As Members of the 114th Congress descend on Washington for orientation, and the 113th Congress convenes for the upcoming lame duck session, manufacturers stand ready to work with our leaders to advance policies that will enable us to continue to grow and create jobs. Manufacturers believe that now is the time to set aside the differences that have resulted in gridlock, and focus on the pro-growth policies that brought voters to the polls. Simply put, it is time to govern and grow. (continue reading…)
President Obama put his signature to important legislation to address the skills gap – an issue that has plagued manufacturers in recent years, with 80 percent of them reporting a serious difficulty in finding skilled workers. Recently, a Monster.com jobs expert took a close look at the skills gap and what manufacturers are facing.
The NAM and Manufacturing Institute have led the business community’s effort to ensure that employers have access to the 21st century workforce that they need to drive innovation, production and growth. Enacting the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law provides much needed streamlining of skills certification programs and the direction of necessary funding to ensure manufacturers have the workforce they need to succeed in a globally competitive environment.
The United States has long been the home of the most productive and successful workforce in the world. By coming together in a bipartisan manner (a sight too rarely seen in Washington these days), Congress and the President have taken an important step toward ensuring that the American workers’ reputation as the world’s best will continue.
When the Workforce Investment Act was passed in 1998, Bill Clinton was the president, Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the House and we were in the middle of the dot-com boom. Since then we’ve been through the dot-com bust, one mild recession after the events of 2001 and one severe recession, of which we are still seeing the effects. Our economy has grown from $11.5 trillion in 1998 to $15.8 trillion in 2013. A company named Google has gone from a startup few people heard of in 1998 to widespread use as a verb in everyday lexicon. All this is to say our economy and the jobs in it have changed dramatically since the original law was passed. The Workforce Investment Act has been badly in need of modernizing for over a decade and the House is poised to give its approval to legislation that will do just that this week.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as passed by the Senate, builds on the work done by the House of Representatives last year to reform the program and bring it online with the 21st Century. It eliminates 15 existing programs, applies a consistent outcome metric for federal workforce programs, streamlines the bureaucracy of the programs and empowers local boards to tailor services to the needs of their local economy. Manufacturers fully support WIOA and key voted in favor of it when it was considered by the Senate. We were pleased to see it pass the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 95-3.
For the last four years, the NAM has been working to ensure that federal workforce training programs emphasize programs that result in a credential or certification that demonstrates they have acquired the skills identified by employers as necessary for success in their field. Those credentials and certifications should be industry-driven to maximize their value to both the employee and the employer. The NAM believes the WIOA achieves this goal by recognizing the importance of certifications and credentials throughout the legislation.
Workforce training in the 21st Century is a constantly evolving and iterative process. WIOA gives federal programs the ability to adapt to the needs and demands of employers and employees in the future. It’s long overdue, but the House and Senate are to be thanked and congratulated for their bipartisan work in reaching this agreement.
Yesterday the Senate HELP Committee marked up and passed legislation that reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). WIA is long overdue for reauthorization, having never been reauthorized after passage over 10 years ago. Due to support from America Works sponsor and member of the committee, Senator Hagan (D-NC), the Senate bill includes some strong language on industry-recognized credentials supported by the NAM. In addition the bill puts a strong emphasis on data collection, performance indicators and metrics.
The Bill will now need to be considered by the full Senate before it can be conferenced with a House version that passes last March. The Bills are starkly different, with the House bill taking a stronger stance on consolidation of programs and state involvement to reduce bureaucracy.
Today, Senators Hagan (D-NC) and Heller (R-NV), with additional support from Senator Donnelly (D-IN), introduced the AMERICA Works Act, which will help in addressing the severe skills gap facing US manufacturers. Recent data has shown that approximately 600,000 jobs may be going unfilled due to the lack of a skilled workforce, hindering economic growth and innovation in the U.S. The America Works Act begins to address this problem by focusing existing federal training dollars towards nationally-portable, industry recognized certifications within the Workforce Investment Act, Perkins and TAA. Industry-based certifications let potential workers know exactly what skills are in demand in the private sector, thus using these programs more efficiently.
