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tv   Labor Secretary Acosta Testifies on FY 2018 Budget Request  CSPAN  June 27, 2017 11:00am-12:00pm EDT

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opinion to consider on this so-called overtime rule. that was a bad rule. here are the problems with it. the rapid rate of increase. the salary threshold was set to double overnight. the top number was $47,000, too high for many parts of the country, and i think it would be wise to consider a different top level for different parts of the country. . colleges and universities say they have to raise tuition by a large amount to accommodate it. it included annual increases with only two months' notice. now, annual increases might be a good idea but not with two months' notice, so i would urge you to show us how to write a good overtime regulation as you consider this, one that takes those issues into account, and there are thousands and thousands of colleges, universities, boy scout groups, businesses that will hope you will do the same. now, my question -- my question
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is about your apprenticeship order. i salute your interest in that and the president's interest in it and look forward to supporting it. i have one question about it. the executive order allows you to deny access to the expansion of the apprenticeship program for certain sectors that already have effective and widespread apprenticeship programs. is that directed at the construction industry? do you plan to exempt the construction industry from your executive order? secretary acosta: senator, thank you for the comments and the questions. first, let me say going to your earlier combhent that this morning the department of ib -- comment that this morning the department of labor had a request for information regarding the overtime rule. once approved by o.m.b. that request would ask the public to comment on a number of questions that would inform our thinking with respect to many of the issues that you raised. now, moving to the president's executive order, the president
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is well familiar with apprenticeships, particularly in the building trades and is well aware of the success of apprenticeships in the building trade. senator alexander: why would you consider exempting the construction industry, if you are? secretary acosta: senator, if i can -- if i can then comment on that. and so the executive order provides the secretary of labor with discretion to look at particular industries, and if the current program is effective and widespread, it's a do-no-harm provision where if a program is currently working and would not benefit from wider expansion, then there is discretion to not fix what is not broken. and so regulations will have to be presented that implement
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that and those regulations would govern how that particular provision is. senator alexander: i understand that. do you have an intention to exempt the construction industry at this moment? secretary acosta: senator, i have an intention to create regulations that will provide rules for the road on how that provision will be adopted. senator alexander: well, my time is -- i have nine seconds, but in that nine seconds, if there are 500,000 unfilled job for construction workers today, i would hope that would be evidence that there is room for apprenticeship programs in the construction industry. secretary acosta: we would agree. senator alexander: thank you, mr. chairman. senator blunt: thank you, senator alexander. senator shotts. senator shotts: thank you for your good work. many people from this administration have attacked the bureau of labor statistics as phony, fictitous and a hoax when they don't like the data that's presented to them.
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for instance, at a rally in iowa last december, the president-elect said the unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction. and a few months earlier, he said you hear a 5% unemployment rate, it's just a phony number. senator schatz: this march the o.m.b. director mulvaney accused the obama administration manipulating the numbers to make the unemployment rate look smaller. these are really dangerous attacks on government data generally and your department in particular. i know you're a data-driven leader, and so i want to ask you -- the bureau of labor statistics has existed for more than 130 years to provide independent, unbiased and rigorous data on employment levels in the country. lawmakers use it for policymaking. journalists and researchers use it to accurately inform the public, and these attacks degrade the public trust. and so i want to give you as much leeway as possible because
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i understand you work for the trump administration so this is not a setup question in order to get you sideways with any member of your administration. but i would like to hear from you what you think about the bureau of labor statistics, their accuracy, not just under your leadership, but over time? secretary acosta: senator, i appreciate the question. and let me, i guess, make three points. first, all the statistical agency witness wn the government, not just the bureau of labor statistics, but there are several, about half a dozen statistical agencies, serve an incredibly important role. and in fact, they have particular protections that are given them by o.m.b. to safeguard them from administration to administration and those important protections, because the data that they produce is used over time by researchers in setting policy, and i think it's very important to protect the integrity of that data.
