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Virginia Republicans Move to Mute Workers’ Voice in Workforce Development

During the past few years, as Republicans have taken control of state legislatures and governors’ offices, the attacks on workers and their unions have gone from the extreme we saw in Wisconsin and Michigan to the more subtle, as we are seeing today in Virginia.

Legislation in the state House and Senate, that anti-worker lawmakers had hoped would fly under the radar, would reduce labor representation on the 29-member Virginia Workforce Council (VWC) to just one person. Not only would that mute the voice of workers on the council that is charged with developing training, education and workforce development programs, but is also in violation of the federal rules that govern state workforce investment boards.

The VWC currently includes two labor representatives: Doris Crouse-Mays, president of the Virginia State AFL-CIO, and Toney Rigali, president of the Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council. In a letter to lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Crouse-Mays says:

Full labor membership on the council is important because labor organizations represent the interest of workers and community organizations. Working people, the unemployed and underemployed, apprentices, job trainees, low-income workers, among others, have a critical stake in how Virginia delivers training, education and workforce development services to its residents. Unions help to ensure that the voices and experiences of working people are heard in the deliberations of state and local workforce bodies.

Ray Uhalde, a senior adviser at Jobs for the Future (JFF) and a former U.S. Department of Labor official who was instrumental in developing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) that governs state workforce investment boards, says:

It is critical that workers and community organizations have input into the policies developed to oversee employment and training programs in Virginia.

The [WIA] law and regulations are very clear in their requirement that each state Workforce Investment Board—in this case The Virginia Workforce Investment Council—must include two or more members of organized labor who are nominated by state labor federations. The legislation introduced in the Virginia General Assembly violates this mandate by reducing the number of labor representatives to one person.

The bill number in the Senate is S.B. 1177. If you live in Virginia, call your state senator and urge them to oppose the bill. You may find the names of your State Senator at the following website: http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/  

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