Today’s modern manufacturing requires a skills level more advanced than in previous generations. Sandy Westlund-Deenihan, CEO of Quality Float Works, an NAM member company, uses industry-recognized certifications to ensure she is hiring the right person. “Our manufacturing process is not what it was 25 years ago, it requires more advanced skills to deliver a high-quality product. Hiring someone with a nationally-portable, industry recognized certification allows my company to be secure in the knowledge that we are hiring someone with the skills necessary to maintain that level of quality.”
The Senators should be commended for their leadership on an issue of utmost importance to manufacturers. Currently, federal training programs can be overly-bureaucratic and often frustrating to employers. Setting a clear path for the most valuable training helps employers know they are hiring the right person, helps potential employees know exactly what skills are necessary for success, and it makes more efficient use of existing Federal resources. The NAM is very excited to support this important piece of legislation.
Christine Scullion is director of human resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.
It’s well known that manufacturers are facing a skills gap and need access to skilled talent to innovate and retain competitiveness. While developing the domestic pipeline of skilled labor is the utmost priority for manufacturers, we are still in need of global talent to remain competitive and grow the economy.
As it stands today, each nation has access to no more than 7% of the total green cards the United States issues on an annual basis – however individuals with highly skilled talent in demand are not equally distributed globally. This creates significant barriers for manufacturers, whose options for maintaining and promoting valued employees are limited by this arbitrary cap. By phasing out the per-country limits, equally-qualified visa applicants would be considered on a first come-first served basis and employers would have greater flexibility to keep talented individuals in the US.
A solution to this problem exists in H.R. 3012, the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011,” which amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to phase out and eliminate the per country limits for employment based visas and places more emphasis on employer demand. The bill is being considered by the House today. We hope that it will be passed as a good step toward developing the workforce that manufacturers need.
Editor’s note: We changed the headline at 2:30 p.m. from “Circumventing … ” to “Circumnavigating,” our usual term for an “Around the Web” feature. While we occasionally vent, we try not to circumvent.
Reporters covered the petition filed by the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Boiler MACT and incinerator waste regulations, reported yesterday the NAM’s Alicia Meads at Shopfloor, “Manufacturers Petition EPA for Stay of Boiler, Incineration Rules.”
- Bloomberg, “US Chamber, Manufacturers Ask EPA to Halt Boiler Rules“
- The Hill (blog), “Industry calls for stay of EPA boiler rules“
From Voice of America, “Delay in US Law to Combat Africa’s Conflict Minerals Sharpens Divisions“:
This month, without giving any reason, the SEC postponed announcement of the new rules to between August and December.
A representative of the U.S. National Association of Manufacturers, Stephen Jacobs, called the delay awkward. He also called for a transitional phase of the law and less rigorous demands.
“The SEC should create a category such as indeterminate origin as a temporary, let me emphasize temporary, measure for products manufactured or produced with conflict minerals that issuers are unable in the first years of their program, despite their best efforts, to determine the origin,” said Jacobs.
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning released its 6-2 ruling in Kasten v. St. Gobain that an employee’s grousing is just as good as a a written complaint under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA). The ruling is here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) joined with the Equal Employment Advisory Council and the NFIB last year in an amicus brief arguing that the Fair Labor Standards Act provision is clear and narrower than similar provisions under other federal civil rights statutes which prohibit retaliation based on an individual’s mere opposition to an employment practice.
As the NAM Manufacturing Law Center entry explained, extending the FLSA to verbal complaints would undermine the ability of employers to effectively manage their workforces and enforce legitimate workplace rules. Requiring written complaints of potential violations “not only would facilitate swift resolution of the dispute, but also would discourage employees from making false or frivolous complaints that stem more from idle ‘grumblings’ than from legitimate workplace concerns.” Written complaints are fully protected against retaliation and can be properly addressed by management. If the law is interpreted to provide special status to employees making oral complaints, on the other hand, employers will face more difficult problems when addressing poor performance or disciplinary situations.
