Contact: Press Office (202) 226-9440
Labor Secretary Acosta Testifies Before House Committee


Secretary Acosta

 

Today, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held an oversight hearing with Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to review the department’s policies and priorities.  

As Chairwoman Foxx said during her opening remarks

“The Department of Labor is on the frontline of the issues facing workers and job creators, and it sets policies that have a widespread impact on our nation’s economy, employment growth, retirement security, and more … It is the responsibility of this committee to ensure those policies are in the best interest of workers, employers, and taxpayers.” 

Secretary Acosta told members:

“This has been a remarkable year of growth for the American economy, for American workers and job seekers, and American job creators … Our nation’s workforce is an amazing workforce … And it is why we are doing so well as a country … It is the best workforce in the world, which is one reason why we need to focus so much on workforce education. And so we at the department are hard at work to increase employment opportunities for Americans; enforce safe, healthy, and fair workplaces; promote strong benefits programs; and to ensure that the department’s regulations are commonsense regulations that make sense.”

The committee hearing focused on the progress the department is making to empower workers and job creators to succeed in today’s economy, as well as the substantial work that remains ahead. A number of key issues were discussed, including:

Workforce Development

Secretary Acosta emphasized the importance of apprenticeship programs in closing our nation’s skills gap — which has long been a priority for the committee — and provided an update on the administration’s task force:

“This is an issue that is so important. We should be growing apprenticeships in this nation … Members of the task force included leaders from business, from labor, from educational associations, from trade associations to governors, community organization leaders, public individuals – all coming together to talk about how to extend apprenticeships across industries, especially into those industries where apprenticeships are underrepresented.”

Overtime Rule

The Committee on Education and the Workforce led the fight against the Obama administration’s flawed overtime rule. When asked about the department’s consideration of a more responsible update to our nation’s overtime rules, Secretary Acosta said:

“It hasn’t been updated since 2004, and it is in need of updating. Life has become much more expensive. Going to the $47,000 level not only created a shock to the system, it was found to be unlawful by a federal court. So the request for information allowed us to gather data, to ask some important questions to the public about how we are going to write a new overtime rule that will be in accordance with legal standards. We are in the process of doing that, I believe we have received over 200,000 comments, and we are in the process of reviewing those comments.”

Retirement Security

Chairwoman Foxx noted in her opening remarks:

“There are also a number of issues impacting retirement security that deserve our attention. This includes the need to protect access to affordable retirement advice and empower more Americans to plan for the future.”

Regarding the fiduciary rule, Secretary Acosta informed the committee that “The department continues to conduct the examination ordered by the president and review the comments received in response to the RFI.”

The Secretary also spoke on the need to address the nation’s multiemployer pension system:

“This is a critical issue. It is an issue that has not been fully addressed in the past, and is past the point where there is an easy solution. This is something that we will have to work closely with Congress on …”

Health Care

Secretary Acosta explained how President Trump’s association health plan executive order will make a difference for small business employees, and announced that just yesterday, “the department sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding AHPs.” He added:

 “Association health plans, generally, will provide and do provide an opportunity for often small businesses to come together and create scale. That scale will reduce the cost of health care in important ways. First because there is scale, there is more negotiating power with health insurers. Because there is scale, rather than every business having to have its own plan that it administers, there is one central administration, and so that also reduces cost … [I]f you look at Association Health Plans, there is a history of them reducing the price and benefiting the consumer.”

Workplace Safety

In his written testimony, Secretary Acosta expressed his commitment to restoring responsible workplace safety policies and supporting compliance assistance efforts after years of the Obama administration’s failed approach:

“Enforcement plays a vital role in OSHA’s efforts to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Yet, compliance assistance is a large part of OSHA’s work to ensure employee safety … OSHA is currently examining [Voluntary Protection Program] and reviewing public input as it considers changes to the program.”

# # #