Chair DeLauro Statement at FY 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Labor Hearing

2022-05-17 09:23

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's FY 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Labor Hearing:

With that, I want to acknowledge Ranking Member Tom Cole and all the Members of the subcommittee who are joining today’s hearing both virtually and in person. Thank you to all the Members and our witness for your flexibility, as we start this hearing earlier than expected to welcome the Prime Minister of Greece later this morning.

I would very much like to welcome you Secretary Marty Walsh – first in-person hearing of this Subcommittee as Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL). You joined virtually last year, and happy that it is in person today. I want to first thank you for how hard you have fought this past year – and throughout your entire career – for American workers and for working families. 

These last two years have been difficult for so many, especially for working families. Far too many people lost their jobs. Small businesses and restaurants were forced to close. Schools were shut down. Our childcare infrastructure collapsed. 

And the pandemic exacerbated what we have known for a long time – that pay has not kept up with the costs of living. Too many Americans were already struggling, and the pandemic took a massive toll that left so many reeling. Workers are living paycheck to paycheck. They are struggling to pay taxes that are too high. Big corporations with monopoly profits are pushing up prices. And now we are facing a war abroad that has spiked inflation and created an energy and a cost-of-living crisis as well.

And economic opportunity remains hard to reach for millions in underserved communities. The unemployment rate for Black and Hispanic workers remains considerably higher than that of the overall population. Workers without a college degree face more barriers to employment than college graduates do. Far too many women have been pushed out of the workforce or forced to consider new employment over the last two years as sectors that employ predominantly women continue to suffer and access to childcare and workplace flexibility make returning to the workforce that much harder for mothers. 

We need to be doing even better for the communities that need us the most. That is really why we were all elected. As Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins, the first woman appointed to a presidential cabinet, said, and I quote, “I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen,” I would add women. Working for the forgotten and for our workers should be the reason every single one of us is in Washington. And we know, Mr. Secretary, that that is why you are here. 

We have a responsibility to protect and lift up our workers. So thank you for joining us today to discuss the Department of Labor’s budget. We appreciate all you have done and will continue to do to protect our workers and support their families. 

The important work of rebuilding our economy began last year, and I am proud that Congress passed the fiscal year 2022 government funding omnibus in March, including a $653 million increase for DOL programs. 

With $550 million more for employment and training programs, we are helping workers re-enter the workforce, earn better wages, and improve their family’s economic stability. We increased funding for Registered Apprenticeships to help Americans develop into new high-skilled trades. We strengthened States Grants and job training programs that help ex-offenders return to the workforce, supporting those with significant barriers to employment find good paying jobs, while helping employers hire and retain skilled workers.

With $50 million for the Strengthening Community College Training Grants program, we are meeting the demand for skilled workers by providing training at community colleges. I am proud that this Committee was instrumental in creating this program in 2020 and the Apprenticeship Grants program in 2016, both of which are growing our economy from the bottom up and lifting people into the middle class. 

A priority of mine for years has been to strengthen worker protection agencies at DOL. I am proud that we worked closely with DOL to bolster the Wage and Hour Division, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Employee Benefits Security Administration. We provided a total of $1.8 billion. These critical agencies protect against wage theft and worker misclassification and enhance the health and safety of American workers at a time when potential workplace hazards threaten millions of us. 

And to support working conditions abroad, we also increased the International Labor Affairs Bureau’s (ILAB) capacity for high-impact international assistance that combats some of the world’s most abusive labor practices, including the use of child labor and forced labor. And with funds from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), ILAB is making huge strides to enforce the labor provisions of our trade agreements, while helping workers and employers in Mexico make their workplaces safer. 

Protecting workers must always include protecting those who find themselves unemployed. We are addressing longstanding problems in the Unemployment Compensation system that disproportionately harm workers of color, service industry workers, and blue-collar workers by modernizing technology and expanding reemployment services for job seekers.

We included district-specific community project funding to support workers in our home districts. Try to meet the needs including funding for job training, workforce development, and apprenticeship programs.

And the America COMPETES Act, we are strengthening our workforce while keeping our economy competitive. 

As we begin the fiscal year 2023 budget process, we must build on these critical investments. The budget request proposes $14.9 billion for DOL programs, 13 percent increase over 2022. There’s a plan to look at workers and their families and how they can access the opportunities they need and deserve.

To support workforce development, this request would increase investments in state grants for workforce training, Apprenticeship Grants, and other job training programs. It would double funding for the Strengthening Community College Training Grants to reach students when they need it most.

The budget request also continues our efforts to rebuild the Unemployment Compensation system to help unemployed workers make ends meet while they look to quickly reenter the workforce.

And supporting our workers means maintaining a strong commitment to worker protection. Pleased to see the request of an increase of $355 million for Worker Protection agencies to rebuild this critically important mission that has gone underfunded for decades.

We must do even more to support our workers – the people who keep our nation running. I am proud that I was able to support the people who keep this body running, congressional staffers, with a bill paving the way for staffers to unionize. 

This example should reverberate across our nation. More needs to be done not just in the halls of this building, but everywhere – because workers deserve a fair shot at a good paying job. 

And I want to lend my voice and my support to the millions of American workers joining together and unionizing to fight for higher wages and better working conditions.

Recent successes at Amazon, Starbucks, and other corporations prove that there is no better way to strengthen the middle class than to ensure that workers have a seat at the bargaining table. 

That is why I strongly support the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which strengthens workers’ bargaining rights and their ability to freely choose to join a union as they fight for a better future for themselves and their families. 

Mr. Secretary, the work that you and the rest of the Department do to provide safety and opportunity for our workers makes our country better and pushes our economy forward. We have made progress over this past year, but, as you know, there is still much more to do. People need to have government look out for them, those who are working and the vulnerable who work hard. This budget request and our support for our workers will ensure that we live up to these ideals.

I look forward to working with you over the next year and to today’s discussion.

117th Congress