, there are nearly 40 million working families who haven't saved a dime for retirement. It's clear the last thing Washington should do is create new barriers to the financial security Americans need when they retire.
That's why it's so mind-boggling that the Obama administration put in place a so-called fiduciary rule that makes it harder for people to build a secure retirement.
We've always agreed that retirement advisers should act in good faith; we've been saying that from the start. But a rule requiring retirement advisers to serve their clients' best interests is completely pointless if it means many Americans won't have access to retirement advice at all.
For years, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has led the fight against this fundamentally flawed rule. We weren't the only ones who raised concerns. In fact, nearly 100 House Democrats cautioned the Obama administration against finalizing a rule that would "have a disproportionate impact on lower- and middle-income communities."
Sadly, that's precisely what the previous administration settled on. And you don't have to just take our word for it. Even former President Barack Obama's own secretary of treasury, Jack Lew, recently acknowledged the rule will lead to harmful consequences, including "pricing smaller investors out of the financial advice market."
Indeed, according to the American Action Forum, the rule could increase costs on retirement savers by $46.6 billion. Those who can least afford it will be hit the hardest. Many working families will soon find they can no longer afford personal retirement advice, and small businesses will face new obstacles as they try to set up retirement plans for their employees.
We're seeing these predictions come to fruition. Several firms have already dropped the very types of services those with limited savings are more likely to rely on, and it's only a matter of time before things get worse.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report notes that 71 percent of advisors surveyed will stop providing advice to some of their clients with small account balances. Perhaps most concerning, the report found that up to 7 million retirement savers may lose access to retirement advice altogether.
For these very reasons, we wish the rule had been scrapped altogether. But from Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta's perspective, his hands were tied. That makes it even more compelling to develop a legislative solution.
To his credit, the secretary also noted that "America was founded on the belief that people should be trusted to govern themselves … Voters elect their representatives to Washington." We agree. As the People's representatives, we have a duty to fix the fiduciary mess.
Our committee recently advanced the Affordable Retirement Advice for Savers Act, which will repeal the fiduciary rule and preserve access to affordable retirement advice. It also amends federal law to require retirement advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. Legislation — not 1,000 pages of red tape — is the right way to address an issue with such a widespread impact.
This legislation proves we can hold financial advisers accountable without causing millions of Americans to lose access to affordable retirement advice. It's our hope that members of both parties will do the right thing by joining together and sending H.R. 2823 to President Trump's desk. The American people are depending on us to do just that.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. (@virginiafoxx), is chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. (@DrPhilRoe), a member of that same committee, also chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
To read the full op-ed in the Washington Examiner, click here.
I was proud to introduce the Save Local Business Act because it’s good for workers and it’s good for job creators. I appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of this commonsense proposal today.
As a former labor attorney, I can tell you it used to be pretty clear who an employer was. But now, two completely separate employers can be considered joint employers if they make a business agreement that “indirectly” or even “potentially” impacts their employees.
Those are certainly vague terms. So vague that many lawyers may not even agree on what exactly they mean. But we know the real-world impact has been confusion, uncertainty, and growing legal jeopardy.
Here’s what those terms mean to the owner of Wintzell’s Oyster House in my district in Mobile, Alabama. The owner, Bob Omainsky, wrote recently in Alabama Today:
“If we hire an outside landscaping company to keep our lawns lush, I could be considered a joint employer if I show the landscapers where to mow. Or, if I contract a food supplier for certain ingredients, I could become part of a lawsuit if one of their workers complains about overtime pay. The uncertainty is nothing more than governmental overreach that is crippling eateries like Wintzell’s and discouraging growth throughout the restaurant industry.”
There are small business owners in all of our districts who are working hard each and every day to create jobs and contribute to our local economies, and they deserve better than this. They deserve clarity.
Workers deserve better, too. They deserve better than an extreme and unworkable rule that threatens 1.7 million jobs. And they deserve better than unelected bureaucrats interfering with their relationship with their employer for the sole purpose of empowering union and trial lawyer interests.
