House Education & Workforce Committee

Opening Statement of Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) Chairman, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Hearing on “Worker-Management Relations: Examining the Need to Modernize Federal Labor Law.”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 04/26/2018 - 12:00am

Good morning, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing. I would like to thank our panel of witnesses and our members for joining today’s important discussion.

Today we will examine the need to modernize certain federal workplace laws, including updates to policies within the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to strengthen the rights of workers to make free and informed decisions about whether they want to join or remain associated with a union.  

We will also look at issues surrounding worker centers, and whether they are complying with relevant statues under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) and if not, what updates need to be made in order to ensure transparency and accountability.   

Worker centers were designed to be a resource in low-income communities; however, current ambiguities in the law have allowed them to engage in direct negotiations with employers of behalf of employees.  The insufficient reporting standards currently in place limit the amount of information available to the Department of Labor and the public on just how many of these organizations currently exist and the types of activities they engage in with employers and employees.

Enacted in 1935, the NLRA guarantees most private sector employees the right to organize and bargain collectively with their employers through representatives of their choosing, or to simply refrain from such activities. While this remains the mission of the NLRA, the law is showing its age. Many of the law’s key provisions have not been updated since 1947, and it may be time to revisit the law to meet the needs of our 21st century workforce. 

Additionally, the National Labor Relations Board—created through the NLRA—was designed to act as a neutral arbitrator to ensure a level playing field between employers and union leaders, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. But more importantly, the NLRA and NLRB were designed to protect the right of workers to make fully informed decisions about whether they want to join a union

In this hearing, we will also explore how union dues are being used for political activities that may not align with the beliefs of its members. We will further examine situations where employees are not afforded the protection of the secret ballot.

Congress has an obligation to examine how laws can be modernized in order to restore and uphold the rights of all workers.

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses on how we can ensure freedom of choice, restore balance and fairness, and help create an environment where workers and businesses can thrive.

To view the PDF, click here.

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Opening Statement of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Chairwoman, Committee on Education and the Workforce Hearing on “Fraud, Mismanagement, Non-Compliance, and Safety: The History of Failures of the Corporation for National and Community Service”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:00am

Good morning, and welcome to today’s full committee hearing. I’d like to thank our witness, Ms. Barbara Stewart, for joining today’s important discussion on the need for continued oversight of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) following a pattern of failures in management of CNCS in the past.

From the founding of our country millions of Americans have always volunteered and served not only their own communities, but those in need of assistance across the country. This devotion to service is one of the things that makes America exceptional, and is a hallmark of the people of this country.

Not until1993 did the federal government get actively involved with channeling taxpayer dollars to local communities and volunteers and illustrated again that the federal government often does not add value to an endeavor. 

CNCS issues $750 million in grants annually, and at any given time oversees more than 2,100 active grants, ranging in size from $40,000 to $10 million. Additionally, CNCS operates programs in over 50,000 locations across the country.

This funding was designed to carry out essential programs such as those that strengthen workforce development opportunities, provide economic recovery, support struggling neighborhoods, and promote health and well-being in areas impacted by natural disasters.

While these are the intended outcomes of programs under the jurisdiction of CNCS, a series of reports from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) discovered that CNCS has not fulfilled its mission to serve for several years.

Reports filed by OIG have noted patterns of fraud, mismanagement, noncompliance, and safety hazards within CNCS.

These are not words members of Congress like to hear coming from an agency that received over a billion dollars in taxpayer funding for fiscal-year 2018.

It is troubling to read through the incidents of misconduct and mismanagement of CNCS, and even more troubling to see that little has been done to the present to bring significant changes to the Corporation after several years of oversight and demands from Congress to change the way CNCS conducts its operations. The failures of the Corporation in these areas have put at risk those who the mission it is to serve, including the most vulnerable among us.

The OIG has provided CNCS with ample ideas to change its operations, and has even outlined a uniform set of 19 criteria across the entire grant portfolio. Additionally, CNCS has spent more than $24 million in attempts to modernize its critical grants management system, yet OIG has found that the program is still not up to standards after spending these millions in taxpayer funds.

Despite the OIG’s recommendations, as well as the monetary resources provided, CNCS still has not implemented these recommendations, and has failed to correct mistakes of the past.

