By DAVID GROVES
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 17, 2017) — President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal proposes to slash domestic programs and federal services for poor, elderly, and laid-off Americans to help pay for increased military spending and the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Among the agencies targeted for the biggest cuts is the Department of Labor. Trump would slash its funding by $2.5 billion, or 21 percent.
As the federal agency responsible for protecting the interests of American workers, $2.5 billion in cuts could have a dramatic effect on the DOL’s mission. Exactly how those cuts would be made is unclear, but labor attorneys predict the agency’s rulemaking and enforcement efforts will take a significant hit. That means that efforts to ensure workers are properly paid, are safe and healthy on the job, and are free to exercise their rights — including the freedom to form unions — are all in jeopardy.
“During the campaign, President Trump made a promise to stand up for workers, but it’s clear to see whose side he’s really on,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “By slashing the Department of Labor’s budget by a more than a fifth, President Trump is putting billionaires and corporations ahead of workers.”
There are a few specific DOL grant programs have been targeted by the Trump administration for cuts or elimination.
According to Murray’s office, the majority of the DOL cuts would come from critical formula grants to states to support workforce training and unemployment insurance. If enacted, the cuts could dramatically affect the lives of workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and live in Ferry, Yakima, Grant, Franklin, and Adams counties, all of which have unemployment rates above 10 percent compared to overall state rate of 5.1 percent.
Among the specific grant programs reportedly targeted for dramatic cuts or elimination are Job Corps, a program that provides workplace training for disadvantaged youth, and the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which offers training and job placement services for low-income people who are 55 years old or older. In Washington state, Goodwill is one of the SCSEP grant recipients and has trained hundreds of older workers in a variety of community service activities at non-profit and public facilities across the state.
Overall in Washington state, Murray’s office estimates that a 21% cut in DOL services across the board would mean:
► 39,000 fewer job seekers served; historically 26,000 would enter employment with higher-paying, higher-quality jobs;
► 2,200 fewer employers served; and
► 1,000 fewer Individual Training Accounts (ITAs) that are used to purchase training for job seekers.
“If President Trump truly wants to bring back jobs in the United States, he should be prioritizing job training and other workforce investments, and yet this budget does the exact opposite,” Murray said. “I will continue to hold him accountable for his long and growing list of broken promises to workers and families.”