House Education & Workforce Committee
Over the past few years, we have only begun to comprehend the horrors of human trafficking and how it established a foothold in this country. Thanks to the vigilance of faith-based groups, humanitarians across the globe, and the courage of survivors, we are learning more about the tactics and loopholes human traffickers exploit to prey on the most vulnerable among us.
Children are often the ones most vulnerable to exploitation. It’s estimated that one in six endangered runaways are likely victims of this horrific crime. Earlier this year, with the leadership of Representatives Guthrie and Courtney, the House passed the Improving Support for Missing and Exploited Children Act.
That bipartisan legislation supports the critical efforts of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It includes positive reforms to encourage new and innovative ways to recover and protect missing and exploited children, including those who are victims of trafficking. We need to do everything possible to ensure this positive work can continue, and that’s what H.R. 1808 was all about.
But this is an issue that demands our ongoing attention. More solutions are needed. And that’s why we’re here today — to build on the bipartisan work we’ve already accomplished.
The Department of Labor has a unique vantage point for spotting violations in workplaces that can be tell-tale signs of modern slavery and labor exploitation. This bill equips DOL personnel to form partnerships with law enforcement to detect and address signs of human trafficking in America’s workplaces.
If we can shed light in any corner where this evil may lurk, we must.
I commend Mr. Walberg’s leadership on this issue, and Mr. Sablan for working with him so passionately. I am proud that the Committee on Education and the Workforce could do its part to support their work and bring this bill to the floor.
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Chairwoman Foxx Statement: Hearing on “Redefining Joint Employer Standards: Barriers to Job Creation and Entrepreneurship”
So many individuals have achieved the American Dream by owning a small business. One of the reasons we’re the greatest, most prosperous nation in the history of the world is because of the opportunity for people to take a risk, start a small business, and achieve a lifetime of success.
As a former small business owner, I understand the many challenges small companies face. It can be very difficult — and costly — for small businesses to get up and running. And once they do, they constantly face tough decisions as they try to hire workers, make a payroll, and keep their doors open.
Through hard work and determination, many entrepreneurs have found their path to success through franchising, which often involves lower start-up costs. Opportunities through franchising, as well as contracting, have empowered countless Americans to climb the economic ladder and obtain a better quality of life for their families. Today, there are 733,000 franchise establishments nationwide that support more than 7.6 million jobs.
The entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses, when combined with the resources, infrastructure, and potential of America’s most notable brands, has brought untold innovation and horsepower to the American economy and desperately-needed jobs to communities across this country.
Sadly, unelected bureaucrats who have never owned a business or made a payroll launched an unprecedented attack on these successful business models that so many rely on. It began when the National Labor Relations Board issued an extreme joint employer decision, which distorted the definition of what it means to be an employer. Then, the Obama administration took this radical new policy a step further, spreading it to other areas of federal labor law.
The previous joint employer standard made sense. For two or more employers to be considered joint employers, they had to share direct control over the terms and conditions of employment, including hiring decisions, for example. This clear, straight-forward test provided stability and certainty for job creators for decades.
But now, local employers face a complicated, confusing, and vague new standard that has threatened their independence and created an enormous amount of uncertainty. Two completely separate employers can be considered joint employers simply because they made a business agreement that “indirectly” or “potentially” impacts their employees’ day-to-day responsibilities and working environment.
For small franchisees, it means they could lose control over their business to larger companies. We’ve heard from many small business owners over the years who are concerned they could lose everything they’ve worked hard to build for themselves and their families.
One Florida small business owner once warned this committee, “Instead of being a small businessman, I would virtually overnight become a manager for a large company … I now find myself in the position that an unelected board in Washington, DC can just unilaterally determine that my American Dream is over.”
Who could possibly gain from this attack on the American Dream? We know it won’t be America’s workers. According to the American Action Forum, the joint employer scheme could result in 1.7 million fewer jobs.
Powerful special interest groups are the ones who stand to benefit. Desperate to reverse decades of decline in union membership, union bosses now have a new tool that makes it easier to unionize. For years, they’ve been trying to unionize multiple small businesses together in one organizing drive, and the joint employer scheme helps them do just that.
It’s time to put an end to this extreme and partisan policy that does nothing to help American workers and makes it harder for entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. This committee has previously advanced legislation to protect small businesses and their employees by restoring the commonsense definition of what it means to be an employer. With a new Congress and new administration, we have an opportunity to get the job done.
Already, the Trump administration has taken steps to provide regulatory certainty where they can. And it is my hope that hearing firsthand accounts today of the job-crushing impact of the expanded joint employer standard will build new momentum here in Congress to find the solution Americans need.
