Thursday, January 9, 2014

House GOP talking points say SKILLS Act would have helped the unemployed. Here's why they're wrong.

On Tuesday, Washington Post's Robert Costa published the House GOP's talking points on the long-term unemployment insurance extension.

In their discussion of their "job creation" bills, House GOP leaders highlight the SKILLS Act in particular.

I'll commend the GOP for their continued skill at creating bill names around acronyms. The bill's full name was Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act. It was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-05) back in February.

The House passed the SKILLS Act on a vote of 215 to 202.

Only two Democrats voted for it: John Barrow (GA-12) and Jim Matheson (UT-04). No surprises there.

14 Republicans opposed it:

Justin Amash (MI-03)
Jim Bridenstine (OK-01)
Paul Broun (GA-10)
Paul Cook (CA-08)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Michael Grimm (NY-11)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Pete King (NY-02)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Tom Massie (KY-04)
David McKinley (WV-01)
Gary Miller (CA-31)
Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
Michael Turner (OH-10)

So, what did the SKILLS Act do?

Here's the AFL-CIO's summary of some of the bill in its letter to representatives urging opposition:
(1) Consolidate categorical programs and combine funding streams into a single Workforce Investment Fund that would give states wide discretion to pick and choose eligible groups of participants, make programs more vulnerable to cuts, and pit one group of workers against another in competition for limited resources. It would inevitably lead to fewer services for dislocated workers and the degradation of services to Native Americans, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, ex-offenders, refugees, older Americans, disadvantaged youth in Job Corps centers, and other vulnerable groups.

(2) Eliminate Wagner-Peyser Employment Services and ignore the fact that the Wagner-Peyser system is charged with other duties that are only tangentially related to WIA, such as the certification of the use of foreign labor by employers, and the strong financial and structural relationship between the Employment Service and the State unemployment insurance systems. Financed primarily by the Federal UI trust fund, the Employment Service enforces the UI work test, a key feature of determining ongoing eligibility for UI benefits and, in times of high unemployment, states often reassign Employment Service workers to help with the legally complex function of processing UI claims.

(3) Eliminate the mandate for labor representation on state and local boards, simply ignoring the need for a workforce development system that features balanced representation among all stakeholders who are currently involved in programs that strengthen our nation’s workforce
WIA = Workforce Investment Act

Wagner-Peyser Employment Services = labor exchanges that connect individuals seeking employment and employers looking to hire

Basically, the SKILLS Act would "help" the unemployed by pitting disadvantaged groups against each other and weakening the power of labor. That sounds par for the course for the House GOP and a bad deal for the unemployed and American workers in general.

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