That’s right. This joint employer scheme was really intended to make it easier for Big Labor to organize small businesses. It’s no surprise that some of the nation’s largest labor unions have been peddling scare tactics and spreading false information about H.R. 3441.
So let me be clear on what this bill does. H.R. 3441 maintains existing worker protections under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
We are amending the NLRA to roll back the Browning-Ferris decision and prevent future NLRB overreach. And we are amending the FLSA because aggressive trial lawyers and activist judges have made matters even worse by creating a confusing patchwork of joint employer standards across the country.
Again, this bill does not take away a single protection from a single worker. Instead, it ensures the actual employer is legally responsible for providing those protections. If everyone is responsible, no one is.
Some have wrongly claimed that the joint employer standard reflected in H.R. 3441 is somehow a dramatic departure from long-standing policy prior to the NLRB’s 2015 ruling. That claim is quite frankly absurd.
I’d like to remind the members of this committee that it was the Browning-Ferris decision, and actions by Obama-era bureaucrats, that completely disrupted what was once a stable legal environment and threatened countless local businesses as a result.
H.R. 3441 simply restores the commonsense joint employer standard that workers and employers relied on for decades. It clarifies that two or more employers must have “actual, direct, and immediate” control over essential terms and conditions of employment to be considered joint employers.
The bill as introduced is consistent with case law prior to BFI, and today’s markup presents an opportunity to make the bill even clearer.
That’s why the substitute amendment I am offering makes clarifying and technical changes to the underlying bill. I urge all members to support the substitute, as well as H.R. 3441.
To read PDF version, click here.
Opening Statement by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-AL): Markup of H.R. 3441, the Save Local Business Act
Today, the committee will consider H.R. 3441, the Save Local Business Act. Since the National Labor Relations Board unilaterally redefined what it means to be an employer in 2015, more than two dozen witnesses have come before this committee and others in Congress to tell us, in practical terms, what the decision means for the future of American jobs.
We’ve heard firsthand how the board’s decision, and the actions of regulators and activist judges that followed, have disrupted the daily operations of business owners across the country.
The consequences have been far-reaching. Basic, business-to-business relationships that have long been a part of the American way of life and a critical component to the success of our economy have been called into question.
The lines of responsibility for important worker protections are now blurry. Small business owners fear they will lose the independence they worked so hard to achieve. Others who rely on contracting opportunities fear their options for growth, along with their limited stream of revenue, will suddenly diminish.
Meanwhile, many hardworking men and women are left wondering why the relationship they have with their employer is changing, or if unelected bureaucrats or activist judges will dictate that they have a new boss at some distant company.
And that’s not all. While we’ve all been working together here in Congress to support workforce development reforms, we’ve simultaneously heard how the joint employer scheme makes it harder for employers effectively to do their part in addressing our nation’s skills gap.
All of this damage began with one extreme and obstructive ruling. We wouldn’t be here today if the overwhelming consensus wasn’t that the NLRB and Obama-era bureaucrats made serious mistakes.
We’re here today to complete one of the most important steps in correcting those mistakes. Mr. Byrne has introduced the Save Local Business Act with the support of most of the members of this committee.
The bill directly addresses the mistakes the NLRB made when it redefined the concept of joint employment and put so many jobs and livelihoods at risk. And it addresses the mistakes the Obama administration made when it spread the board’s flawed policy to other areas of federal labor law.
Both of our workforce subcommittee chairmen, Mr. Byrne and Mr. Walberg, have carefully examined the statutes under their respective jurisdictions. They worked together to ensure that the scope of the bill under consideration today appropriately clears up the existing confusion and restores the commonsense concept of joint employer for businesses of every size.
American workers deserve to know who they’re dealing with in their workplaces. They should have the power to speak for themselves on matters of pay, schedules, professional development — anything that helps them have the successful life they want for themselves.