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Rolling back the National Labor Relations Board’s activist agenda is an important part of that effort. During the Obama administration, the board advanced policies designed to empower special interests at the expense of the men and women who keep our economy moving. These policies not only hampered our economic recovery and limited opportunity, they stripped away rights and protections for workers and employers.
As a former union member, I respect the right of workers to join a union. I also respect the right of workers to have a real choice and make an informed decision in the matter. That’s why the NLRB’s ambush election rule is so concerning. Simply put, this rule was designed to rush employees into union elections before they have an opportunity to consider all the consequences.
Workers now have as little as 11 days to understand the pros and cons of joining a union before casting their vote. And while unions can prepare their entire campaign before a business even knows about it, employers have as few as seven days to find legal counsel and appear before a NLRB hearing officer.
This short time period is completely unreasonable. Eleven days isn’t enough time for workers to hear from both sides of the debate and make a personal decision that impacts their job and paycheck. And seven days certainly isn’t enough time for employers to respond and communicate with their employees. This is especially true for a small business owner who lacks HR staff or in-house counsel.
Before this rule took effect, the union election process took a median of 38 days. This is a more sensible time frame that gives workers a chance to gather information and get the facts. We need to get back to the way things were before the NLRB overstepped. And in no way would union leaders stand at a disadvantage. In fact, before this unnecessary rule was implemented, unions won 67 percent of workplace elections.
H.R. 2776 will restore long-standing NLRB election procedures that served workers well and provided a level playing field between unions and employers. The bill ensures no union election is held less than 35 calendar days from when the petition for the election was filed.
But there’s more that must be done to restore fairness to union elections, which is why this bill also addresses the NLRB’s micro-union scheme. The board’s decision in the 2011 Specialty Healthcare case was perhaps one of the most reckless of the past eight years. It empowered union leaders to handpick individual employees and form micro-unions as an incremental step toward organizing an entire business. As a result, employees face fragmented workplaces and employers are forced to confront union red tape that drives up the cost of doing business and hiring workers.
At a recent hearing, a Michigan Health and Hospital Association official from my home state said, “This sub-divided situation is terrible for any employer, but it is a matter of life or death in a health care setting. The success of any hospital is dependent on the ability of its staff members to work as a cohesive unit. The Specialty decision threatens this vital component.”
Her comments serve as a painful reminder of how misguided federal policies can have harmful, real-world consequences. Congress must take action. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act will roll back the NLRB’s micro-union scheme and reinstate important protections workers and employers received for decades.
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This shouldn’t be a Republican versus Democrat issue. The enduring principle of tribal sovereignty is respected and well-established. It has been reaffirmed time and again by Congress.
Tribal sovereignty means tribes have an inherent right to self-government. Just like state and local governments, tribes are free to develop their own policies that promote jobs, the freedom of work, and economic opportunity.
As the Chairwoman said, the NLRB respected tribal sovereignty for more than 70 years. For decades, the board treated tribal governments the same as state and local governments, which are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act.
But that all changed with the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino decision, when the board began imposing its jurisdiction over tribes. Suddenly, tribes became the only form of government subject to the NLRA — a private-sector labor law.
Since then, we’ve heard from tribal leaders who have urged Congress to provide much-needed legal clarity and restore their sovereignty over employer-employee relations. Just like every other governmental employer.
At a subcommittee hearing earlier this year, we heard from the chair of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and president of the National Congress of American Indians. He told members, “This is not merely a legal issue but a moral imperative of protecting and defending the sovereignty of America’s Indian tribes, and guarding against any discrimination against those tribes.” I couldn’t agree more.
We also heard from the Chickasaw Nation. The tribe’s lieutenant governor testified that this is a “profound issue of national importance that cannot be left in the hands of an admittedly inexpert federal agency.” The Navajo Nation said, “We simply want parity. If [states] are able to self-govern and be self-determined with regards to the NLRA, so should we.”
Colleagues, more than 150 tribes have urged Congress to pass H.R. 986, and I’m proud it has bipartisan support with three Democrat co-sponsors. And as a quick reminder, last Congress this very same bill enjoyed bipartisan support on House passage.
We also have the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a letter from the Chamber and many supporting tribes they wrote, “When tribal sovereignty is respected and acknowledged, economic success follows.” I completely agree. Madam Chairwoman, I request to have a letter submitted to the record.
The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2017 is a commonsense bill that will prevent unelected bureaucrats at the NLRB from infringing on the sovereignty of tribes. It will restore a standard that was respected for nearly the entirety of the board’s existence: tribes should control their own labor relations in the same way state and local governments do.
We need to ensure the NLRA recognizes this standard — that being governmental parity. We are here today to amend the law to clarify once and for all that it does not apply to any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on their tribal land. This is the fair and right thing to do.