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one of the issues coming out of b.l.s. is there's actually six measures of unemployment that b.l.s. produces. at least six, and then several submeasures. some of which are more narrow and some of which are broader. and so sometimes when folks refer to the unemployment rate, which as i just did earlier today, 4.3%, i was referring to the u-3 figure. there's the e-6 figure which is much broader which is about 8.4% which includes underemployment generally. then we have the labor force participation rate which unfortunately keeps dropping, and just from demographic changes, just from the aging of america, would drop by approximately .3% per year if we don't do more to bring folks into the labor force. and so i think sometimes when folks challenge the number, what's really going on is that
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particular numbers measure those things they are intended to measure. and they do so professionally. but what they measure may not necessarily be what is being discussed. and so we have a very low unemployment rate but we need to get more americans back to work. and if you look at the labor force participation rate, enough americans aren't working. they've given up. and so the multiplicity of numbers can sometimes create confusion. senator schatz: i understand that and giving the benefit of the doubt to some of the political leaders who character the numbers in a way to make their point and sometimes a valid point, sometimes a point in the context of an election but that's all fair game. what i want to be assured of is that the secretary of labor stands up for not just his department and not just b.l.s. but generally for the agencies
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that collect data. because there's something more insidious going on. if the point is, hey, look, it's a low unemployment rate but that doesn't tell you the whole story, fair enough. but if people are being told by their leaders at the highest level that the government is lying to them, that is a whole different proposition and it is your job to stand up for the people who create these data sets. secretary acosta: i deeply respect the integrity and the importance of data sets. they set policy. they're used by senators like yourself and others here, and i hear your point. senator schatz: thank you. senator blunt: thank you. senator lankford. senator lankford: glad you're here. thanks for your continued service. can you give us the insight on joint employer, the definition where things are going in the ongoing conversation with the dep depth of labor? secretary acosta: senator, i can certainly do so the department of labor has
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withdrawn the guidance that had been previously issue on the joint employer. that guidance had been issued in january, 2016, and discussed the agency's rejection of the common law concepts so that guidance is no longer in effect within the department of labor. now, the national labor relations board, as the senator is aware, doesn't come within the department of labor's jurisdiction. chairman alexander earlier referenced the national labor relations board impending nominations. as the national labor relations board fills, i would suspect that that's an issue they will have to take up and decide how to proceed. senator larningford: ok. great. everything's on hold pending that? secretary acosta: well, the department of labor, the guidance has been withdrawn and so that is the portion of that issue that's within the jurisdiction of the department of labor. senator lankford: talking about
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the fiduciary rule. this is where you have to have cooperation with another entity, the s.e.c., to try to figure out how that's going to work. where is that conversation right now? secretary acosta: and so previously the s.e.c. did not work jointly with the department of labor. as i indicated quite publicly, i think that the s.e.c. has important expertise and that they need to be part of the conversation and i asked to be chairman of the s.e.c. if the s.e.c. would be willing to work with us. the chairman indicated his willingness to do so, and it's hope as the s.e.c. also receive full complement of the commissioners that the s.e.c. will continue to work with the department of labor on this issue. senator lankford: you mentioned in your opening statement about enforcement and this committee, i would tell you, would expect that, that if there are safety issues, we do want to be able to maintain enforcement.
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you go back as far as the clinton administration when al gore led an effort across the nation and working with regulators to try to bring down the tone of the regulators and those inspectors that are coming in. i hear pretty consistently that folks used to come in to help us. now they come in to fine us, especially from small businesses. and the abundance of new regulations that have come in in the last several years, they ask a simple question -- can we have some mercy? if we miss something, come tell us we miss something but don't come in with a fine book immediately. come in with a warning. so i would ask only -- and we can work through this in the days ahead. i have a bill that actually deals with this, issues specifically to mandate it, but especially for small businesses. they miss something, they don't have an attorney on staff, they don't have compliance people on staff, they run their business. and it is extremely helpful if the attitude of enforcement individuals come in to help people rather than just to be able to fine. do you have any comment on
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that? secretary acosta: i do, senator. at the same time i raised the point about enforcement, in the paragraph before that i talked about compliance assistance and the point i was making is that compliance assistance i think is very important. we need enforcement to go hand in hand but compliance assistance at the end of the day, i believe, can bring about sometimes greater compliance. when i was united states attorney, i would talk to chambers and i said, look, we can prosecute cases, but preventing wrongdoing in the first place is more successful. isn't it better to have a traffic light that prevents accidents rather than give people tickets after the accident has occurred? and so the current budget actually requests an increase in the compliance assistance program within osha, for example, and just this morning, the department also announced the return of opinion letters within the wage and hour
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division. the opinion letters had been use for seven years, i'm told 2010, and they're a mechanism that small business and others can write and ask a question, how does this work, because sometimes they don't know the answer and so those opinion letters had been discontinued and we announced this morning that we are reinstating those opinion letters. senator lankford: are you doing any kind of shuffling within your own staff to make sure you have people in the right spots? when you deal with inspectors, as industries rise and fall, sometimes you can end up with the wrong people that are covering an area that's declined? for instance, no grand secret there's a lot of coal mines that closed. if we have a large number of inspectors with coal mines closing, that becomes an issue. it's something e.p.a. and b.l.m. faced several years ago, studying coal bit methane and we don't have that anymore. i encourage you to take that on
