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DeLauro Speaks Against Trump’s Cuts to Labor Department Budget

June 7, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC (June 7, 2017) Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today delivered the following statement at a hearing on the budget for the U.S. Department of Labor. DeLauro is the Senior Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

Here are the remarks, as delivered:

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman of the Subcommittee, and Mr. Chairman of the Full Committee. I appreciate it. Good morning, Secretary Acosta, and welcome to the committee, and to your first appropriations hearing. I would select the Chairman’s birthday as a date to focus on, versus Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Secretary, as we did speak, I will be blunt: I do not have anything complimentary to say about this budget request. In fact, I think it is a disaster for American workers and for their families. In your written testimony, you say that “we are going to do more with less.” Mr. Secretary, you cannot do more with less—you can only do less with less. And in my view, that’s exactly what this budget proposal will do—less for American workers.

The budget request for the Department of Labor would decimate the employment and training system by cutting more than $2 billion—roughly 40 percent of its funding—eliminating services for 7 to 8 million Americans who need help to find a job or move to a better-paying career.

The biggest economic challenge of our time is that too many families do not make enough money to live on. They are in jobs that don’t pay them enough to live on. They are struggling today. And we need to enact policy that ensures that everyone can benefit from the economic recovery, and that everyone has the training they need to get good jobs with fair wages.

By 2020, two out of three jobs will require training beyond the high school level. It’s up to us to meet the need. This budget would cut Job Corps by about $250 million, leading to a shuttering of Job Corps centers around the country. Thousands of at-risk youth would lose access to important skills training.

Your testimony says the budget eliminates programs that are less effective. In fact, it zeroes out programs that are known to be very effective. The Senior Community Service Employment Program exceeds the Department’s own performance targets in entered employment, employment retention, and average earnings. Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker job training places participants into employment 90 percent of the time, increases wages threefold.

Through this committee, we have the opportunity to make important investments in job training that we know work—like providing the first-ever federal appropriation to expand the apprenticeship model throughout the country. And if we were serious about job training, we would be making investments like we did through the “TAACCCT” program, which provided $2 billion to more than half of all community colleges nationwide.

The President proposes to cut or eliminate programs that help low-income and working-class families. And yet, we are awaiting, or at least we have an outline of, a budget that includes a massive tax cut for corporations, and for millionaires—a similar scenario that we saw with the health care bill—the underlying purpose being to cut taxes for the wealthy, while cutting back on programs for middle-class families.

It was on the campaign trail that the President claimed he would be tough on trade. Yet, in his first budget, he proposes to eviscerate the office whose mission is to identify cheating on trade deals: he wants to cut the Bureau of International Labor Affairs—known as ILAB—by almost 80 percent. It is the lead agency for investigating labor violations in trade agreements with our trading partners. It compiles annual reports on products that are made with child labor and with forced labor.

In the budget request, you focus on modest increases to compliance assistance programs. And while I agree that there needs to be a balance between compliance assistance and enforcement, I’m concerned that you plan to scale back on enforcement activities, which results in less oversight on those who are out there. Yes, most employers want to do the right thing, but in fact we do have bad actors, and you know that, particularly when it has dealt with wage theft over the years. This deprives workers of honest wages, exposes them to dangerous health and safety hazards.

OSHA: only enough funding to inspect every workplace under its jurisdiction every 159 years—yet, the budget proposes to eliminate funding Susan Harwood training grants that protect and educate workers in the most dangerous jobs.

The budget also proposes to cut funding for the Women’s Bureau by $10 million, eliminate 70 percent of its staff. This is a critical function to improving work environments and opportunities for women—pretty much unacceptable to slash its budget when today women make 80 cents on the dollar.

Taken as a whole, the President is proposing to cut the Department of Labor by $2.3 billion—it’s a reduction of 19 percent. Mr. Secretary, I think we need to know today is whether or not you agree that your Department should be cut by $2.3 billion?

We also need to know if you are going to fight to defend the protections for safe workplaces that your Department has made in recent years—regulations to limit exposure to silica, beryllium, and coal dust that will save thousands of lives.

We need to know if you are going to protect the financial safeguards to retirement savings that were put in place by the Fiduciary Rule. And I hope that you do agree that financial advisers should make recommendations in their clients’ best interests—not in the interests of advisers.

The New York Times had a front page story this week alleging an upcoming roll back of worker protections. It says, at the request of industry lobbyists, the Department is planning to weaken regulations across the board—including regulations on silica and beryllium, which are known carcinogens. I hope that you will tell us, Mr. Secretary that the report is wrong and that you plan to enforce the Department’s worker protections.

Again, I’m disappointed about the proposal to eliminate the Office of Federal Contract Compliance—the OFCCP—by absorbing it into the EEOC. Another area in which you have had experience—the OFCCP actively ensures that federal contractors are held to a higher standard in their hiring practices, given that contractors are entrusted with taxpayer dollars. I strongly oppose this proposal.

On a final note, the Administration has proposed, what I view is a paltry 6-week parental-only paid leave scheme in their budget, despite the fact that more than 75 percent of people who take family or medical leave do so for reasons other than parental leave. Moreover, the intention is to fund its proposal through the overburdened state unemployment insurance programs, which are insufficient to sustain the program and would erode access to unemployment benefits should another recession hit. The President’s proposal does not reflect the reality that workers face—we need a real family and medical leave policy nationwide funded responsibly and sustainably, without cuts to essential programs.

To close, let me share a quote from one of my heroes and the longest-serving Labor Secretary in our nation’s history: Frances Perkins. She said, and I quote: “The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

That is how I view the mission of this department; I hope that that’s the way you view the mission of this department, and that you will assure us that you intend to improve the lives of working people. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.