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Today, the committee meets to consider the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2017, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, and the Employee Privacy Protection Act.
Together, these proposals will help restore fairness and balance to federal labor policies by reforming the National Labor Relations Act.
The NLRA was signed into law more than 80 years ago to protect the rights of workers and employers. Congress wanted to ensure workers had the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. Congress also recognized the need for a level playing field between employers and union leaders. That’s why a neutral arbiter — the National Labor Relations Board — was created to maintain appropriate balance.
However, faced with dwindling union membership, liberals in Washington have spent years trying to tilt the playing field in favor of Big Labor.
Unable to move their partisan agenda through Congress, liberals turned to the NLRB, where they found a willing partner. Over the years, the board has abandoned its role as an impartial referee and launched a concerted effort to boost organized labor. Decision after decision by the board sought to rewrite long-standing policies to pander to powerful special interests.
Unfortunately, the rights of workers — and even Native Americans — were trampled on in the process. We are here today to defend those rights and ensure the law makes it crystal clear that they must be protected.
With the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino decision, the NLRB sparked outrage among Native American tribes. After respecting Native American sovereignty for more than 70 years, the board reversed course. It began using a subjective test to decide when and where to exert its jurisdiction over tribal governments under the National Labor Relations Act.
This decision was incredibly misguided. First of all, the NLRA was designed for the private sector, and the law specifically excludes government employers and employees. Secondly, the federal government has long recognized tribes as "domestic dependent nations" with an inherent right to self-government.
For years, Native Americans have urged Congress to correct this wrong and stand up for tribal sovereignty. That’s why Representative Rokita introduced the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2017. This important legislation will ensure tribal governments are treated the same as state and local governments when it comes to policies impacting their workplaces.
On top of the board’s actions undermining tribal sovereignty, workers have faced new policies limiting their voice in union elections and even invading their privacy.
In 2015, the NLRB implemented the ambush election rule. We all know what this rule was about. It was designed to rush employees into union elections and make it nearly impossible for employers to respond. Workers now have as few as 11 days to make an important decision on whether or not to join a union. And employers have just seven days to find legal counsel and prepare their case before an NLRB hearing officer.
To make matters worse, the rule jeopardizes the privacy of workers and makes them vulnerable to intimidation. Employers are required to hand over the private information of their employees to union bosses, including home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, work locations, and work schedules. This simply isn’t right.
And that’s not all. A radical micro-union scheme empowered union leaders to organize a small minority of employees within a business — as few as two individuals. The result is a divided workplace, fewer opportunities for advancement, and a maze of union red tape. For example, unions can now organize employees by individual departments of department stores. This is, quite frankly, absurd.
Representatives Walberg and Wilson are leading the effort to overturn these harmful policies and protect worker freedom. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced by Mr. Walberg, would empower workers to make an informed decision in union elections and level the playing field between employers and union leaders. The Employee Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Mr. Wilson, safeguards the privacy of workers and gives them greater control over the disclosure of their personal information.
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Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy”
There is no denying the fact we live in a data-driven society. Information sharing is connecting and changing almost every industry, and our education system is no exception.
In 2002, the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) was enacted to update and improve how we could leverage education research to better serve our nation’s schools.
While ESRA was necessary to reform education research to better inform what is working in schools, the law may not be working as well as Congress wanted or intended.
In fact, a 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found weaknesses in the law, specifically significant delays in the distribution of research available to educators.
States and local school districts rely on timely education research to identify best practices from across the country in order to build a better learning environment, and we need to ensure this research is delivering the results our schools need.
The data collected by schools is essential for understanding what is working, and it allows for a more open conversation between schools and parents about strategies that work for our students.
While technology has allowed information to be at our fingertips, and has made our lives more connected, such a change comes with significant privacy concerns.
Americans are apprehensive, with good reason, that personal information such as personal finances and medical records are susceptible to hacking.
Our students’ educational information covers all of these areas and more, and it is vital that we do all that we can to keep this information safe.
When we think of educational information, we may only think of grades, test scores, and course lists, but there is so much more that is associated with a student’s personal record.
As a father of two young boys, I understand first hand the importance of keeping our children's records safe and secure.
When Congress passed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in 1974 to protect student privacy, the Internet didn’t exist.
As we continue to see technology play a key role in how we conduct educational research, it is time for Congress to have a serious discussion on whether or not FERPA is keeping all student information safe.
Our hearing today will focus on how we can strike the right balance between leveraging education research for our students, while ensuring their information is private and secure.
We have gathered a diverse group of witnesses who will give us their own perspectives on the effectiveness of both ESRA and FERPA, and we look forward to hearing their stories.
Education research can a powerful tool to help our students, but that information should not come at the cost of a student’s private and personal information. I look forward to our discussion of these issues today.
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