2019-2020 Legislative Update

by Philip Harvey

The purpose of this article is to inform readers of legislative initiatives and proposals that address our shared interests and to provide a forum for discussing design options in the drafting of legislative proposals. This article will kick off that process by describing three bills currently pending in Congress that would use direct government job creation to eliminate the economy’s persistent job shortage across all phases of the business cycle. We invite you to comment on this legislation or our description of it in the comment section following this article.

The three bills summarized in the update are:

  • H.R. 1000 (the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act or the Jobs for All Act)
  • S. 2457 and H.R. 4278 (the Federal Job Guarantee Development Act of 2019)
  • H.R. 2358 (the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act)
H.R. 1000 (the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act or the Jobs for All Act)
  • Originally introduced in 2013 by Rep. John Conyers and now sponsored by Rep. Frederica Wilson.
  • If enacted, the legislation would fund enough job creation projects to provide decent work for all jobseekers in the United States across all phases of the business cycle.
  • Projects would be approved for funding and monitored for performance by the Department of Labor.
  • Entities eligible to apply for project funding would consist of federal, state and local government agencies, quasi-public entities established by any level of government, Indian tribes, and 501(c)(1), (3), (5) and (19) not-for-profit organizations.
  • The Secretary of Labor would have the authority to establish and administer job creation projects directly, if necessary to achieve program goals.
  • The Act would fund both employer-provided and free-standing job training to the full extent required to furnish all program employees with the skills needed to perform their duties in a professionally competent manner and to allow program participants to upgrade their skills to qualify for better-paying jobs.
  • All projects would have to—
    • fill at least 35% of their jobs with individuals who qualify as disadvantaged unless there are insufficient numbers of such persons seeking such employment.
    • address community needs and reduce inequality of access to public goods, public services, and public amenities.
    • be carried out in a manner that is as ecologically sustainable as is reasonably possible.
    • utilize a minimum of 75% of program funds to cover labor costs, but program funding could be supplemented with non-program funding to carry out more capital intensive projects such as the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing units.
  • Program jobs would pay the same wages and benefits that public sector employees receive for doing the same work or work of comparable worth where the project operates.
  • Program employees would be permitted to perform work covered by a collective bargaining agreement only with the affirmative consent of the union following negotiations over the terms and conditions of the program workers’ employment.
  • Supplemental assistance and benefits would be provided to program employees whose wages and benefits are inadequate to support a modest but adequate standard of living for the worker and the worker’s dependents.
  • Job displacement or substitution would be strictly prohibited by means of strong enforcement measures.
  • To be eligible for program employment, jobseekers would have to—
    • be either jobless or employed part-time but want full-time employment;
    • register as available for and seeking work with their local One Stop Career Center;
    • complete a 30-day search for non-program employment with the assistance of the One Stop Center (unless they are eligible for or receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits).
  • Once certified as eligible for program employment, jobseekers would apply for program jobs as they would any other job; but if they have trouble finding a program job they would be provided special assistance ensuring them a satisfactory placement.
  • Program funding would be provided by (1) a dedicated financial transactions tax (FTT), (2) revenues generated by the program itself (e.g., for the rental or sale of affordable housing built or renovated by the program), (3) revenue generated by income and payroll taxes levied against program wages, (4) savings generated by foregone unemployment insurance benefits, (5) savings in government health expenditures in other programs (due to the receipt by program employees of program-provided health insurance benefits). All of these funds would be deposited in a new trust fund reserved for program use.
  • If the program’s trust fund ever lacks the monies needed to provide decent work for all unemployed and underemployed jobseekers, the Federal Reserve System would be obligated to lend it whatever additional funds are needed to achieve the program’s purposes; and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors would would be obligated to cancel any portion of such loans that it determined could be cancelled without harming the economy.
  • To view the full text of the bill, see H.R.1000
  • A copy of a Q&A describing the provisions of the bill can be accessed here.
S. 2457 and H.R. 4278 (the Federal Job Guarantee Development Act of 2019)
  • Companion bills originally introduced in 2018 by Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.
  • If enacted, the legislation would direct the Department of Labor (DOL) to fund up to 15 locally designed and administered job-guarantee pilot programs.
  • To be approved, the unemployment rate in the area served by a local program would have to equal at least 150% of the unemployment rate in the nation as a whole.
  • Local programs could be proposed in such areas by a political subdivision of a state, an Indian Tribe, or a combination of contiguous political subdivisions or Tribal entities.
  • In awarding grants the Secretary of Labor would be required to consider diversity in geographic location, urban-rural composition, and the political entity that is seeking funding (to ensure representation in the program of Tribal entities).
  • Federal government agencies would also be reimbursed out of program funds for jobs they provide through the program in localities where the pilot programs operate.
  • To be eligible for program employment a person would have to be at least 18 years of age and reside in the area served by the sponsoring entity as of the date the entity submitted its application for program funding.
  • All funded programs would be required to ensure that any resident of the area they serve who applies for a job through the program will be provided with one.
  • No program funds could be used to employ individuals who would replace or lead to the displacement of existing employees, existing positions, or to disrupt existing contracts or collective bargaining agreements.
  • The minimum wage rates paid each class of program employee would equal the higher of the prevailing wage rates paid to that class of workers in the locality where the program operates or the wage rates called for in a collective bargaining agreement that covers the employees in question.
  • Required benefits would include—
    • health insurance benefits comparable to those offered Federal employees,
    • paid family leave consistent with the provisions of the FAMILY Act (S. 463) sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (which provides for a monthly benefit equaling 75% of an employee’s average monthly earnings prorated (roughly) for the number of days the employee devotes to activities that would entitle them to unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act), and
    • paid sick leave consistent with the provisions of the Healthy Families Act (S. 840) sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (which mandates that covered employers provide 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours an employee works).
  • Program funding could also be used to provide program employees with adult education and literacy activities and supportive services such as transportation, child care, dependent care, housing,  and other need-related payments.
  • Up to 8 weeks of paid job training and other services would be provided to program employees to ensure their ability to perform their duties.
  • To view the full text of the bill, see S.2457 and H.R.4278
H.R. 2358 (the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act)
  • First introduced in 2010 by Rep. Marcy Kaptur
  • If enacted, the legislation would establish an updated version of the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps.
  • Program administration would be determined by the President and could involve a variety of Federal departments and agencies with an interest in the forestation of Federal and state lands; plant pest and disease control; the prevention of forest fires, floods, and soil erosion; the construction, maintenance and repair of paths, trails and fire-lanes on public lands;, and other similar activities.
  • Work on land owned by a political subdivision of a state or private parties could be undertaken on a cooperative basis consistent with the goals of the activities listed above.
  • All citizens of the United States who are otherwise unemployed or underemployed would be eligible for program employment.
  • If there is inadequate funding to employ all eligible individuals, preference will be given in the following order of priority:
    • unemployed veterans,
    • unemployed individuals who have exhausted their entitlement to unemployment insurance,
    • unemployed citizens who are eligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits,
    • other citizens.
  • Persons employed in the program may be provided housing, subsistence goods, clothing, medical attendance, hospitalization, cash allowances, and transportation.
  • Appropriation of $16 billion included in the bill along with an authorization for the President to use unobligated funds that have been previously appropriated for public works to augment the program’s appropriation.
  • To view the full text of the bill, see H.R.2358

Philip Harvey is Professor of Law and Economics at Rutgers Law School where he teaches labor, employment and social welfare law. He serves as counsel to the Board of the NJFAN.

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