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Hearing Recap: Wage and Hour Division Edition (Part II)

Today, the Workforce Protections Subcommittee held an oversight hearing covering the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The hearing’s lone witness, WHD Administrator Jessica Looman, undertook the tall task of answering for her federal office’s job-killing, burdensome regulations. 
Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Kiley (R-CA) laid out the case against WHD overregulation with his opening statement, but first, he addressed the elephant in the room—the forever pending nomination of Ms. Looman’s boss, the unconfirmable Julie Su.

“It is an insult to members of the United States Senate who carefully considered Ms. Su’s nomination for months, who met countless times with Ms. Su and administration officials, who were on the receiving end of a ‘war room’ set up by the Biden administration – only to be told it was all play-acting,” said Chairman Kiley.

When Republican Members questioned Ms. Looman, many took aim at one of three chief rules: the independent contractor rule, the Davis-Bacon rule, and the proposed overtime rule.

Initially, Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO) raised concerns with the rushed overtime proposed rule. He noted industry experts have never seen such a short comment period for a policy of this magnitude.

“Ms. Looman, could you tell us why the rule was pushed through so quickly and in such an unprecedented manner?” he asked.

Ms. Looman dissembled, starting at the history of the Fair Labor Standards Act back in the 1930’s and never getting to the real crux of the question. Why the rush? Why the break from rulemaking norms?

“We developed the best rule we possibly could,” from Ms. Looman rang a bit hollow given her inability to answer the question.

Chairman Kiley pressed further, asking Ms. Looman how the independent contractor rule would impact three standard American occupations: Real estate agents, truck drivers, and freelance writers.

To each example, Ms. Looman provided the canned response that the independent contractor rule is a “fact-based analysis” and lays out a “six-factor test.” That’s hardly solace for the five million Americans working in those respective occupations whose livelihoods will soon hinge on the implementation of the rule.

Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) criticized the WHD’s Davis-Bacon rule, specifically that it discriminates against non-unionized construction workers and its “prevailing wage” calculation is misguided. Then Rep. Good made perhaps the strongest argument against the rule, “Repealing Davis-Bacon would save taxpayers $24 billion over ten years.”

The Biden administration’s response to mass illegal immigration also warranted Republican scrutiny. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) probed the WHD’s responsibility to report unaccompanied illegal minors found in unsafe working conditions. 
Painting a hypothetical of an illegal immigrant child working a night shift in violation of child labor law, Rep. Grothman asked, “If you find a child like that, what do you do with the child?”

Ms. Looman’s reply did not provide any clarity. Hiding behind opaque, bureaucratic language, she provided no concrete confirmation that the WHD notifies parents or any law enforcement body in such a scenario.

In Fiscal Year 2023 alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered over 137,000 unaccompanied minors at the southern border, roughly 100,000 more than during the last fiscal year of the Trump administration. Yet, Biden’s army of bureaucrats seem uninterested in finding out who these children are, who their parents are, or who is supporting them.

Finally, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) focused on the WHD’s own data that highlight the agency’s poor performance. She highlighted its decade-low collection of back wages for workers and its fewest compliance actions since Fiscal Year 2013, despite receiving a 20 percent budget increase in funding over the same period. As Chairwoman Foxx noted, “This is not a resource problem—it is a management problem.”

Ms. Looman cited the staff size at the WHD relative to the number of workplaces across the country, leading Chairwoman Foxx to emphasize once more, “But you had more money, and you did less work.”

Now, the WHD is requesting a 31 percent budget increase for Fiscal Year 2024. With all the bad economics going on over there, it is no wonder that Ms. Looman had zero clue what the national debt was when asked by Rep. Good.

Bottom Line: The Biden WHD is bad for the economy and bad at its job. 
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