Standing Up for Workers, Murray Fights to Increase Worker Training

Sep 04 2003

Murray amendment would have provided training for 200,000 dislocated workers; "In King County there is currently a 10,000-person waiting list for training"

Video of Senator Murray's Remarks

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- In an effort to help get thousands of unemployed Americans back into the workforce, Sen. Patty Murray offered an amendment to the Senate Labor/HHS Appropriations bill earlier today.

The Murray amendment would provide an additional $801 million to expand worker training opportunities for 200,000 more adults, youth and dislocated workers. In August, Murray met with workers seeking training in Moses Lake and Tacoma.

"Today our nation faces both a jobs crisis and a skills crisis. 9.1 million Americans are searching for jobs," said Murray. "Another 5 million more Americans are working part-time because they can't fund full-time work."

Murray's amendment was defeated 46-49.

The Murray amendment sought to increase funding for the 1,900 One-Stop Employment Centers in the nation by $150 million. Today, One-Stops are being asked to serve more people than ever before, yet their funding remains below 2001 levels, which was a time of economic prosperity. As a result, workers searching for jobs are taking longer than in previous recessions to find work. For example, in 2000 it took an average of 12 weeks to find a new job; currently it takes approximately 20 weeks.

Senator Murray's statement follows:

"Mr. President, I rise today to offer an amendment to help some of the millions of Americans who are looking for work in this tough economy.

My amendment provides an additional $801 million for critically needed worker training and retraining programs under the Workforce Investment Act.

Today, our nation faces both a jobs crisis and a skills crisis. 9.1 million Americans who are searching for jobs. Another 5 million more Americans are working part-time because they can't find full-time work in this stagnant economy.

Those millions of workers need training and skills to get good jobs that will last, and that’s what my amendment provides.

I'm proud that a wide range of organizations have endorsed my worker training amendment including: the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National Workforce Association, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the National Association of Workforce Boards.

My office has also received hundreds of letters of support from local workforce boards, mayors, county executives, employers and ordinary Americans. They all want the Senate to provide additional training opportunities for our workers.

My amendment would provide training opportunities for an additional 200,000 adults, young people, dislocated workers, Native Americans, and migrant and seasonal farm workers.

Most of these workforce and training programs have not had ANY increases in funding for the last decade.

Just think about that -- We are in the middle of a "jobs and skills crisis," but most of our training programs have not had ANY funding increases in a decade.

My amendment will increase funding for:

· adults by $100 million,

· for Dislocated Workers by $159 million,

· for Youth by $99 million,

· for Youth Opportunity Grants by $250 million,

· for Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers by $23 million,

· for Native Americans by $20 million, and

· for One-Stop Infrastructure by $150 million.

That funding will make a big difference.

I think that any Senators who spent time with their constituents during the August recess will recognize the urgent need for jobs and job training.

Last month, I visited two one-stop employment centers in my state. I met with staff members who are working to train residents. I met with local employers who want to hire people in the community with the right skills. And I met with workers – from young people just starting their careers -- to established workers who have been displaced by much larger economic forces.

All of them want the skills they need to find a good job, but for many of them it's tough going.

For instance, in King County – where Seattle is located -- there is currently a 10,000-person waiting list for training. That's appalling.

These citizens want to work. They desperately want training – but in King County alone they're stuck on a waiting list with 10,000 other people.

They've already been waiting a long time. In King County, the freeze on training services began back in January.

It's been a very long and difficult year for everyone on that waiting list. They need our help, and the Murray Amendment will provide it.

Residents of the State of Washington continue to suffer with the third highest unemployment rate in the country at 7.5%.

Since January of 2001, my state has lost over 73,000 good paying jobs in areas like technology, aerospace and manufacturing. Workers who were used to making 30-40 dollars an hour as engineers in my state are now forced to accept warehouse jobs that pay 8-12 dollars an hour.

Today, one-stop employment centers around the country are being asked to serve more people than ever before, yet their funding remains below what it was in Fiscal Year 2001 -- when our country was still experiencing relative economic prosperity.

As a result, workers searching for jobs are taking longer than in previous recessions to find work. For example: in 2000, it took an average of 12 weeks to find a new job. Currently, it takes approximately 20 weeks, and that's only if there are jobs to be found.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, some 1.1 million workers have exhausted their extended unemployment benefits with no employment prospects on the horizon.

These workers have worked hard and played by the rules, yet they are losing their homes in record numbers and even foregoing medical treatment for their children.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee these jobs will return, making it even more crucial that the Senate provides the retraining dollars to help workers find jobs in the industries and sectors of our economy that have the greatest potential for growth.

Unfortunately, our young people seem to be the hardest hit by the current job crises. The youth unemployment rate has hit a ten-year high of 19.3%. The minority youth unemployment rate continues to hover around 30%.

Recent studies have shown that nearly 50% of the job losses in this recession have occurred to young people who are 16-24 years old.

Young people desperately need help, but our federal workforce dollars currently serve only about 7% of our eligible youth nationally.

My amendment would increase the youth formula grant money to states and localities and would fully-fund the Youth Opportunity Grant Program, which has a real track record of success in many communities and on Indian reservations around the country.

My amendment also provides desperately-needed, modest increases for some of our most vulnerable populations – migrant and seasonal farm workers and Native Americans.

These two groups often have unemployment rates above 50%, with few prospects for jobs that will provide a sustainable income to support themselves and their families.

As a nation, we must place a higher priority on helping these chronically underserved populations, and my amendment does that.

Finally, my amendment provides critical infrastructure funding for our national network of 1,900 one-stop employment centers.

These one-stops integrate nearly 20 federal workforce and social service programs at the local level.

In the HELP Committee, we have been working very hard to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act and to include more related programs such as TANF, small business and transportation into the one-stops with additional emphasis on program integration and seamless service delivery for all eligible Americans.

In summary, the Murray amendment will provide additional hope and opportunities for those citizens who need jobs today.

Given the employment trends we'll face over the next decade, we cannot afford to waste the talents of any worker as we continue to compete in the global economy.

I hope all Senators will agree with me that taking care of the training needs of our workers at home should be a top priority for our government.

The rest of the world is monitoring how we to train our workforce because these foreign governments are looking for every advantage to capture additional market share for goods and services currently produced in the U.S.

Let's not give our competitors another leg up.

Support the Murray amendment so we can continue to have the most highly-skilled and productive workforce in the world, and so we can put Americans back to work in good jobs that will last.

I urge my colleagues to support the Murray Amendment."