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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - February 13th, 2023

Candidates Arise for Labor Secretary; First House Committee Hearing Focused on Short-Term Pell

Washington Update

DOL Secretary

While there is still no official notice of Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh leaving the Department to head the NHL Players’ Association, several people have already put their names out there as potential replacements. According to the New York Post, former New York City mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Bill De Blasio is lobbying to succeed Walsh. And NBC News is reporting that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has been making calls on behalf of former New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney to be the next secretary.” Meanwhile, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is pushing the White House to promote Walsh’s deputy, Julie Su.

“Deputy Secretary Su has dedicated her career to the promotion of workers’ rights and fair labor practices and to advancing equity and opportunities for all workers, including ones from historically underserved communities,” the group said in a statement last week. “She would be a stellar, exceptionally qualified candidate to be Secretary of Labor and would deliver results for American workers and the Biden-Harris Administration immediately upon her confirmation.”

The country’s largest union is also supporting Su. “We enthusiastically support Deputy Secretary Su, a nationally renowned labor policy expert, and we urge you to nominate her as your next Labor Secretary,” National Education Association President Becky Pringle wrote in a letter to Biden this weekend.

Su sparked controversy when she helmed California’s labor agency over the rollout of the state’s divisive gig work law that established a three-part test that redefined many of the state’s gig workers as employees. But two things remain in Su’s favor: Although she would still require Senate confirmation, she’s already fully integrated into the department; and she would allow Biden to appoint his first Asian American Cabinet member — a plus for a President who has made diversity a priority in his executive branch.

While deputy secretaries are not often promoted to the top job, in this case the political pressure from Asian American groups could make it difficult for Biden not to elevate her. But with President Biden’s close ties to labor, the selection is likely to be more personal than some other Cabinet posts would be.

As for Walsh’s departure, House Education and Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (NC) has already demanded information from the Department of Labor Solicitor Seema Nanda about what precautions the labor secretary took while pursuing the NHLPA job.

Click here to access Foxx’s letter.

Click here to read the NEA letter.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Hearing

On Wednesday, February 8, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held its first hearing “American Education in Crisis,” which focused heavily on value and workforce outcomes in higher education, including the potential to expand the Pell Grant program to short-term, job-focused programs. Colorado Governor Jared Polis served as a witness and expressed support behind a greater focus on economic outcomes for students - highlighting his push to expand apprenticeships and to make community college credentials free for students in high-demand fields like healthcare, construction trades, and advanced manufacturing. Virginia Gentiles, Director of the Independent Women's Forum Education Freedom Center; Monty Sullivan, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System; and Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University, also testified.

During the hearing, Monty Sullivan expressed that one of the best ways to address the nation’s skills shortage is by expanding Pell Grants, saying “the single most important step Congress can take in helping address our nation’s skill shortage is to immediately authorize the use of Pell Grants for workforce programs. Students need the shortest and least expensive pathways to employment with opportunities for advancement throughout their lives.” The hearing also included discussion of postsecondary education reform and the rising costs of college. Witnesses pointed out that many college programs leave students with debt they can’t repay or a degree they can’t use in the labor market.

Click here to access information on the hearing.

USCM Letters to Committee Chairs

On Thursday, February 9, USCM Jobs, Education and the Workforce Standing Committee Chair Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and USCM Workforce Development Council President Tamara Atkinson sent letters of behalf of the Conference and WDC to House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders. The letters congratulate Foxx and Sanders on their new positions, underscores the importance of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reauthorization being a priority in the new Congress, and assures them that mayors and local workforce boards are ready to work with them to move crucial workforce legislation. Click here to access the USCM/WDC letter to Chairman Sanders.

Click here to access the USCM/WDC letter to Chairwoman Foxx.

Higher Education

First lady Jill Biden will traveling to community colleges in Arizona and Indiana this week to promote White House initiatives for career-connected learning, following the president’s renewed call for universal higher education programs during his State of the Union address.

Dr. Biden will travel to Mesa today, where Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Mesa Mayor John Giles are set to join her for a visit to Mesa Community College. She will be in Valparaiso on Friday where she is scheduled to visit Valparaiso’s Ivy Tech Community College.

Democrats Send Letter to Secretary Raimondo

On Thursday, February 9, more than 180 House Democrats sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that pushes her to ensure a series of labor protections and guarantees are included as part of the conditions companies would have to meet for receiving billions in newly authorized funds to beef up America’s semiconductor manufacturing industry. The letter lays out 10 priorities the lawmakers want the Commerce Department to incorporate as it readies the CHIPS for America program for implementation.

Click here to access the letter.

House Budget Committee

On Tuesday, February 7, House Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (TX) announced his panel’s roster, which has 21 Republican lawmakers set to serve. The Democrats also announced their 16-seat roster.

The Republican roster includes: Chairman Jodey Arrington (TX); Representatives Ralph Norman (SC); Tom McClintock (CA); Glenn Grothman (WI); Lloyd Smucker (PA); Michael Burgess (TX); Buddy Carter (GA); Ben Cline (VA); Bob Good (VA); Jack Bergman (MI); Drew Ferguson (GA); Chip Roy (TX); Blake Moore (UT); David Valadao (CA); Ron Estes (KS); Stephanie Bice (OK); Lisa McClain (MI); Michelle Fischbach (MN); Rudy Yakym (IN); Josh Brecheen (OK); and Chuck Edwards (NC).

The Democratic roster includes: Ranking member Brendan Boyle (PA); Representatives Brian Higgins (NY); Jan Schakowsky (IL); Earl Blumenauer (OR); Dan Kildee (MI); Scott Peters (CA); Barbara Lee (CA); Lloyd Doggett (TX); Jennifer Wexton (VA); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX); Ilhan Omar (MN); David Trone (MD); Becca Balint (VT); Bobby Scott (VA); Jimmy Panetta (CA); and one vacant seat the will be determined by the Democratic Caucus.

Click here to see the entire Budget Committee roster.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending February 4, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 196,000, an increase of 13,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 183,000. The 4-week moving average was 189,250, a decrease of 2,500 from the previous week's unrevised average of 191,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending January 28, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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