Today’s hearing is also not the first time this committee has addressed the glaring mismanagement of CNCS in recent years. As far back as 2011, the Higher Education and Workforce Development subcommittee examined the issues plaguing CNCS.

In each of these hearings, CNCS management has assured Congress that it would correct mistakes of the past, and bring accountability to the programs under its jurisdiction.

These promises have proven to be empty, and here we are again addressing these issues with CNCS. While the practices of CNCS have not changed yet, there has been a change in the agency’s management.

Ms. Barbara Stewart recently has taken over as CEO of CNCS in February of this year, after being confirmed by the Senate. Ms. Stewart has a strong career in management and public service, and has been praised by others for her commitment to service, and devotion to addressing challenges in America’s most vulnerable communities.

Since being confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Stewart has expressed intentions to continue the mission of CNCS, and it is the obligation of Congress to understand how Ms. Stewart will address the fraud, mismanagement, non-compliance, and safety that has undermined the mission of CNCS.

I look forward to Ms. Stewart’s testimony, and thank members of this committee for joining today’s discussion.

To view the PDF version, click here.  

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Do Your Homework: What the New York Times Missed on the PROSPER Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 12:00am
column in today's New York Times attacked proposed reforms within the PROSPER Act to assist students and families who are seeking to pay back federal student loans. The piece was quick to criticize the major reforms to student financial aid, but missed many key facts the actual impact of the major reforms within the legislation.

Don’t Let the G.O.P. Dismantle Obama’s Student Loan Reforms
John R. Brooks — April 9, 2018

To read the full analysis, click here.

To read the full analysis, click here.

To read more about the PROSPER Act, click here.

Opening Statement of Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Chairman, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Hearing on “Expanding Affordable Health Care Options: Examining the Department of Labor’s Proposed Rule on Association Health Plans”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 03/20/2018 - 12:00am

Good morning, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing. I would like to thank our panel of witnesses and our members for joining today’s important discussion on the Department of Labor’s proposed rule on association health plans, or AHPs, and how we can make affordable health care options a reality for more working Americans.

The timing of this particular hearing is appropriate as this week marks eight years since the passage of Obamacare. Since Obamacare became the law of the land, America’s small businesses have struggled to dig themselves out from under the law’s crushing weight.

Since 2008, the share of small businesses with fewer than 10 employees offering health coverage has dropped by a shocking 36 percent, leaving working Americans with fewer health care options or no coverage at all. It is estimated that 300,000 small business jobs have been eliminated because of Obamacare, and 10,000 small businesses nationwide have been forced to close their doors. The financial burden this law has placed on Main Street businesses has been debilitating, with its costs and mandates amounting to an estimated $19 billion in lost wages for small business employees.

Time and again, those of us on this Committee have heard from small business owners that one of their greatest concerns is the high cost of health insurance. America’s job creators deserve better than the failing status quo of limited coverage options at sky-high prices. Instead, small businesses should be empowered to negotiate for the very best coverage at the very best prices on behalf of their employees, just as big businesses and labor unions do.

In 2017, this Committee favorably reported, and the House passed, H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, legislation I introduced with our colleague Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. This legislation would expand health care coverage and lower costs for workers by empowering small businesses to band together through association health plans and negotiate for lower costs on behalf of their employees.

By granting small businesses the ability to join together through AHPs, small businesses would be able to strengthen their bargaining power in the health insurance market in order to secure health coverage options on par with that of larger companies and unions.

In October of last year, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury to use their regulatory authority to expand access to AHPs. In response to the President’s directive, the Department of Labor proposed a rule in January to broaden the criteria for determining when employers may join together in an employer group or association in order to form an AHP.

Given the Committee’s longstanding interest and activity on AHPs, this recent action by DOL presents an opportunity to examine the Department’s plan to expand small business access to affordable health care options, and thereby decrease the number of uninsured individuals. Empowering small businesses to form AHPs is especially near and dear to my heart, and I am pleased to see such strong progress on an issue that will directly benefit our nation’s job creators and their employees.

I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses and from other members of the subcommittee today as we examine this proposed rule and work to do right by America’s small businesses.

To view the PDF version, click here.