In order to do that, they need to know with certainty who their employer is. But both employers and employees have made clear to this committee that the current joint employer standard is confusing at best, devastating at worst, and simply not sustainable.
We have heard them, and that’s what leads us to where we are today. I thank Mr. Byrne for his hard work bringing the Save Local Business Act this far, and I thank all of our members for being here and for ensuring the joint employer problem and this solution get the thorough attention they deserve.
To read PDF version, click here.
To most Americans, the question over who their employer is seems to be an obvious answer. It’s the person who hired them, the one who signs their paycheck.
As a former labor attorney, I can tell you it used to be very clear in legal terms how you become someone’s employer. But that’s no longer the case since the National Labor Relations Board stepped in.
Many people would be shocked to find out that some company they’ve had zero contact with is also considered their employer, in addition to the employer that actually hired them.
Now, we all agree there are times when two or more employers should be deemed “joint employers.” Before the NLRB overstepped, there was a commonsense understanding of the circumstances establishing that joint employer relationship. Both employers had to have “actual, direct, and immediate” control over essential terms and conditions of employment.
This standard made sense. But today, business owners and their employees face a standard vastly different, and far more confusing. They face a situation where a group of unelected bureaucrats in Washington are interfering with their relationship in a way that has created a lot of problems.
The NLRB’s decision and the Obama administration’s actions that followed, in addition to a litany of rulings by activist judges, have inserted a great deal of uncertainty and confusion into the traditional employer-employee relationship. Two completely separate employers can be considered joint employers if they made a business agreement that “indirectly” or “potentially” impacts their employees.
What does that even mean? It’s vague and confusing. Think of it from the employee’s standpoint. There shouldn’t be any room for question on who their employer is.
As for employers, they should have the clarity they need to look out for their employees in the way the law requires. Because in order for employees to have strong protections in the workplace, it needs to be crystal clear who is responsible for providing those protections.
We are here today because we are determined to provide that clarity once and for all and protect jobs and small businesses in our communities. I’m proud to say three of our Democrat colleagues, Representatives Correa, Cuellar, and Peterson, are cosponsors of the Save Local Business Act, and we hope to continue to build bipartisan support so we can restore commonsense to the joint employer issue.
This is an issue of great importance to both of our workforce subcommittees, which is why this critical legislation has been a joint effort with my colleague, Mr. Walberg. Chairwoman Foxx has made the Save Local Business Act a top priority for the full committee, and this hearing will bring us one step closer to moving it through the legislative process.
To read PDF version, click here.
# # #
This committee has been fighting to roll back the extreme joint employer scheme since it first took effect, and for good reason. It’s a threat to jobs, entrepreneurship, and local employers across the country.
We know this new joint employer standard has led to a whole host of real-world consequences, because that’s exactly what we’ve heard from business owners and their employees in each of our districts and before this committee.
We’ve all heard the voices of local job creators who fear they could lose control of their businesses to larger companies. One small business owner, who described himself as the “living definition of the American Dream,” warned the committee that he would “virtually overnight become a manager for a large company.”
We’ve also heard how this new standard has made it harder for small businesses to grow and create jobs in their communities. Kristie Arslan, the owner of a small gourmet popcorn shop, said she was considering opening five new locations through franchising, but the joint employer threat made her expansion plans too risky. She decided she could only open one new store instead of five.
This is just one concerning example of lost jobs and opportunity. So many hardworking entrepreneurs, who took a risk to start their own business, now find themselves in a sea of uncertainty. And it’s not just those in the franchising industry. Many small businesses and local vendors rely on contracts with larger companies, and they are concerned those contracts could soon be harder to come by.
According to the American Action Forum, the joint employer scheme threatens 1.7 million jobs. To protect those jobs, we have to restore a commonsense definition of what it means to be an employer.
I’d like to remind some of our critics that the Save Local Business Act reflects the same straight- forward joint employer test that workers and job creators relied on for decades.
