WASHINGTON, D.C. | December 9, 2015
The end of the year is an important time to reflect on what has been accomplished and what work remains to be done. As members of the Education and the Workforce Committee, this is especially important as we consider the significant challenges many workers continue to face.
Recent months have shown signs of economic improvement and signs of continued concern. Roughly eight million Americans are still unemployed and searching for work, and an additional six million are working part-time hours when they really need and want full-time jobs. And that doesn’t include the millions of individuals who are so discouraged by meager job prospects that they have dropped out of the workforce entirely. Meanwhile, those with jobs are facing fewer opportunities to advance and earn higher wages.
Some will say the problems facing workers and job creators can be solved with more spending, more government mandates, and more regulation. Perhaps we will hear some of those claims today, but that’s the same failed approach the Obama administration has pursued over the last seven years. The results have been an anemic economy, sluggish job growth, and most importantly, less opportunity and prosperity for millions of hardworking men and women.
Time and again we have called on the administration – including those at OSHA and the Department of Labor more broadly – to pursue a different, more responsible course, and time and again our calls have been rebuffed. The most recent example was the release of the administration’s regulatory agenda, which doubles-down on the same extreme regulatory approach that has made the problems plaguing the country worse at the expense of those struggling the most.
Let me be clear: Federal policies do play an important role in ensuring safe and healthy workplaces and protecting the basic rights of hardworking men and women. That’s not what we are here to discuss today. The question isn’t whether there should be rules of the road for workers and employers to follow. The question is how we ensure those rules are implemented fairly, responsibly, and in a way that promotes the best interests of both workers and their employers.
Unfortunately, more often than not, what we’ve seen from this administration is an overly punitive and unnecessarily burdensome approach. Adding insult to injury, often these rules and regulations are being developed and changed without any public input. This regulatory approach is holding us back, and that is the focus of today’s hearing.
We know there are areas where we can make meaningful change without creating costly consequences and unintended harm. For example, Chairman Kline and I have said we are open to modernizing current overtime rules to strengthen protections for workers and help employers fulfill their legal responsibilities. Instead, we have to confront a proposal that will limit workplace flexibility, make it harder for workers to advance up the economic ladder, and impose a significant burden on small businesses.
Earlier this year, Nicole Berberich, director of Human Resources at the Cincinnati Animal Referral and Emergency Center, testified about the challenges employers are already facing because of complicated federal wage and hour regulations. She also explained that small businesses like the one she works for are likely to experience the burdens of these regulations disproportionately. And she added that those burdens will continue to worsen with the expected overtime changes.
At a separate hearing, Eric Williams – who worked his way up from a crew member at a fast-food restaurant to become a franchisee and chief operating officer of CKE Restaurants – shared his fears that the administration’s overtime proposal “will severely limit hardworking, talented Americans from realizing their dreams.” He worries that, because of the proposal, some employees “may never reach their potential.”
The overtime proposal is just one example of this administration’s misguided approach to regulating. At another hearing, Drew Greenblatt, a steel wire manufacturer from Baltimore, spoke to us about how government policies are hindering growth and how he and others in his industry find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. He explained his situation as between, “A rock of harsh and unforgiving global economic competition and a hard place of inflexible and ever-proliferating regulations.”
It should be clear to anyone who is listening that the current regulatory onslaught is making life harder for working families and small business owners, not better. According to a study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, federal regulations cost more than $2 trillion in lost economic growth annually. And the American Action Forum estimates that the administration imposed more than $181 billion in new regulatory costs during 2014 alone. These are staggering statistics that, in many ways, represent lost wages and fewer jobs for American workers.
Today we will hear from our witnesses how this unprecedented regulatory approach has created troubling concerns for workers and small businesses during the past year. My hope is that by demanding more responsible regulatory policies, we can ensure a prosperous 21st century workforce.
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