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in the days ahead. senator blunt: thank you. senator. >> thank you, mr. secretary, for being here. one of the reasons that the health care bill that's about to be pending before the senate is so stunningly unpopular is that the president, your boss, consistently during the campaign and after the campaign about a health care reform bill, a repeal of the affordable care act, that wouldn't cause anyone to lose insurance. senator murphy: promises were made over and over again that more people would be insured after this process was finished than under the affordable care act, and c.b.o. confirmed again yesterday that under the senate bill, 22 million people across this country, the equivalent population of 16 u.s. states would lose their health care insurance. and speaking to your portfolio, mr. secretary, the effect is on
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individuals with employer-sponsored health care and those who are getting their insurance through other means. there is' a recent article in "the atlantic" which says, the headline is "how the g.o.p.'s health care bill would affect people insured through work." and the subheadline is "fewer people would sign up for employer-sponsored plans and fewer employers would offer coverage. millions of people would lose employer-sponsored health care according to the c.b.o. estimates." so given the promises that were made by many of my colleagues and by the president himself, i guess i just have a pretty simple question for you. do you think the purpose or the outcome of health care reform should be to ensure more or less americans? secretary acosta: senator, health care reform -- and as we're looking at this health care bill -- we're asking, how
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can we go forward as a nation with the bill that respects individual choice? ultimately, senator murray raised a question around health care as well, and as we're looking at the workplace, one issue that certainly i think we need to consider is, what does this do in terms of jobs? and does the multipolicity of expenses put on employers create a disincentive to hire? certainly we need to respect individual choice, and we also need to consider whether we're going to be creating jobs by in ct reducing the cost of many of these programs that do place burdens on the economy as a whole? senator murphy: let me restate the question. insurance is really important to people. they prefer jobs that have insurance. do you think that the purpose
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of health care reform should be to insure more people or less people? secretary acosta: senator, again, the purpose of health care reform is to ensure that individuals have access to insurance choice. and i guess, you know, i push back because sometimes there's an effort to measure based on how much we spend or how many people are covered rather than to measure based on are folks getting jobs or are we respecting individual's choices and so i do think it's important to provide individuals with choice. senator murphy: you're not suggesting of the 22 million peern that will lose insurance, the majority of those people are choosing to lose insurance? secretary acosta: what i'm suggesting is that we have a health care system that imposes number of mandates and that
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as a nation getting increasingly and increasingly expensive and i'm encouraging congress to work to address those issues. i think it's an incredibly -- it's one of the most important issues we're facing. health care is becoming more costly. individuals are finding they cannot afford what is in essence a broken system and i think it's very important that it be addressed in a way that makes it effective in the long term. senator murphy: i appreciate your comments. i will just say for the record, c.b.o. does not come to the conclusion that 23 million people, 22 million people are going to lose coverage because they're exercising their right to decline coverage. they admit there will be a small portion of healthy individuals who may choose to go without health care, but they also come to the conclusion that the vast bulk of that 22 million are losing health care because they simply cannot afford it because the cost, under the american health
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care bill, will spiral 23% premium increases in the first year, 400% premium increases for older americans, such it is completely and totally unaffordable. so i understand your comments about choice. that's not what c.b.o. says is the main cause of why these numbers are absolutely catastrophic. thank you, mr. chairman. senator blunt: thank you, senator murphy. senator kennedy. senator kennedy: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, i think that's exactly what the c.b.o. report says. t me go back just quickly to a question that senator alexander asked you, because i'm not sure about the answer. the president's executive order, which i applaud, do you plan to exempt the construction industry from it?
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secretary acosta: senator, the president's executive order provides discretion to the secretary of labor to enact regulations that will guide decisionmaking in whether -- senator kennedy: mr. secretary, i got that part. you're going to issue regulations. are those regulations going to exempt the construction industry? secretary acosta: senator, under the administrative procedures act, i need to issue regulations. i would then need to apply those regulations to a particular fact pattern. i will say this. the president is looking to expand apprenticeships across all industries. the president is looking to expand apprenticeships both -- senator kennedy: mr. secretary, i appreciate all that. i am really not trying to be rude. we are given five minutes. if you don't want to answer the question, just tell me. secretary acosta: senator, i am trying to answer the question. and my point is that the
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president's executive order, to the extent something is working, does not want to disturb it. to the extent something is not working is looking to expand it. and that will have to be determined. senator kennedy: i get it. let's move on. when you became secretary, did you find waste in your budget? secretary acosta: senator, there is certainly -- there are certainly ways of reducing and saving money within any agency, yes. senator kennedy: well, you cut $2.6 million out, right? your budget, am i right on that? secretary acosta: senator, the budget request does seek a reduction of $2.6 billion. senator kennedy: senator, do you support all of those cuts? secretary acosta: i acknowledge that we as a government need to reduce spending, and so i do think it's important that we reduce the spending. yes. senator kennedy: i do, too. i agree with you on that. we're spending $434 million on
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the senior community service employment program. could you briefly tell me what that does? secretary acosta: senator, there are a number of programs within the training and employment services budget, and over time different areas have developed programs of their own. one of the things we're looking to do is streamline the different programs so that -- senator kennedy: what does that do? secretary acosta: so the senior community service employment program is to some extent as many as 1/3 of participants -- senator kennedy: let me put it this way. does it use to transition seniors into unsubsidized employment? secretary acosta: yes, it does, senator. senator kennedy: ok. that was eyesy. why do we need to spend $434 million to do that? secretary acosta: well, senator, as i was saying, there are a number of programs that have developed over time
