The U.S. workforce is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread shifts to remote- and hybrid-work models, which does not work well for manufacturing jobs that require skilled, hands-on engagement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from earlier this spring, manufacturers were struggling to find the talent to fill nearly 700,000 jobs.
The federal government plays an important role in developing, funding, and enforcing workforce and regulatory policies that are meant to address the availability of the skilled labor pool of potential employees.
Workforce and Labor Policies
Congress makes the laws, and the administration implements and enforces policies impacting the workforce. The federal government administers the following programs, standards, and protections:
- Worker protection: minimum wage rates, overtime pay, certain types of unpaid leave, and occupational safety affecting most of the private sector and public sector workforce.
- Income support: unemployment compensation, oversight of insured private defined-benefit pension plans.
- Workforce development and training: state/other training grants to provide training, workforce development programs (including those authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), and services for targeted populations, such as veterans and trade-affected workers.
- Labor statistics and research: labor market activity measurements, such as employment and wages, working conditions, and economic price changes.
- Protections against employment discrimination: discrimination against job applicants or employees based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
- Labor representation and collective bargaining: enforcement of laws that recognize the employees’ rights to collective bargaining and union representation.
The 118th Congress has engaged on several pieces of legislation that affect workforce policies that the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) is tracking. As an example, earlier this year, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) was introduced for the third consecutive Congress by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with 208 cosponsors in the House and 47 cosponsors in the Senate. Some in the business community are concerned the PRO Act would fundamentally reshape U.S. workplaces by creating adverse relationships between employees and employers. Given the divided control of Congress and the slim voting margins, bills such as the PRO Act and conversely bills from the Republican-controlled House to limit labor powers will be difficult to pass.
Workforce Development Funding
Implementation efforts continue for the massive spending packages enacted over the past two years. Several funding opportunities were released earlier this year, and guidance on programs of potential interest to FPA member companies continue to be issued. Several of these large legislative packages also include workforce development funding and workforce development requirements for recipients of federal funding.
For example, according to the White House Fact Sheet, the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act will provide “STEM opportunities to more of America to participate in good-paying skilled jobs. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development activities are critical to developing skills needed for taking on the highly skilled jobs of emerging industries built on technologies of the future.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a rule to ban employers from imposing noncompetes on their workers. FTC suggests that noncompete clauses create unfair competition that suppresses wages, hampers innovation, and blocks business startups. Some business community members have concerns that this rule may threaten potential investment in critical U.S. infrastructure and research and development.
FPA will continue monitoring rules and regulations that could hinder business operations or cause burdensome reporting requirements and will continue to keep members informed. FPA members need common sense rules and regulations that support business growth and the ability to attract and keep talent, not regulatory roadblocks.
Please let FPA government affairs know if you would like more information on federal funding opportunities for workforce development or have any other questions regarding workforce-related issues.