DeLauro statement at hearing on Department of Labor 2017 budget request
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Secretary Perez, for joining us this morning, and for your leadership on behalf of American workers and their families.
The Department of Labor exists to represent the workers who form the backbone of our economy and are the engine of its growth. It helps provide them with stability by protecting their wages, working conditions, health benefits, and retirement security. The Department also supports a nationwide workforce development system, which partners with private employers to train a skilled workforce for the high-growth, high-demand industries of the future.
Our economy has seen significant gains in the past year – we have added 225,000 jobs per month. The unemployment rate is below 5 percent, and we are seeing improvement in the Labor Force Participation Rate.
But too many working families are still not being paid enough to make ends meet, so these broad economic gains do not manifest in the everyday lives of working people. Hourly earnings are barely increasing at the rate of inflation. A mere 13 percent of the workforce has paid family leave through their employers. And at least 39 percent of the workforce does not have access to paid sick days.
That is why the Department’s mission of fighting for the working class has never been more important than it is now.
Last year, we were able to make important investments in the Labor-HHS bill, including an increase of $86 million for job training grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and $90 million for a new Apprenticeship Grants program. We were also able to secure a much-needed boost of $17 million for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But I am disappointed that despite these gains, the 2016 enacted level was still $1.4 billion below the 2010 level, a cut of 10 percent.
I am also disappointed in the overall increase of less than two percent for Labor in 2016 – especially because this reflects a failure to provide additional funds for worker protection agencies. OSHA, MSHA, Wage and Hour Division, and EBSA were flat-funded, and OFCCP was cut by $1 million.
ILAB was cut by $5 million. ILAB is one of the main tools we have to root out and combat the causes of these inhumane labor practices worldwide – and as we consider new trade agreements with major implications for labor at home and abroad, we cannot slash funding to this crucial resource.
I am also disappointed that we were unable to fund a modest request of $35 million for State Paid Leave. Paid family and medical leave is an idea whose time has come. It is fair. It is humane. And it is popular. This is a national issue that has been raised by members of both parties. Families who work hard deserve our support to get through tough periods in their lives. Helping them keep their jobs and hang on to their paychecks will boost our economy. There really is no reason not to enact paid family and medical leave.
Last year’s Omnibus moved the federal budget in the right direction, raising the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending and increasing much-needed funding for programs that support our economy and the quality of life of citizens across the country.
Chairman Cole has heard me say this before, but I am troubled that the Labor-HHS bill received only a fraction of its fair share of the $66 billion increase provided by last year’s budget deal. While the other non-defense subcommittees received an average increase of 6.9 percent last year, the Labor-HHS bill increased by only 3.4 percent. This subcommittee represents 32% of non-defense discretionary spending – our allocation should be proportional to that figure. I hope to see that realized this year.
That brings me to the topic of today’s hearing – the budget request for the Labor Department.
Secretary Perez, there is a lot of good in this request. In particular, I applaud the $255 million increase for job training programs, including increases for state grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Job Corps, and Reintegration of Ex-Offender programs.
I was also pleased to see an increase of $12 million to help homeless veterans return to the workforce. I want to note that last year, Connecticut became the first state to end chronic homeless among veterans – a significant achievement. And we can all agree that military veterans deserve to have a job waiting for them when they transition back to civilian life.
I was also pleased to see an increase of $15 million for ILAB. In my view, ILAB should receive a much, much larger increase to carry out the essential work that they do, but this increase is a welcome proposal.
But I am disappointed that there was no request for discretionary funding for State Paid Leave. I realize it is a heavy lift in this environment, but we need to keep fighting until working families do not have to forgo pay or lose a job when a serious medical or caregiving need arises.
Frankly, to do what we need to do to support programs that provide job training opportunities, and enforce laws that protect low-wage workers, this subcommittee needs additional funds in Fiscal Year 2017.
Finally, I urge the Department of Labor to finalize the regulations you have been developing over the last few years, including the Silica Rule, Fiduciary Rule, and Overtime regulations. Hardworking Americans deserve safe workplaces. They deserve to have their retirement funding protected from self-interested advisors. And they deserve fair pay for their work. This is precisely what the Department of Labor exists to do – to represent and protect the working class.
Thank you. I look forward to the discussion.