Towards a More Open, Inclusive, and Accessible Green Job Training SystemBy Rep. John Kline (R-MN)
Article Date: 08-01-2009
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Opportunities and growth should not be limited to those with ties to labor organizations.
Editor’s Note: AED’s View from the Hill column gives leading members of Congress the opportunity to speak directly to equipment distributors without the usual media filters. Rep. John Kline, this month’s guest columnist, is the senior Republican member of the House Education & Labor Committee. He was also a featured speaker at this year’s AED Government Affairs Conference.
It’s déjà vu all over again in Washington. As men and women across the country struggle to hold their ground in the midst of challenging economic times, government is making matters worse by imposing punitive regulations that stifle growth and thwart innovation. If we are to get our economy moving in the right direction, we must set policies that recognize the changing face of our American job market and give every American worker the tools they need to succeed. I’m pleased to have this opportunity to let AED’s members know what I’m doing to achieve those goals.
One of the gravest threats to America’s job-creating future is the antiworker card check plan. This legislation – deceptively named the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) – would deny workers the right to a secret ballot election in forming a union, and would empower government bureaucrats, rather than workers and their employers, to dictate wages, benefits, and work rules. I appreciate all the work that AED and its members have done to educate my colleagues about the problems with EFCA.
Unfortunately, card check is not the only lurking economic threat. If we are to get our economy moving in the right direction, we must set policies that recognize the changing face of our American job market and give every worker tools to succeed.
As readers of this magazine know, the U.S. economy – and our manufacturing industry in particular – is changing. To continue to thrive in an increasingly competitive global market, we must ensure our workers have access to the training and education opportunities they need. All Americans – whether they are just entering the job market or have been in the workforce for years – must be able to adapt to a greener, more technologically advanced workplace.
Legislation passed by the previous Congress established an energy efficiency and renewable energy worker training program through a provision known as the Green Jobs Act. While I commend the goal of making such training opportunities available, I objected to the limited scope of this proposal – which effectively ignores 86 percent of the private sector construction workforce. By only providing funding to entities that partner with labor organizations, this program misses the mark.
To remedy this inequity, I’ve introduced the Green Jobs Improvement Act, which would expand green training programs to all private and public sector workers. My legislation would remove the mandate that eligible entities “partner with labor organizations,” thereby expanding access to merit shop training programs – in addition to labor organizations. As a result, local communities would have the freedom to decide for themselves whether a direct link to organized labor is a necessary component of a successful partnership. Unfortunately, the Democrat majority in Congress is standing firm, refusing to expand these progrowth programs to the vast majority of the workforce.
My bill would not undercut green job training, nor does it in any way prevent unions from being fully involved in these programs. It simply strives to create a more open, inclusive, and accessible green job training system that will enable all Americans to help rebuild our economy together.
It seems counterproductive to deny any American worker an opportunity to adapt to a changing marketplace. Government should not be in the business of choosing winners and losers in the U.S. workforce. With that logic in mind, I took the opportunity to again raise the issue by offering an amendment to the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House at the end of June, which reauthorized an increased funding for the Green Jobs Act. Beyond all logic, but perhaps not surprisingly, the amendment was rejected.
Despite these early setbacks, I remain committed to providing equal access to training opportunities for all workers. As the recently elected Senior Republican of the House Education and Labor Committee, I will continue to support the right of all American workers to prepare themselves for the jobs of today and tomorrow. I welcome the support of AED and its members in that effort.
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