Representative Bradley Byrne

Representing the 1st District of Alabama

The 21st Century Workforce

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Feb 19, 2017
Blog

A lot has changed since the 1930s. For example, in 1938, Franklin Roosevelt was President, and you could buy a loaf of bread for ten cents. Since then, the Internet was invented, more jobs are based in technology, and almost every American has a cell phone.

Sadly, some of our nation’s most important labor laws, like the Fair Labor Standards Act, date back to the 1930s. One could argue that the needs of the workforce have changed a lot in just the last decade, but they have most certainly changed over the last eighty years.

Clearly, something is still holding our economy back. Since 2009, the economy has grown at an average annual pace of just 1.5 percent. Wage growth remains largely stagnant, as the average hourly earnings for today’s worker is roughly the same as they were in 2009.

Meanwhile, 7.6 million Americans are searching for work, and nearly six million individuals are working part-time hours when they really want full-time jobs.

Our outdated labor laws and policies play a significant factor in limiting economic growth, and it is time we examine how to reform these important laws to allow for more flexibility for workers in the 21st Century. This is a topic I covered last week in my first hearing as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

The American workforce has transformed dramatically since some of our labor laws were passed, and the challenges facing workers and employers today are substantially different than they were in the 1930s. However, our labor policies have failed to adapt.

Our confusing and outdated labor policies are especially harmful to small businesses. Big businesses and large corporations often have entire divisions and lawyers set aside to figure out how to comply with rules and regulations. Smaller businesses, which make up the overwhelming majority of our economy in Southwest Alabama, do not have the same resources. When small businesses suffer, American workers suffer. 

It is clear our nation’s labor rules were designed for another era and no longer reflect the realities of the 21st Century workforce. That’s why it is so disappointing the Obama Administration missed an opportunity to streamline and modernize these important worker protections.

Instead, the previous administration spent its time and resources advancing an extreme and partisan agenda that would stifled workplace flexibility and limited opportunities for career advancement. We must do better.

Thankfully, we are in a new era now, and I am optimistic the Trump Administration will pursue policies that benefit American workers. Just last week, President Trump announced his nomination of Alexander Acosta to serve as Secretary of Labor. From his time on the National Labor Relations Board to his service as a U.S. Attorney, Mr. Acosta has a clear record of protecting American workers and upholding the law.

As Chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, I am committed to working with Mr. Acosta to find solutions to update our labor and workplace laws and help bring them into the 21st Century. Just as important, I want to find ways to eliminate confusion and uncertainty that make it harder for small businesses to grow and expand.

We cannot accept the economic struggles of the last few years as the new normal. The American people have clearly spoken, and they expect their leaders in Washington to put the country on a better path and finally get the economy moving again, which means more and better paying jobs.

That is a top priority for me and our unified Republican government. I look forward to making a positive impact on behalf workers in Southwest Alabama and across the country.