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focused on different groups within our country. and those programs are all important. but we merge them, streamline them and make them part of larger programs and so one of the things that the budget looks to do is to streamline -- there are well over 40 different job training programs within the administration and merging those would be a cost saving measure. senator kennedy: look, i agree with you. i'm on your side, mr. secretary. i've been around here a long time. lot longer than i have, but i've driven over a good portion of washington. i can't find the money tree. maybe it's in a warehouse somewhere. the topic is health care which is extraordinarily important for our country. obody would deny that. but the question is not should we add more people or less people, the question is, how
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many people can we afford to insure with the amount of taxpayer money that we have? and i appreciate your aprofe. and i appreciate the -- and i appreciate your approach and i appreciate the president's approach. that's being lost in this debate. we're borrowing $1 million a minute to run this place. $1.4 billion a day. and i listen to people say, add this, add that like we were spending west virginia ditch water instead of taxpayer money. so i find your approach refreshing. i thank you for it. i wasn't trying to be rude. i'm just trying to get within my five minutes. thank you, mr. secretary. secretary acosta: thank you, senator. senator blunt: and we assume there is more value to west virginia ditch water than other water so that's good.
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senator durbin. senator durbin: secretary acosta, thank you for joining us. we have a problem in chicago, gun violence. it's primarily among young people. primarily minority populations. we also find something else. there's a 40% unemployment rate among young blacks in chicago. 40%. 20% or higher in latino populations. and we find something pretty amazing. if we can get many of these young people in a job, trained for in a job, does amazing things. changes their lives. i am not making it up. few weeks ago i went to the urban league office and met with curtis martin. curtis martin is exhibit a in what you expect to turn out a gang banger and eventually in prison and is not because he got in a program financed by the federal government and got him into a job. he's working nights at u.p.s. it's not easy work, but he's damn proud of it and he's told us that. talking about going back to school now.
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it's a good thing. now i look at your budget and you're cutting this program by 20%. you know, the president noticed the violence in chicago and tweeted about it couple occasions. i'd like to read to you what the president said. january 24, if chicago doesn't fix the horrible carnage going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings, up 24% from 2016, i'll send in the feds. then february 23, the president tweeted -- seven people shot and killed yesterday in chicago. what is going on there? totally out of control. chicago needs help, the president tweeted. how does a 20% cut in a program like the one that helped curtis martin help chicago? secretary acosta: so let me say a few things, senator. first, i appreciate your point. as u.s. attorney, i took steps to address gun violence using prosecutions. but one of the points that i
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made is ultimately prosecutions aren't the solution. we need to find jobs and we need to encourage young people to graduate high school and to have skills and that's something that i talked about greatly. just in the past week, i had the opportunity to meet with work force development councils at the national conference of mayors and then i met with local officials at the national association of latino elected officials and later this week i'm going to be meeting with representatives of some other groups, many of whom face similar issues with economically challenged regions. and my message to all of them is let's work together. let's develop apprenticeship programs that will focus on these populations because the best thing that we can do for them is to provide them a pathway to a job by giving them
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job skills. i understand that the budget -- to go to your question -- i understand the budget reductions are an issue. you know, so we're looking at ways that we can make the programs more efficient and more effective and work with he private sector. senator durbin: i'd like to say this. want you to meet the people who are in these programs. when we say, send in the feds, i can agree with the president, i want to send you in. come over to chicago and take a look at the programs and what the cuts will mean. second point i want to make. h-1-b visas, to allow skilled workers to come into the united states if they don't displace american jobs. example a, a pharmaceutical company in chicago, they announced to 100 of their i.t. workers that had been there for
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years, that they were going terminated, 150 terminated. here is the deal. they were terminated -- would get an extra benefit for their termination of one month of pay for every year of work if they agreed to two things. first, they don't say anything publicly about being fired. be and secondly, they train their replacements. their replacements were h-1-v visa holders from india. rns out half go to two major outsourcing agencies in india. what were they going to do? they were going to replace the american workers. so these pharmaceutical employees were required to train their replacements on the job as they walked out the door, the americans walked out the door. and then the jobs were outsourced to india after these workers were trained. the president talked about that in his campaign. he thought it was out rageous. i do too. i think it ought to be changed. senator grassley and i have a reform bill but the president waited until after the award of
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h-1-v visas to announce an interagency review, which i believe involves your department. how many hearings have you about h-147b v visas? secretary acosta: senator, can i answer? let me address both of your points. first, i'll gladly join you in chicago. i think it's very important and i do want to leave washington and travel and understand all the issues facing american workers. so gladly. with respect to h-1-b, we've been talking about this quite vigorously. let me make two points. first, i think what happened as you describe it is offensive. and those are strong words and those senators that heard me speak for me to use those words it means something. and it is offensive. we have scoured the law for options internally on how to
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address situations like those. and unfortunately our hands are -- our ability is limited, but there is, in addition to the larger bill that i'm aware of, there are some very simple fixes. there's a $60,000 threshold in the h-1-b area and it's interesting because congress talks about and i talked about and responded to questions with respect to overtime and others and i've said, life gets more expensive. and so when you have a dollar threshold that should be updated over time, but congress has not updated that $60,000 threshold over time. if congress were to update that simply for inflation it would bring it up to well over $80,000. and many, if not most, of the situations you identified would be eliminated because they would not be within that -- they would be below that $60,000 threshold.