But the court ruled otherwise.
- Scotusblog entry, with briefs, background.
- Seattle Times, “Court says complaints don’t have to be written“
- ABA Journal, “Supreme Court Rules Oral Workplace Complaints Are Protected Under Labor Law“
The National Labor Relations Board continues pose many challenges to employers and employees alike with its recent actions involving several cases and proposed rulemakings. Just last week the National Association of Manufacturers submitted formal regulatory comments to the Board that question its authority to issue regulations that would require almost all employers to post or otherwise communicate a biased notice of unionization rights to their employees.
Now the Board continues to hear cases that could set troubling legal precedent and shift longstanding interpretation of labor law. One such case is Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile and United Steelworkers, District 9, 356 NLRB No. 56 (2010). This case is important because it is “representation case”, meaning that there will be no opportunity for direct judicial review and the Board could begin applying its decision immediately in other cases.
The Board’s ruling is expected to reverse 50 years of case law by radically changing the standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit for all of the estimated six million workplaces covered by the National Labor Relations Act. The key issue is whether employees performing the same job at a single facility presumptively constitute a bargaining unit for organizing purposes, irrespective of any commonality those employees share with other employees outside the proposed unit.
Former NLRB member and labor law expert extraordinaire Pete Kirsanow recently commented on the impact of this case in National Review Online’s The Corner blog. In his piece, Kirsanow explains how this case could ultimately skew U.S. labor law to make it much easier for labor unions to organize workplaces.
Kirsanow identifies other implications. The case could:
- Increase the probability that a workplace will have multiple bargaining units representing different classifications of employees; e.g., one unit of, say, two set-up men, another unit of six press operators, yet another unit of three welders, a separate unit of four packers, etc. etc.
- Increase the probability that a company’s employees will be represented by — and the company must bargain with — multiple unions, e.g., the UAW in one part of the plant, the Teamsters in another, and the SEIU in a third.
- Increase the probability that an employer would have to manage separate work schedules, grievance procedures, wage schedules, and benefits packages for various bargaining units in a single workplace.
- Increase the man-hours a company spends on personnel matters such as discipline, grievances, arbitration, and bargaining.
- Reduce management’s flexibility in matters such as hiring, work assignments, transfers, promotions, layoffs, and overtime.
- Reduce productivity and increase costs
- The Board has historically applied a clear set of standards to determining a unit appropriate for bargaining – this case would turn those standards upside down. We hope that board will adhere to longstanding precedent when determining this case.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis testifies Wednesday before the House Education and Workforce Committee, a hearing entitled “Policies and Priorities at the U.S. Department of Labor.”
One useful line of inquiry might pursue the Department of Labor’s deal with the American Bar Association to farm out employee complaints that come to the Department to contingency-fee attorneys. Questions might include:
- President Obama has left in force President Bush’s Executive Order No. 13433, “Protecting American Taxpayers From Payment of Contingency Fees.” That order specified that “no agency shall enter into a contingency fee agreement for legal or expert witness services.” Can you please explain to me why this new arrangement does not violate that executive order. Should the president repeal that executive order?
- Explain, if you would, how exactly the attorneys are selected for this referral service. What percentage fee of the awards will the attorneys be working for? Please provide me a list of the attorneys who are serving in this capacity. Do you intend for their arrangements with clients to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act?
- How does it improve the business climate or encourage employers to hire new workers if the Department of Labor refers lawsuits against business to outside, contingency-fee attorneys? Can you understand why employers might be upset that your agency is serving as a referral service for trial lawyers?
We wrote about the White House’s embrace of this trial lawyer referral service last week in two posts, “What about the Executive Order Barring Contingency Fee Lawyers?” and “Department of Labor: Working the Phones for Contingency Lawyers.”