House Passes WIOA Reauthorization Bill
On Tuesday, May 17, the House passed the Democratic Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Reauthorization legislation on a mostly party-line vote of 220-196. Initially, reauthorization talks were bipartisan, however Democrats produced their own draft in March after disagreements emerged - Democrats wanted more funding for the existing system while Republicans preferred to see it overhauled to allow for more private-sector involvement. The legislation would authorize $74 billion over six years for WIOA – a significant increase over the 2014 legislation that included $19.8 billion over six years. The bill would also make permanent a DOL program that helps those convicted of crimes find employment, and bolster union representation on state and local workforce boards, among other things, as well as authorize public libraries to serve as one-stop centers. Republicans have said they want to see a reduction in funding for WIOA reauthorization and want the legislation to allow for more employer involvement.
The House bill also directs funds to only government-run apprenticeships and excludes the Trump-era Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program, which Democrats say lacks oversight. Language in the bill explicitly defines apprenticeships as those run by the government but it’s possible the provision could be dropped as they try to come to a compromise. If the bill fails to pass in the Senate, House Education and Labor ranking member Virginia Foxx (NC) has said she is already planning to take it up first thing next session should the Republicans win control of the House.
Click here to access the bill.
Appropriations/Department of Labor
On Tuesday, May 17, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh testified at a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to make the case that his Agency’s budget should be increased in line with the Biden administration’s March proposal. During his testimony, Secretary Walsh mentioned the need to increase hiring particularly in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make the agency more proactive. Walsh also proposed comprehensive immigration reform, which has been a longstanding priority of businesses that are struggling to fill open positions. After his testimony, Walsh told reporters that there currently is no definitive timeline to name a new nominee to lead the Department’s Wage and Hour Division after the David Weil nomination failed on the Senate floor.
Click here to access the hearing. In Department of Labor confirmation news: Last week the Senate voted 50-45 to confirm Elizabeth Watson as the Labor Department’s assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs. Watson’s nomination was first announced back in April 2021, and GOP Senators Richard Burr (NC) and Susan Collins (ME) joined Democrats to confirm the former House aide.
Wage Theft Bill
On Wednesday, May 18, the House Education and Labor Committee voted 27-19 to approve the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act (HR 7701 (117)), which would require employers to deliver detailed paystubs and maintain employee-accessible wage records, prohibit mandatory arbitration agreements and collective action waivers and hike fines for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. The legislation was unveiled last week by Committee Chair Bobby Scott (VA) and Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT) and is a reintroduction of a bill Democrats first released in 2016. The legislation would appropriate $50 million annually through FY26 for a new grant program to educate workers and employers on wage theft and increase the statute of limitations for prosecuting wage theft. Employers are against the bill, which they believe would be redundant given state laws and would give worker advocates and unions too much power. The bill will now go to the House floor but, given Republican opposition, passage in the Senate is unlikely.
Click here to access the section-by-section summary of the bill.
Click here to access the fact sheet.
House Education and Labor Committee
Mary Christina Riley, former legislative director for Representative Rick Allen (GA), starts today as professional staff on the House Education and Labor committee working on higher education for Foxx.
Initial Jobs Report
In the week ending May 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 218,000, an increase of 21,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 6,000 from 203,000 to 197,000. The 4-week moving average was 199,500, an increase of 8,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 1,500 from 192,750 to 191,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 0.9 percent for the week ending May 7, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.
Click here to access the full report.