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and so perhaps when that was enacted way back when that was an appropriate threshold but i encourage the senator to look at that issue because i can't imagine how when it comes to an american worker they have to train their foreign replacement and it has happened again and again and again. senator busch durbin: -- senator durbin: thank you. senator blunt: i believe if you said if the amount was updated they would be below the updated $60,000 which would now be an eight something -- close to $80,000? secretary acosta: it would be above $80,000. that's correct. if i did not say that clearly that's my error. senator blunt: you mention they would be below the updated? secretary acosta: they would be below the updated. senator blunt: something to talk about and think about. let me ask a couple veterans questions. one, congress passed and you have in your department the
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hire vets act to create some recognition and some standards for employers who figure out how to hire vets and then the secretary question on that topic is the concerns that g.a.o. had with the current veterans' employment efforts being made by the department before you got there. so do you want to talk about both of those things? secretary acosta: gladly, mr. chairman. and let me just say, i'm reminded congress has not updated that figure since 1998, and things certainly have gotten more expensive since the 1990's. with respect to the hire vets act, you know, it's interesting. because i was very excited when i saw the hire vets act because i think it's really important that we recognize employers, and i said, ok, so what are we doing for this veterans day? and i was told that the regulations couldn't be done by this veterans day. i said, it can't take that long to possibly write regulations
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for awards. and so we're expediting them. t i should also say that the rules call for the request for nominations to go out in january and so we may not be able to do it this year even if we can move the regulations quickly because of the very rules and the statute in which case i may take it upon myself just as discretionary authority to give the equivalent this veterans day. because i don't want to wait another year and a half to do this. senator blunt: this is sort of like the leads standard recognition you get for energy efficiency. this would be you're establishing standards for employers and their relationship to how they hire vets, what kind of credit they get for training and the service and other things. what about the criticism of the current efforts being made by the department for veterans?
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i think one of the criticisms was there's a lack of transparency with regard to the extent for which veterans' employment training services are actually meeting performance goals and there were others in that g.a.o. report. secretary acosta: so, senator, one of the issues around veterans' jobs services is they're scattered around the executive branch. one of the issues is it doesn't make sense to consolidate them in some way, shape or form. there are at least three different executive branch agencies that are responsible for veterans, job, education and working with veterans, and that does lead to some level of confusion. i will say this. it's a top priority. these individuals served their nation and they deserve, not just to be treated with respect, but they deserve to have a job when they arrive here. additional dd one
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issue, because i know this committee appropriated funds to look at certifications among the various states. additional issue, because and one issue that i've been made aware of that i think is very important in this area is a veteran can be -- a service member can be trained in the army, for example, to drive a commercial truck in fallujah. yet, they come stateside and they may not have the ability to drive a commercial truck in a particular state because states have different licensing requirements. and one of the concerns that i have and one question that i have, can we look at ways of working with states so that they recognize military licenses and certifications? senator blunt: that takes me perfectly to my next question. in f.y. 2017 and 2017, this bill included $7.5 million to continue establishing some sort of consortium of states and certainly at the top of that priority list would be skills you learned while serving the
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country. right up there with that are spouses that move from state to state as their spouses transferred from one military base to the other so that would be a second criteria. maybe even more important to the actsive service than the first criteria. and the third would be generally, what are we doing so that when somebody moves across the river from illinois to missouri that they bring those skills with them, that there's some reciprocity or understanding of that? again, the department has been asked two straight years now to do that. secretary acosta: mr. chairman, the department of -- senator blunt: of course you weren't there. but what are you going to do about it? secretary acosta: the department has been asked. i know a report has been due that's been funded by those appropriations this fall. you know, i can tell the chairman that i've been talking to my own staff about this since the last two to three weeks when i first learned about it.
