Committee Name Change Puts Big Labor on Offensive

In the midst of the Republican takeover of Congress labor union officials have been vigilant to the changes that are sure to come concerning labor laws and regulations. The Hill reports, on the first day of the 112th Congress the House Education and Labor Committee title was changed to House Education and the Workforce Committee, a seemingly benign revision.

However, Chuck Loveless, director of legislation at the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has his own opinion:

“We basically think this name change is symbolic of the new majority’s hostility toward the rights of everyday working Americans.” As well as, “We are very concerned here at AFSCME that the committee is going to pressure the administration to weaken enforcement of labor laws and regulations, whether it’s workplace safety, wage and hour requirements or mine safety,” Loveless said.

In response Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said:

The union officials’ claim that the name change reflected hostility toward workers is “bizarre,” since union members are part of the workforce.

She said Republicans changed the panel’s name to reflect its “broad jurisdiction over polices that affect American students, workers and retirees.”

“The committee oversees a wide range of policies, programs, agencies and offices that affect the American workforce as a whole, and this name reflects that broad responsibility and inclusiveness,” Marrero said.

Labor union officials concern for changing labor laws and the Republican Congress are justified because change is required and optimistically coming. Nevertheless, their publicized concern of possible hostility toward their members and working Americans is not what is putting union leaders on the offensive. It is the Republican Congress that will look to enforce transparency and accountability of union finances, under the Obama administration transparency for unions has become nonexistent. Union officials currently do not need to disclose how they spend their members’ dues or how greatly union officials compensate themselves. If anything union members should welcome the incoming Congress’ call for greater financial disclosure for unions.