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Opening Statement of Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Chairman, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development Hearing on “Strengthening Access and Accountability to Work in Welfare Programs.”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 03/15/2018 - 12:00am

Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing. I’d like to thank our panel of witnesses and our members for joining today’s important discussion on how the inclusion of work requirements within public benefit programs can help beneficiaries return to the workforce and ensure stewardship of public resources.

Since 1996, work requirements have provided families who receive federal assistance the opportunity to grow the skills they need to succeed and eventually reenter the workforce. The ultimate goal of these programs is to help beneficiaries find themselves in a position where they no longer need to rely on federal assistance.

More than 50 million people in the U.S. have participated in major means-tested government assistance programs, and the work requirements associated with many of these programs have allowed many Americans to find a pathway back into the workforce because they gained the ability to be self-sufficient through the process.

One of the most successful programs in this regard has been the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF includes twelve different workforce activities that beneficiaries can participate in to meet the work requirements in order to receive federal assistance.

These include programs such as subsidized private sector employment, skills-based education, job search and job readiness assistance, community service programs, and job-skills education directly related to employment.

It is encouraging to see that these programs cover such a wide variety of opportunities for beneficiaries to get a foot in the workforce door in the hope that one day they will no longer need federal assistance because of the skills they’ve developed.

We have also seen evidence that these types of programs are working to help Americans provide for themselves, their families, and pursue the full extent of the American dream.

Since the creation of this program in 1996, there has been a sharp decline in the number of federal benefit recipients who must complete work requirements as part of their participation in a federal program. Congress needs to be exploring how workforce development opportunities can be integrated into other benefit programs as well.

Right now, we are looking for ways to reform our entitlement system, which is failing certain beneficiaries who feel stuck in the status quo. An important part of this effort is helping people reenter the workforce.

I’m looking forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses today on how we can continue to assist beneficiaries find good-paying jobs and regain their financial independence. I also appreciate our witnesses being flexible with the House schedule. We had to postpone this hearing from a few weeks ago, so thank you for appearing today instead.

To view the PDF version, click here.

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Opening Statement of Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), Chairman, Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Hearing on “Strengthening Welfare to Work With Child Care”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 12:00am

Good morning, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing. I’d like to thank our panel of witnesses, and my colleagues, for joining today’s important discussion on how child care should play a role in the welfare system, including ways effective child care supports working parents, alleviates generational poverty, and boosts the economy.

Federal welfare programs act as a vital tool to help families find a way out of poverty, and many welfare programs assist parents in finding a good-paying job to help them end their need for welfare benefits.

Presently, over 52 million Americans participate in major means-tested government assistance programs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Among those Americans are parents of children who can benefit from high-quality child care while their parents find work, gain the skills they need to find a good-paying job, or are working hard to support their families’ path to self-sufficiency. These parents need to know that their child is being provided with proper care when they are away from home.

This is true for any working parent who wants to ensure their child is receiving proper care while they are at work. No parent should have to make the choice between showing up for work and caring for their child.

Just as important, high-quality care can have meaningful, lasting impacts. These children are tomorrow’s workforce.

A recent study from the Urban Institute highlighted the value of child care as part of the welfare system, stating “failure to meet the child care needs of parents directly undercuts the stated goals of both workforce development systems and child care systems.”

This is why it is important for members of congress to understand the current state of child care programs within the welfare system and exactly how they play a role in the federal government’s overall efforts to strengthen the workforce.

Presently, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal funding stream that provides financial assistance to low-income, working families with children under age 13 to pay for child care.

In 2015, about 1.4 million children and some 847,400 families received child care assistance in each month through the CCDBG. Of parents participating in the CCDBG program, strong majorities (78 percent) are working, and another 14 percent are in a workforce development or educational program to give them the skills they need to eventually find a good-paying job.  Work requirements within welfare programs establish an important path to self-sufficiency.

Providing work support such as child care can be an essential piece of this puzzle for families. Connecting CCDBG to other workforce development and welfare programs is an important way to help move families out of welfare and into lasting work.

The witnesses before us today bring many different perspectives and many different stories on the importance of child care programs for welfare beneficiaries, and will provide us with insight into how Congress should continue to explore ways to support child care programs that help parents who receive federal assistance move into work and away from welfare.

I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses and from other members of the subcommittee today.

To view the PDF version, click here.

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