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because particularly on the veterans' side, i don't know how you justify telling someone, it was ok for you to drive a truck full of explosives but it's not ok for you to drive a truck full of coca-cola or pepsi. and that's something very difficult to swallow and something i certainly think is a priority and will commit to working with the national governors association and others that did receive this funding. i know there's a consortium of 10 states that's being put together, and i've already talked to my staff about tapping into that to make sure it proceeds expeditiously as possible. senator blunt: thank you. senator graham and then senator rubio and then senator capito is the list i have. senator graham. senator graham: you were asked -- you were asked by senator murphy how many people will drop coverage voluntarily, i guess, for lack of a better word? the c.b.o. report indicates to me -- maybe i'm reading it wrong -- that 15 million people
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would drop coverage they have today because there will be no fine if they don't provide -- if they're not covered. do you understand it that way too? secretary acosta: senator, i have not -- let me say this. the c.b.o. report is something that before i comment -- senator graham: do you know the answer to my question? secretary acosta: senator -- senator graham: it's my belief that the c.b.o. report is 15 million people would drop the coverage because they won't have to pay the fine because we'll eliminate the fine? secretary acosta: senator, i won't contest your belief. senator graham: i may be wrong. check it out. you won't have to answer right now. are you familiar with the returning worker problem with h-2-b visa program? secretary acosta: yes, i am, senator. senator graham: you have the authority, as i understand it, to fix that problem. in other words, legislatively except for last year, congress has said returning workers are not counted against the cap. do you intend to fix that?
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secretary acosta: senator, let me address that in two ways because this is an important issue. first, congress this year kelly ed the secretary in consultation with me to increase that cap. secretary kelly has announced his intent to increase that amount by -- up to about 18,000 visas which would be the highest level that we've seen in a number of years. along with that, though, i think it's important to say that the congress looks at this year by year and rather than -- respectfully, rather than fixing the issue, sort of says the administration can do it if it would like to and then calls the administration and says please increase it. and i think it's very important that congress address this. there are specific fixes that
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can be -- that can be -- senator graham: until we get there. but you do have the authority, i guess, with secretary kelly to not count returning workers against the cap, is that correct or not? secretary acosta: i believe the statute instead says we can increase the cap by up to the amount of returning workers, and i believe secretary kelly has already indicated his intent to do so. senator graham: do you support that decision? secretary acosta: yes. the secretary and i stand shoulder to shoulder. senator graham: give us suggestions how we can fix this problem ourselves as a congress? secretary acosta: i will gladly sit down -- have our staff sit down with yours, because i do think it's a disservice to the businesses and to the individual workers to go through this every single year. senator graham: i am very open-minded helping you fix it. one last thing very quickly. artificial intelligence -- did you say it would be 50 years before we would fill the effect of artificial intelligence in terms of disrupting the labor force or was that somebody else? secretary acosta: i have no
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idea. it certainly wasn't me. senator graham: ok. it may have been the other guy. i don't know who it was. do you believe it will be 50 years before artificial intelligence significantly disrupts the work force? secretary acosta: senator, you know, i heard this from time to time from various sources. i'll say this, we've been saying that technology is going to disrupt and displace the labor force since i think technology was first invented. senator graham: part of it is true. secretary acosta: it is. and ultimately, you know, it meant fewer people had to plow a field but ultimately it changes the nature of the labor force and that's why it's so important to have job skills. senator graham: is there a plan within the department of labor to look specifically at the disruptive nature of artificial intelligence in the coming decade? secretary acosta: senator, we
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started speaking about the changing nature of the work force, the increasing use of alternative methods of employment and that's something we are already looking at. senator graham: does it include artificial intelligence? secretary acosta: yes, it does, senator. senator graham: thank you very much. senator blunt: thank you, senator graham. senator manchin. senator manchin: secretary, thank you for very much for being here. secretary acosta, i'm sure you know about the miners pension. my colleague, senator capito and i introduced a bill to protect the miners pension protection act. i guess what i would ask you, the department of labor activity working on solutions for this problem because that's going to be a tremendous problem about 2022. secretary acosta: senator, it is going to be a tremendous problem, and we are actively working on developing a solution for this and for the broader issues that this
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touches upon. senator manchin: do you have recommendations for the to ruptcy laws that needs be changed? secretary acosta: senator, i don't have recommendations at this time. we are -- we are looking at options and we are discussing them. senator manchin: the mine safety health administration funding request underlying premise -- mission is to prevent miner fay tailts and accidents. eight miners succumbed to fatal injuries on the job. to date in 2017, nine miners have perished in coal mines, including five in west virginia. i was governor at the time. we had some horrific losses. sago, upper big branch with 29 miners. president trump requested $375 million for mine safety health administration for 2018. that's an increase from $274 million. i guess -- $374 million.
