July 28, 2021

Washington Wire: Tell Your Senators to Support Critical Workforce Development Policies


Action Alert: Tell Your Senators to Support Critical Workforce Development  

We need your help to ensure that Washington supports critical job training and technical education policies and promote careers in manufacturing. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate education committee, might move forward in including portions of a rewrite of the Higher Education Act (HEA) to other legislation that is moving towards passage in the Senate. The reauthorization of HEA provides Congress with an opportunity to support vital Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to address the needs of the manufacturing industry and help close the skills gap.
Job recruitment, training, and placement, as well as advanced technical education, are critical to the future of manufacturing in America. We need Washington to pass a law supporting industry recognized credentials, expanding grants to include short term skills training, and educating parents and students about college debt and manufacturing career opportunities.
We need you to contact your Senators today and ask that any package of higher education proposals include provisions that expand government support beyond only two and four year degrees, recognizes industry credentials, and allows the use of grants for short term training and individuals seeking manufacturing careers. Please click here to send a letter today promoting careers in manufacturing.



Action Alert: Tell Congress to Increase Perkins Funding
Soon the House of Representatives and the Senate will negotiate a compromise Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 education funding bill in a conference committee. While the House FY20 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill would increase funding for Perkins state grants to $1.31 billion, $47 million increase, the Senate bill proposes to maintain current levels of funding for the Perkins Basic State Grant at $1.263 billion.
One Voice succeeded in helping pass a new Perkins Career and Technical Education authorization bill into law and we must continue to ensure those programs have adequate funding. Washington should support job training initiatives and programs that support in-demand jobs such as those in the manufacturing industry.
We need you to click here to contact your Representatives and Senators TODAY and ask them to support the House bill funding levels for Perkins.



NLRB Proposes Amendments to Union Election Regulations
In August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for three amendments to its rules and regulations regarding union elections.
The first of the proposed amendments replaces the controversial “blocking charge” policy used by unions to halt a union decertification policy. Currently, unions use a blocking charge to stop decertification elections indefinitely. Under this practice, a union will file an unfair labor practice charge against an employer, which must be settled before a decertification election happens. Historically, this results in an indefinite delay for a decertification election of an incumbent union. This amendment, however, proposes to use a “vote-and-impound” process, allowing the decertification election to continue and holding the votes until NLRB resolves the unfair labor practice charge.
The second of NLRB’s proposed amendments seeks to modify voluntary recognition bar, allowing employees 45 days to reject representation by a union through a secret ballot election after being notified their employer voluntarily recognized the union. This amendment revokes the Obama administration’s requirement for a reasonable period of time to elapse before voluntarily recognized union representation can be rejected by employee vote. Under the Obama rule, the reasonable period of time was at least 6 months and no more than a year.



Labor Department Finalizes Overtime Rule
The Labor Department announced today its final overtime exemption rule issued under the Fair Labor Standards Act, increasing the minimum salary threshold for workers to qualify for overtime pay when working more than 40 hours per week. The agency claims the final rule will make 1.3 million more American workers eligible for overtime pay.
The Labor Department’s final rule includes: 
  • Increasing the minimum salary required for an employee to qualify for exemption from the currently-enforced level of $455 to $684 per week ($35,568 annually);
  • Increasing the total annual compensation requirement for “highly compensated employees” (HCE) from the currently-enforced level of $100,000 to $107,432 per year;
  • Allowing employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) that are paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level; and
  • Revising the special salary levels for workers in U.S. territories and in the motion picture industry.
The final rule replaces the 2016 rule released by the Obama administration that was blocked from implementation by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The Obama rule sought to double the white-collar salaried overtime exemption to $47,476 annually. The final rule will take effect January 1, 2020.



EPA Staff Releases a Draft Policy Assessment on National Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter
In the middle of September, EPA staff released a draft assessment of the current national air quality standards for fine particulate matter. In their assessment, the EPA staff estimates the current primary PM2.5 standards could allow a substantial risk associated with PM2.5 in the U.S. PM2.5 is a fine inhalable particle resulting from chemical reactions emitted from manufacturing facilities, power plants, and automobiles that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller – typically thirty times smaller than a human hair. The staff report called “into question the adequacy of the public health protection afforded by the combination of the current annual and 24-hour primary PM2.5 standards.” The review does not include specific recommendations but does look at potential alternative standards.
According to the report, alternative standards below the current 12.0 µg/m3 would depend on the weight placed on various aspects of the scientific data, air quality and risk information. The report’s analysis states that evidence supports a standard between 8.0-10.0 µg/m3 for the annual limits. The review also states that the available evidence supports retaining the current 24-hour standard of 35 µg/m3.



California Auto Standards Challenged; EPA Working on Heavy-Duty Truck Standards; Senators Form Bipartisan Working Group on Climate Change
This summer, after weeks of secret negotiations, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) reached an agreement with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW to manufacture cars with stronger fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards than the Trump administration’s Safer and Affordable Fuel Economy (SAFE) rule. As a result of the agreement, the Trump administration revoked the federal waiver allowing California to set its own emissions standards. Soon thereafter, California and 22 other states filed a lawsuit against the revocation. However, the fight between the Trump administration and California only applies to automobiles. Sources have indicated the Trump administration is moving quickly to release new emissions standards ahead of California for medium and heavy-duty trucks in order to avoid a repeat of what happened this summer.
In other climate news, on September 12, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) announced the creation of a bipartisan climate caucus. While the new caucus is still in the planning stages, expect a formal unveiling to occur in the coming weeks. Importantly, this will be the first bipartisan caucus on the Senate side, and the House formed the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in 2016. Senator Braun, who has a background in business and manufacturing, called climate change a “bridge issue” and hopes more of his Republican colleagues will join the caucus in an effort to preempt for drastic policy changes as he criticized the Green New Deal and other Democratic plans to handle climate change.