Democrats Promote Solutions to Reduce Barriers to Employment, Increase Economic Mobility for American Workers

WASHINGTON – Today, at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, Democrats promoted a range of policies that would reduce barriers to employment and increase economic mobility for American workers. The hearing, entitled “Occupational Licensing: Reducing Barriers to Economic Mobility and Growth,” gave Democrats an opportunity to expand the conversation from licensing policies – which are set by the states and mostly outside the federal government’s jurisdiction – to other barriers to employment that Congress has the authority to address.

“While we should acknowledge that at the state level there are issues with occupational licenses, Congress is limited in what it can do with regard to states’ occupational licensing laws without encroaching on states’ rights,” said Ranking Member Susan Davis, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. “But there are several things we can do at the federal level to increase employment and break down the barriers many Americans face when trying to enter and re-enter the workforce.”

These include legislative solutions to address workplace discrimination, child care costs, paid family leave, unpredictable schedules, and barriers to employment for those with criminal records. Yesterday, Full Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott introduced the Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act of 2018, which gives individuals an opportunity to review their criminal background records and challenge the completeness or accuracy of that record when an entity requests an FBI background check.

“There may not be much that right and left agree on these days. But one area of clear bipartisan consensus is the urgent need to remove barriers to employment for the many tens of millions of Americans held back by criminal records, through reform of unjust occupational licensing laws, clean slate automatic sealing, and other bipartisan initiatives to ensure a criminal record is not a life sentence to joblessness,” said Rebecca Vallas, Vice President, Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress. “These policies will benefit not only workers with records, but their families, their communities, American taxpayers, and the economy as a whole.”

While licensing systems can create some unnecessary barriers to work, as a whole licensed workers frequently enjoy higher wages, greater job security, and elevated social status, all of which could be jeopardized by an overreaching attempt by congressional Republicans to deregulate occupational licensing. Democrats called on Republicans to hold hearings on proposals that support workers and are more relevant to the Committee’s jurisdiction, including the Equality Act, The Fair Chance Act, The Paycheck Fairness Act, The Schedules that Work Act, and The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. 

OPENING STATEMENT: Ranking Member Susan Davis, Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee

WITNESS TESTIMONY: Rebecca Vallas, Vice President, Poverty To Prosperity Program Center for American Progress


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