Newsroom

Budget proposes increased DOL funding to improve workplace safety, enhance workforce training programs and professional development, and modernize unemployment systems

Senator Murray: “This budget is a message to workers across the country—President Biden is fighting for you.”

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) chaired a hearing of the Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh focused on President Biden’s budget proposal for the Department of Labor (DOL) which would increase funding by 14 percent. In her opening remarks, Senator Murray praised the proposed budget as an investment in workers and highlighted how it would help to build an economy that works for everyone.

“Workers are the backbone of our economy. When we invest in workers— in keeping them safe, strengthening their rights, providing pathways for their development, ensuring their financial security, and more—we are investing in a stronger economy, and country, for everyone,” said Senator Murray. “And that’s exactly what this budget—which proposes increasing funding for the Department of Labor by 14 percent—does.”

During the hearing, Senator Murray highlighted how proposed investments in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would help keep workers safe on the job and how increased funding for the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division would hold employers accountable for wage theft and help workers recover lost wages. Senator Murray also emphasized that the budget’s proposed funding will offer critical support to workers struggling to stay afloat due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19—including by improving unemployment insurance systems and expanding workforce training programs.

Senator Murray also stressed that in addition to increasing funding for DOL, it is also critical to expand workers’ rights—including by providing paid leave, increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour, addressing pay inequality, and more.

“If we want a stronger economy—if we want a stronger country—it all starts with stronger rights for workers,” continued Senator Murray. “We also need to make sure workers are safe from pandemics, sexual assault and harassment, and more. We need to make sure workers have paid family, sick, and medical leave, quality affordable child care, a livable minimum wage of $15 an hour—without exceptions, and a secure retirement. We need to make sure workers aren’t disadvantaged by pay inequality. We need to address the inequities in our economy that make things so much harder for women, workers of color, workers with disabilities, and others. And we need to defend and strengthen the right to form and join a union—a right which allows workers to secure better pay and benefits, and safer working conditions.”

Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“A budget is a reflection of values—and through our hearings on President Biden’s budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and more, we’ve seen a welcome change in values from the previous Administration. And the budget proposal for the Department of Labor is no exception.

“This budget is a message to workers across the country—President Biden is fighting for you.

“Workers are the backbone of our economy. When we invest in workers— in keeping them safe, strengthening their rights, providing pathways for their development, ensuring their financial security, and more—we are investing in a stronger economy, and country, for everyone.

“And that’s exactly what this budget—which proposes increasing funding for the Department of Labor by 14 percent—does.

“When it comes to worker safety—this past year has been a painful lesson on how important it is every person has a safe workplace.

“But even before this pandemic, our nation saw 5,000 workplace deaths a year—one every 99 minutes.

“And on-the-job deaths have disproportionately spiked for Black and Latino workers since 2016—increasing 8 percent and 25 percent respectively, compared to just 3 percent overall.

“And while we know the economic cost of these deaths—a substantial $250 billion a year—the loss to families is immeasurable.

“That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was founded 50 years ago with a mission to protect worker health and safety.

“President Biden’s budget would help us recommit to that mission by increasing OSHA’s funding level by $73 million from last year. This will help the agency hire more staff, provide more assistance to workers and businesses, hold employers accountable to providing safe, healthy workplaces, and ultimately save lives.

“In addition to protecting workers lives, this budget also includes funding to protect their wages.

“It would provide $276.5 million to the Wage and Hour Division—an increase of $30 million.

“This agency investigates employer wage theft and illegal compensation practices used to cheat people out of their hard earned wages—something which most commonly happens to women, workers of color, and foreign-born workers.

“The Wage and Hours Division recovers, on average, $1,120 per affected employee—and they do it with a staff of barely 1,300 people, covering over 148 million workers at over 10 million workplaces.

“The funding in this budget would help them expand their capacity, and put even more money back in the pockets of even more workers who have been cheated by their employers.

“And President Biden’s budget not only invests in accountability for employers in our country but also in accountability for our trading partners, so workers in Washington state, Missouri, and across the country, don’t pay the price for unfair labor practices across the world.

“This budget increases funding for the International Labor Affairs Bureau by over a quarter—including $19.6 million for ILAB to expand monitoring and enforcement of worker rights under our trade agreements and preference programs, and critical new investments to fight forced labor and child labor.

“This budget also provides support to help workers struggling in light of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, including the millions who lost jobs, and especially women, workers of color, and others who have been most setback by it.

“President Biden’s budget would increase funding for Registered Apprenticeships by $100 million—an increase well over half of what it‘s budget was last year.

“These are proven apprenticeship models and lead to good paying jobs in high demand fields.

“And the funding for them will help address longstanding inequities in apprenticeships, and change the fact women and workers of color are historically underrepresented in these apprenticeship programs and in the careers they lead to.

“The budget would also increase funding throughout the workforce training system, including with a $203 million increase for workforce development state grants—which will help states make investments in career pathways for youth and support adults and dislocated workers, including those most affected by the pandemic—and a new national youth employment program and veterans clean energy training initiative.

“Secretary Walsh, I look forward to hearing more about your plans here.

“And finally, this budget includes funding to administer and improve state unemployment insurance systems.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made clear what a lifeline this support can be, and how outdated and inadequate some of our systems are.

“This budget would help modernize our unemployment insurance system, and address vulnerabilities, inefficiencies, and other issues with processing these critical benefits, so families can get the support they need faster.

“Of course, the need for better unemployment insurance systems, workforce training programs, and workplace safety are just  a few of the many issues we have to tackle in the wake of this pandemic.

“If we want a stronger economy—if we want a stronger country—it all starts with stronger rights for workers.

“We also need to make sure workers are safe from pandemics, sexual assault and harassment, and more.

“We need to make sure workers have paid family, sick, and medical leave, quality affordable child care, a livable minimum wage of $15 an hour—without exceptions, and a secure retirement.

“We need to make sure workers aren’t disadvantaged by pay inequality.

“We need to address the inequities in our economy that make things so much harder for women, workers of color, workers with disabilities, and others.

“And we need to defend and strengthen the right to form and join a union—a right which allows workers to secure better pay and benefits, and safer working conditions.

“This budget is a bold step in the right direction, and my colleagues and I have proposed many other steps as well.

“Secretary Walsh, I look forward to working with you, and President Biden in the months ahead to support workers across the country.”

###