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Bishop Statement: Hearing on “The 21st Century Workforce: How Current Rules and Regulations Affect Innovation and Flexibility in Michigan’s Workplaces”

These discussions really are valuable to us. They help us deliver meaningful solutions to the many challenges facing Americans right now, including those facing our workers and job creators.
 
In fact, when it comes to updating rules and regulations related to workforce protections and wage and hour standards, having the opportunity to hear your perspectives and experiences are particularly important. Because when we’re talking about these issues, it’s not just public policy—it’s personal.
 
It’s personal for the worker who needs the flexibility to care for a loved one. It’s personal for the parent who wants to make it to their child’s school play or little league game. It’s personal for the working mom or dad who is also helping an aging relative. Workplace flexibility is incredibly personal and important to a lot of people.
 
It’s also personal for the low-wage worker trying to seize opportunities to move up the economic ladder. At a committee hearing last year, we heard from one witness, Eric Williams, who worked his way up from a crew member at a fast-food restaurant to become the chief operating officer of a major U.S. corporation. On top of that, he also owns and operates several restaurants of his own. That is the American Dream. It’s also what’s at stake if we miss the mark when it comes to updating regulations related to wage and hour standards.
 
As Chairman Walberg said, the rules and regulations guiding the implementation of the Fair Labor Standards Act are too complex, burdensome, and outdated. They no longer provide the kind of protections and opportunities they could—and should—for workers and employers. I think that’s something Republicans and Democrats can agree on. Where we seem to disagree is the best way to update them.
 
During the same hearing in which Eric Williams shared his inspiring success story, he also raised some troubling concerns with the consequences one of the administration’s recent regulatory proposals—the Department of Labor’s overtime rule—will create for workers and small businesses. He explained how the rule will be detrimental to workplace flexibility, how it will negatively impact pay and bonuses, and how it will “severely limit hardworking, talented Americans from realizing their dreams.”
 
Workers and small businesses are not the only ones concerned about the administration’s proposal. Those in higher education worry the rule could have unintended consequences for them as well, leading to higher costs and forcing schools to restrict hours for certain employees. Here in Michigan, we’re very fortunate to have an abundance of incredible universities that serve students from our state and from states across the country. Two of our witnesses are joining us from some of them: the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Under no circumstances should we be making it harder and more costly for students at these universities—or any university—to receive a quality education
 
Americans deserve better than changes that lead these kinds of consequences. That’s why we will continue our efforts to promote and encourage reforms that clarify current rules and regulations, modernize them, and make them better—reforms that won’t stifle innovation, flexibility, and opportunity. These things are essential in allowing our workforce to grow and change to better meet the needs of workers, job creators, and consumers; and they will continue to help us push the limits of what we are able to accomplish.

I look forward to hearing from all of you about how we can best accomplish those goals.