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i guess, do you have the necessary resources and authority to prevent future mining fatalities? secretary acosta: senator, as you indicated, the budget is relatively unchanged for msha, and we do believe we have the necessary resources. senator manchin: how will you encourage the environment that mine safety employees will speak up about violations? do you have plans along those lines? more specifically, there's an awful lot of -- oh, mentality, if you will, around a mine site that somebody won't say anything because they're frayed of losing their job and there are -- afraid of losing their job and there are others if you see something wrong, please tell me. have you all weighed in and evaluated this? secretary acosta: senator, so there is sometimes -- i think not just in mining but in several industries an
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unfortunate red sense to support -- receipt sense to report issues. that is something we should fight against. i say something you see particularly in the mining area is frequent inspections to try to identify safety issues. and in so even when they're not reported in the ideal cases and in fact in most cases the inspections do turn up the safety issues. senator manchin occupational safety and health administration, osha as we know it, plays a critical role in ensuring our workers are safe in the workplaces. unfortunately, the president's budget request both includes a small cut to osha and shifts their focus away from enforcement and inspections. t would cut 26 employees and 1,000 fewer inspections. osha resources are already strained and too many workers are being put in danger. workers were
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killed on jobs across our country. so i ask, mr. secretary, given the danger so many workers face in the workplaces, why do you believe the department of labor is shifting osha resources away from inspections, and don't you think this might endanger more workers? secretary acosta: well, senator, if i could, the osha if i could, the osha budget does shift approximately -- a net of approximately $2 million into compliance assistance. and that does reflect a belief that some of the programs that e long standing and others that work with particular companies to foster an industry, to foster compliance assistance may produce -- not may but the evidence shows actually do produce better safety outcomes. and so it's a net of about a $2
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million shift. senator manchin: well, how would you -- if you're focusing -- it looks like your shift is focusing away from enforcement inspections. how would it be safer? secretary acosta: senator, let me just say, it's not -- you know, when you're talking about a funding request of $543 million, a $2 million shift, with due respect, is pretty much under 1%. and that is so we can fund the v.p.p. program that has in fact been shown to be very successful, working with companies and saying, look, these are the steps you need to take so that you can provide a safe workplace. and so as i said at the opening, the fact that we're engaged in compliance assistance, that we're telling people what they need to do to have a safe workplace doesn't mean we have any less enforcement. it just means that we're respecting them saying this is what you need to do and if they
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don't do it then we're certainly going to enforce. senator manchin: your focus is on safety. secretary acosta: absolutely. senator blunt: there will be a second round of questions. senator rubio. senator rubio: one of the questions is the cutting edge that will confront labor for years to come. a lot of our debates has been historically over the last few years treating some of challenges to america in america -- work in america as we're undergoing a cyclical challenge. this is a structural disruption of the very nature of the economy. we had these before. the industrial revolution. except it's happening every three years instead a 50-year period. they're fast, they're difficult to anticipate and senator graham asked about artificial intelligence. same is true about automation. we talk about bringing factories back from mexico. that's great. there will be american robots are instead of mexican robots but it will be automation nonetheless. that's reality. we can't turn the clock back. we could.
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it would be devastating to our economy in terms of the nature of technology's role. i would encourage, as these reports are prepared, artificial intelligence disruptions, think it would provide -- if we can somehow anticipate what the basic skills so the labor force in 10 or 15 years will be, i think it will be a valuable tool to states to develop curriculum and program to begin to address it because the key worker 25 years from now is probably in grade school today. and if they're not acquiring those skills and there's no system in place to instill those skills, we're going to have a real challenge in terms of global competitiveness. i hope we're not viewing next year's needs but the needs in 10, 15, 20 years understanding how difficult it is to anticipate some of these changes. i've always told my youngest child who is now 9, almost 10, the job he may end up having probably hasn't been invented yet. i don't know what it's called. but nevertheless, that's that. on the certification -- and you and i had a chance to talk about it. this extends into nursing and health care. some idea that we could have at
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a minimum incentivize states and perhaps create other avenues so there would be some short-term recognition. say someone had a position in the military, transferred to civilian life and at some point that license would be recognized giving them the time to take the state licensing for whatever that capacity might be. i looked briefly at what the g.i. bill covers. i believe it covers the cost of the certification tests. what it doesn't cover potentially -- i'm not 100% sure of this -- but just my cursory research showed -- and i know it's not within your department, but the cost of preparing for those tests. if you are going to take a nursing exam or get a state license somewhere, you got to study this stuff and oftentimes the cost of doing so is education and compass take. maybe we can work on something in that regard. i know you have been asked is about the paid leave component of the budget. i believe that paid leave is something that's a 21st century necessity. how we get there is complex.
