WE NEED TO GIVE U.S. WORKERS MORE REAL POWER OVER THEIR FUTURES; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 96
(Extensions of Remarks - June 10, 2019)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E730]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




    WE NEED TO GIVE U.S. WORKERS MORE REAL POWER OVER THEIR FUTURES

                                 ______
                                 

                          HON. ROSA L. DeLAURO

                             of connecticut

                    in the house of representatives

                         Monday, June 10, 2019

  Ms. DeLAURO. Madam Speaker, I include in the Record this article by 
Ms. Zoe Baird and Mr. Denis McDonough concerning creating opportunity 
for American workers.

    We Need To Give U.S. Workers More Real Power Over Their Futures

                   (By Zoe Baird and Denis McDonough)

       Even in the midst of a historically strong job market, 
     jarring economic transformation is leading presidential 
     candidates to be defined as capitalists or socialists. If the 
     political debate continues in this shorthand, it will miss 
     the principal issue that has animated voters' views in recent 
     elections: The American Dream is no longer viable--or is at 
     least deeply at risk--for wide swaths of the population. 
     Voters want candidates whose proposals will generate market 
     power for individual workers.
       The issue is critical given the biggest social and economic 
     challenge facing the world--the dislocation of workers by 
     artificial intelligence and automation. This transformation 
     is exacerbating the crisis of inequality. So far, the answer 
     from politicians of both parties is simply for those 
     individuals to ``re-skill.'' This is a mistake--and one we've 
     made before.
       In addressing the last major disruption--globalization--
     policymakers' attempts at labor-market reform lagged behind 
     rapid economic transformation, thus undercutting workers. 
     Today, expanding access to skills must be part of a broader 
     agenda that results in workers obtaining power in the 
     marketplace; they should share in the wealth their know-how 
     creates and benefit from the data their engagement provides. 
     This is what will bring back income growth and career 
     security and preserve the dignity of work.
       To start, employers need to make their employees' talents 
     more transparent, so workers can capitalize on their value. 
     Today, people trained on the job have no way of marketing the 
     skills they have gained to potential new employers. An 
     experienced auto mechanic, for instance, is viewed as just 
     that by the labor market, even though his employer values him 
     for his in-depth knowledge of intricate machinery, electrical 
     systems and computerized diagnostics. If that auto mechanic 
     wants to get a job he is surely qualified for as a repair 
     tech at an advanced manufacturing company, he is nearly 
     powerless to do so. Some may point to licensing as a solution 
     (about 30 percent of U.S. workers require a license to do 
     their job), but licenses rarely reveal the underlying skills 
     necessary to a job.
       However, if employees were provided with a skills 
     transcript--a verifiable account of all the skills in their 
     job--they would not be constrained by their job title and 
     could pursue any job that needed their unique collection of 
     skills. As technology transforms the workplace, such a 
     transcript could be a passport to opportunity; individuals 
     could market their skills portfolio, and employers would gain 
     access to a broader pool of talent.
       Our lack of transparency around skills is far from the only 
     way that skills have been systematically undervalued by the 
     labor market. Employers routinely use the traditional four-
     year college degree as a catchall qualification. Indeed, that 
     experienced auto mechanic likely wouldn't even be considered 
     for that advanced manufacturing job without a bachelor's 
     degree in mechanical engineering. The almost 7 in 10 
     Americans without a college degree are screened out of many 
     jobs in the digital economy despite marketable skills and 
     capacity to learn.
       Employers are beginning to accept nontraditional 
     certifications as credentials, which is encouraging, but we 
     must do more. After all, a self-taught coder may be just as 
     good as one who took a 12-week course at a local boot camp, 
     and a carpenter who learned in a friend's garage may be just 
     as good as one who completed a class at a community college. 
     Much like how colleagues can use Web-based tools to 
     ``endorse'' an applicant's skills, we need an infrastructure 
     that allows for skills gained through such channels to be 
     endorsed, displayed and valued.
       State and federal governments wield a tremendous amount of 
     power to support workers and encourage companies to do the 
     same. They can increase and direct financial support for 
     lifelong education and training, and promote improved data-
     sharing among sectors and states, so educators know what kind 
     of skills they need to teach and individuals can decide which 
     training programs are worthwhile.
       When viewed through a lens of workers gaining power in the 
     labor market to advance themselves, the tax code appears ripe 
     for examination. A first step would be creating pretax 
     ``skills accounts''--like health savings accounts, but with 
     the money to be used for education--and expanding use of 
     training tax credits. We should look for ways to treat 
     employees as a highly valued asset, not just a cost.
       Unions can also contribute to individual workers' market 
     power as well as their collective power, through training, 
     job data and advocacy. Because many jobs in the new economy 
     fall outside the scope of unionization, unions need to look 
     at how they also can support nonunion workers in achieving 
     market power.
       In the past, we've evaluated economic policy proposals from 
     a politician or a CEO on a variety of metrics. But in an 
     economy in the throes of transformation, it's time that we 
     adopt a new measure: Does it give U.S. workers more real 
     power over their future?

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