House Workforce Committee Goes Out With a Whimper, Not a Bang

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

The last hearing of the soon-to-be late, great Republican-controlled House Education and Workforce Committee of the 115th Congress was supposed to be held yesterday.    The subject: “Mandating a $15 Minimum Wage: Consequences for Workers and Small Businesses”. (Subtext: How a mandatory minimum wage will doom small businesses and starve their employees.)

Unfortunately for Republicans who oppose paying workers a living wage, the hearing was postponed. (Probably permanently, being as the 115th Congress draws to a close at the end of next week.)

This was going to be an important hearing. Not just because this was the final hearing that the Education and Workforce Committee, controlled by Republicans, would hold before it becomes the Education and Labor Committee, controlled by the Democrats. 

This was the only hearing the Republican majority has called to discuss the minimum wage since taking control of Congress in 2010.

This hearing was important because it was to be the only hearing the Republican majority has called to discuss the minimum wage since taking control of Congress in 2010.

You read that correctly. The Republicans in this committee have held 264 hearings over the last 8 years and zero have covered the minimum wage. 

So why would they cancel their only chance argue to hard working Americans that $7.25/hour is plenty of money.

Seems one of their witnesses got caught with his digital pants down.

San Diego State University economist Joseph Sabia was slated to testify yesterday on the potentially catastrophic effects of raising the minimum wage $15/hour. But at the last minute, according to Politico, Committee staff discovered Sabia’s anti-gay comments in his former blog “No Shades of Gray.” In one 2002 post, Sabia proposed that government “tax and regulate homosexual acts” through taxation of “gay nightclubs, websites, personal ads, sexual paraphernalia, and so forth.”

In another post that same year, titled “College Girls: Unpaid Whores,” Sabia argued that feminism “taught young women that equality is achieved by acting like promiscuous sluts.”

And then there was this:

“Come on, Sabia,” you say, “how are you going to enforce these taxes? Are you going to send government officials to peep into everyone’s bedroom?”

Eventually. But first we have to mount the assault on Big Gay (no, I am not talking about Rosie O’Donnell). We can tax gay nightclubs, websites, personal ads, sexual paraphernalia, and so forth. Talk about a sin tax!!! We can cripple gay-related industries and get them right where we want them. All gay clubs will have to feature huge, flashing warning signs like “CAUTION: Entering this nightclub may increase your chance of contracting STDs and dying.”

Now anyone can make a mistake. But as former President George W. Bush said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, can’t get fooled again.”

Well, it turns out you can get fooled again. This was not the first time Ed and Workforce Committee Republicans had to pull a witness at a hearing. In 2015, Republicans invited Brian Pannebecker, an hourly production worker at Ford, to testify at a Right-to-Work hearing.

Imagine their surprise when they discovered that Pannebecker had “posted a glowing Amazon review of David Duke’s My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding?” And he had written on his Facebook page that President Barack Obama was “a race hustler” who was “trying to benefit from racial tension and animosity.”

Committee Democrats were upset the hearing was cancelled. Workers had come to Washington to talk about why it’s time to raise the minimum wage. But despite the cancellation, the workers’ voices were heard:

Ed & Workforce Dems@edworkforcedems

Today, the Republican Majority cancelled the only hearing it has called on the minimum wage since taking control in 2010. Our Members still wanted to hear the stories of workers who traveled here to tell Congress that it’s time to .

The lesson here? Maybe teach your staff to use the Google. 

And don’t look to the White House personnel office for guidance on how to vet people.

So happy trails, Ed and Workforce. Until we meet again in the 116th Congress as Ed and Labor. Keep smiling until then.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Human Service Workers at Persad Center Vote to Join the USW

From the USW

Workers at Persad Center, a human service organization that serves the LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS communities of the Pittsburgh area, voted last week to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

The unit of 24 workers, ranging from therapists and program coordinators to case managers and administrative staff, announced their union campaign as the Persad Staff Union last month and filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“We care about our work and the communities we serve,” said Johanna Smith, Persad’s Development, Communications, and Events Associate. “We strongly believe this work and our connections to our clients will only improve now that we will be represented by a union.”

The Persad workers join the growing number of white-collar professionals organizing with the USW, especially in the Pittsburgh region. Their membership is also in line with the recent work the Steelworkers have been doing to engage LGBTQ+ members and improve contract language regarding issues that affect their lives.

“Workplaces are changing and evolving, and the labor movement is changing and evolving along with that,” said USW Vice President Fred Redmond, who oversees the union’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee as well as the USW Health Care Workers Council. “This campaign gives us an opportunity to diversify our great union while uplifting and empowering a group of workers who give their all for others.”


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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work