While President Bush often speaks of his commitment to working Americans and their families, his budget proposals for the Department of Labor (DOL) consistently tell a different story. President Bush has once again proposed deep cuts for critical federal labor and employment programs. Overall, the Bush Administration’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposes $10.5 billion in discretionary budget authority for DOL, which is a $857 million (or 7.5 percent) decrease from the 2008 level of $11.4 billion. A true sign of misplaced priorities, the budget request includes significant cuts to worker rights and workplace safety programs and would leave under-funded vital training and employment services. These cuts come at a critical time when the nation is experiencing its weakest rate of economic growth in five years, more than 7.6 million Americans are unemployed, and 6 million more are marginally employed or working part-time for economic reasons.
The President’s budget would cut employment and job training programs by $465 million, or 13percent, from Fiscal Year 2008 levels. These cuts could not come at a worse time for lower- and middle- income American workers who are struggling to support their families in the face of outsourcing, competitiveness, wage stagnation, and the increasing cost of living. Nevertheless, the President is asking Congress to:
Reduce funding for and consolidate several key programs into the new Career Advancement Accounts program, including the:
· Adult employment and training activities grant program, which assists states and territories in developing and operating job training programs for adults, including low-income Americans and public assistance recipients. The proposal would cut this program by $149.5 million from the 2008 program year level.
· Dislocated worker employment and training activities grant program, which provides reemployment services and retraining assistance to Americans who have been dislocated from their jobs. The proposal would cut this program by $241 million from the 2008 program year level.
· Youth activities grant program, which provides academic, employment training, and youth development activities for low-income youth. The proposal would cut this program by $83.6 million (or 9 percent) from the Fiscal Year 2008 level.
· Employment Service State grants program, which helps unemployed workers find jobs and provides services to employers, including administering the Work Opportunity and Welfare-to-Work tax credits. The proposal would eliminate $703 million currently available for this program, effectively destroying it and negatively impacting the more than 13 million Americans who depend on it each year.
· Eliminate funding for the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker program, which helps workers acquire new skills to obtain better-paying jobs.
· Cut $46 million, or 3 percent, from 2008 levels for Job Corps, which is a system of primarily residential centers offering basic education, training, work experience, and other support, typically to economically disadvantaged youth.
· Cut $172 million, or 33 percent, from 2008 levels for the Community Service Employment Program for Older Americans, which provides part-time community service work to unemployed, low-income Americans aged 55 and older. This cut could reduce employment opportunities for over 30,000 older Americans.
· Slash funding for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Despite the fact that at least 50 million disabled Americans experience a more than 70 percent unemployment rate, the Bush budget would cut ODEP, which works to eliminate employment barriers to people with disabilities, by $14.8 million, or 54 percent, from 2008 levels.
· Eliminating 14.4 million in funding for the Work Incentive Grant program, which makes grants to help one-stop career centers assist job seekers with disabilities. One-stop centers provide enhanced career development and labor market information services to workers and employers.
The President’s budget once again eliminates funding for the Susan B. Harwood Safety Training grants program, which provides for training and education programs on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in the workplace. Last year, Congress rejected a proposal to eliminate this program, and funded it at $9.9 million for Fiscal Year 2008.
The Bush budget would shockingly under-fund the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Despite recent, catastrophic mine collapses and years of evidence that MSHA has failed in its obligation to ensure the safety of mine workers by aggressively regulating and inspecting this country’s mines, President Bush cut funding to the agency by $2 million. This decrease raises serious questions about the President’s commitment to mine safety.
The Bush budget would drastically reduce funding for the International Labor Affairs Bureau, which conducts anti-child labor programs, by $66.3 million, or 82 percent, from 2008 levels. These programs have been highly successful in scaling back the number of child laborers, down by 11 percent from 2000 to 2004. The President’s cuts would significantly cripple these efforts.
The President also proposes cuts to Department of Commerce programs that support workers and their employers. The Bush budget would phase out federal funding for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. The budget would cut funding for the program by $87 million, providing only $4 million for shutdown costs. The MEP program administers a network of centers around the country that provide business support and technical assistance to improve the productivity and competitiveness of small manufacturers.
The President’s budget for workers reflects misplaced priorities. While the President has decreased funding for programs that help unemployed persons and workers, he has increased funding for the Office of Labor Management Standards, which audits unions, investigates union officer elections, and, with the new LM-30 regulations, increases the burden on rank and file union members to disclose personal financial information.