To be someone’s employer, it makes perfect sense that you need to have “actual, direct, and immediate control” over terms and conditions of employment. This clear test does nothing to let employers off the hook for their obligations to their employees. What it does is ensure the actual employer is the one held responsible. And that’s the way it should be.
It’s time to settle once and for all what constitutes a joint employer — not through arbitrary and misguided NLRB decisions and rulings by activist judges — but through legislation. This is obviously an area of labor law that is in desperate need of clarity.
As recognized by at least three of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, this isn’t a Democrat versus Republican issue. The Save Local Business Act is about providing certainty for job creators in each and every one of our districts. It’s about keeping the American Dream within reach.
To read the PDF version, click here.
# # #
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce spoke on the House floor to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the nation’s first charter school, and praised the hope an opportunity charter schools across the country provide for students and families.
Click here to watch.
“Mr. Speaker, twenty-five years ago something monumental occurred for students and families who were seeking a new way to pursue a high-quality education.
“Twenty-five years ago, our nation’s first charter school, the City Academy, opened its doors in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“City Academy began a new era for school choice, and provided families with an alternative option to the traditional public school system.
“Today, over 3 million students are enrolled in charter schools, and more than 6,800 have opened in over 40 states.
“Charter schools are not only growing as an option for students, but these schools are also getting results.
“Innovative charter schools are providing thousands of students and families with the hope and opportunity that they can receive a high-quality education, and gain the skills they need to succeed for the future.
“I congratulate City Academy for being a true pioneer in school choice twenty-five years ago, and support the expansion of school choice for American students and families.”
# # #
Chairwoman Foxx Opening Statement: Hearing on “The Sharing Economy: Creating Opportunities for Innovation and Flexibility”
That same ingenuity is what led to the rise of the sharing economy, which is changing the way we live, work, and connect.
The growth of the sharing economy may be relatively recent. But the idea behind it really isn’t a new concept. For quite some time, people have exchanged goods and services, or shared their skills, time, or resources for a fee.
Think about it. For decades, people have found ways to earn extra income through babysitting, renting property, dog walking, holding garage sales, cleaning homes, or mowing a neighbor’s lawn.
What’s taking place in the sharing economy isn’t much different. But the Internet has brought this type of economic activity to a whole new level, and it has empowered people from all sorts of backgrounds to put their entrepreneurial ideas into motion.
There is no question that this growing economic sector has improved the American quality of life. Consumers have more choices. People in need of transportation have more options. Families can easily rent out their home to help pay their mortgage. Individuals have a new way to sell their homemade goods and crafts.
The sharing economy has also helped start-up businesses get off the ground, and it has created new job opportunities that didn’t exist before.
Not everyone is looking for a 9-5 job. More and more people are increasingly drawn to flexible work arrangements, and that’s what attracts them to the sharing economy. They want to be their own boss, control their own schedule, or earn extra cash while pursuing an education.
The sharing economy has provided thousands of hardworking men and women the opportunity to do just that. Today, there are an estimated 3.2 million people working in the sharing economy. 79 percent are doing so on a part-time basis.
This is an industry that has really taken off. And as we have seen throughout our history, innovation often occurs and flourishes during challenging economic times, which is remarkable and should be celebrated. It’s a testament to the strength of our economy and the resilience of the American people.
As the sharing economy continues to grow, we need to make sure outdated federal policies don’t stand in the way. The self-employed individuals who rely on the sharing economy for work don’t fit neatly into obsolete job categories defined in another era. So, there are important questions over how we can modernize policies to meet the needs of the future.
There are also questions over how sharing economy workers can gain access to affordable health care and prepare for a secure retirement. Not every answer can or should come from Washington. Innovation outside of Washington is needed to help tackle these challenges. And I have no doubt that the same creative minds behind the sharing economy will rise to the occasion.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of committee members visited the San Francisco area to meet with leaders in the technology industry. We saw the operations of sharing economy companies firsthand. It’s my hope that today’s conversation will build off that experience, inform our future policy discussions, and help all of us better understand the realities of this emerging workforce.
To view the PDF version, click here.