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what's interesting is i've learned more and more about it, big companies, government, large employers and quite frankly people that make a lot of money are offered paid leave and many of the major corporations offer it. you see people making substantial amount of money receiving paid leave. i don't want them to lose it. has any knott been given to how we can kind of concentrate our efforts here only the people at the lower end of the income spectrum? in essence, the people making $65,000 $i don't want people making $300,000 lose their paid leave but people that will benefit from it and hurt by the absence it are the lower end of that scare and this is going to take time to develop. in terms of working it out, has some thought been given to prioritizing at least whatever we do through government to be at that end of the scale as opposed to throughout the entire system? the fear, quite frankly, we
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create some sort of incentive for companies that are already offering it to offer less of it because this new alternative stepped up. i know it's an idea still being worked on. secretary acosta: senator, thank you for the comments and the question. let me take each in order fairly quickly. there's an interesting book that's been written that calls -- that calls us the age of acceleration because with each cycle, technology changes faster and faster. and so 10 years ago, the iphone that i suspect most in this room have in their pocket, the smartphone they have in their pocket didn't exist. facebook was limited to college campuses. sometimes we don't realize, it's only been 10 years. so what will the world look like 10 years from now? it's almost hard to imagine because it hasn't been invented. and so one of the reasons that we talked about the man-driven education is we believe it's very important that education
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and work force education, in particular, be nimble enough to respond to changing work force needs and to predict changing work force needs because technology will change the skills that are required. moving quickly to your question regarding paid leave, you know, the administration has put forward a proposal. i know that that proposal has been discussed vigorously. there are some that say it's not enough. there are some that say it's too much. there are some that say it's not calibrated. but ultimately it is a proposal and it is the start of a conversation that is a very important conversation. and i know that the senate has engaged in it vigorously and i know you've taken a leadership role in it, senator. and i am glad that that conversation is being had because at the end of the day it is conversations like this one that will result in good outcomes. senator blunt: thank you,
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senator rubio. senator capito. senator capito: thank you, chairman blunt, secretary acosta, it's nice to see you. thank you for your service. my companion senator from the great state of west virginia asked a couple similar questions as to what ways going to ask, particularly on the mine safety and health administration. obviously it's important for us who have a lot of coal miners in a dangerous situation that they remain safe. and so i appreciate your efforts there to continue -- continuous funding to fund that office and the challenges. i am happy to report that in west virginia we have 1,034 more coal miners working than we did at the end of 2016. the administration's efforts in that regard are very much appreciated. in the context of losing so many jobs, tens of thousands of
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jobs, program was created within the labor department to help dislocated workers from the coal industry to readjust and it's been funded at $19 million and $20 million in retraining and i believe this is still very much needed. insights now that it's been two years in the making as to what's been effective with training dislocated miners and where you're seeing some success? secretary acosta: senator, i don't have that data presently but i'm more than happy to have the department gather that and to convey that to your staff and your colleague, senator manchin's staff as well. senator capito: i do want to invite you to west virginia. we'd love to have you there. the initiative on apprenticeships i think is very much welcomed in a state that has traditionally had many unions that have successfully employed many people for many years in our state through their apprenticeships beginning with their apprenticeships
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program, that mode of getting the worker trained and to a job has been successful in the past. so i want to join with the administration in efforts to expand that. secretary acosta: thank you. i'd be more than happy to visit once again west virginia so thank you. senator capito: great. lastly, the budget -- your budget also has for the dislocated workers, $66 million to appalachian communities to provide dislocated workers for employment and training and this is great as we talked about. as your justification, you have said the set-aside will target services previously provided by the appalachian regional commission so i take -- even though in the president's budget it was zeroed out, i think we're going to fight hard and we have a bipartisan group hire to make sure we retain the economic developments a pecks pekts of the a.r.c. i would just like to work with you to not only train but all of the economic efforts of
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getting appalachia back on its feet again. we have a huge opioid issue in and around our regions that's coupled with joblessness. and a lot of hopelessness in some cases. so your department is absolutely critical to the folks i live in and around to getting us back on our feet. secretary acosta: i understand, senator. thank you. senator capito: thank you. senator blunt: thank you, senator capito. senator murray. mr. murphy: thank you very much. and -- senator murray: thank you very much. mr. secretary, you said a lot about apprenticeship programs. many on this committee support them but i am concerned that the president's executive order serves as a distraction from what is happening in this budget where there's a huge slash in the investments like work force training, public health and jearks. these are issues that have been bipartisanly supported, these investments on this committee. in fact, chairman blunt and i have been able to fund
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nvestments in registered apprenticeships that have put thousands of workers on a proven path to the middle class and help address employer needs for skilled workers. the president's proposal intends to circumvent a proven program with wages, training and equal employment standards and those standards not only protect workers, by the way, they ensure employers get highly skilled workers. by comparison, the president's proposal could open the door to any company, including predatory fake colleges like trump university to develop low-quality programs at the expense of workers. so tell us why the president chose to undermine the registered apresent -- >> you can continue watching the hearing streaming live online at c-span.org. the house about to gavel back in. we take you to the floor to live coverage working on

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