Labor and Employment

Right-to-Work legislation has garnered renewed activity in states across the country. Since 2012, six states—Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, West Virginia and Wisconsin—have adopted right-to-work legislation. Conversely, New Hampshire and New Mexico voted against such a measure during their 2017 legislative sessions. Though legislation varies by state, right-to-work laws allow an employee to work for a business without being obligated to join a labor union. Union groups strongly oppose such legislation as they argue it would jeopardize worker wages and benefits and allow workers who do not pay dues to benefit from union wage and benefit negotiations. Advocates of the law maintain that it encourages economic development and provides options for employees.

As rural communities struggle to grow their economies and retain skilled labor, work-based learning experiences such as internships and apprenticeships offer a promising strategy to address workforce talent shortages and connect individuals to in-demand careers. To achieve scale, there are promising actions state policymakers can take to better align existing programs and resources to support economic development and educational attainment in the rural areas of their states.

The current economic cost of professional and occupational regulation directly impacts one quarter1 of the working population in the U.S. The number of professions or occupations requiring a government license is nearly one quarter2 of the current working population. The majority3 of this increase has been the result of the increasing number of professions or occupations requiring a license. Recent domestic evidence also shows that states vary dramatically in their rates of licensure, ranging from 12 percent to 33 percent.

The number of unemployed persons per job opening fell to 1.13 in June 2017, a 10-year low and significantly lower than the July 2009 peak of 6.6. In other words, we are close to having a job opening for every person that is unemployed. In the Midwest, the number of unemployed per job opening has now dropped to less than one, the lowest of any region.

A recently released report by MForesight, America's Next Manufacturing Workforce: Promising Practices in Education & Skills Building, outlines a range of successful educational initiatives, policy interventions, and pilot programs to strengthen manufacturing careers. The report emphasizes initiatives that are effective, replicable and scalable.

In 2011, the American Association of University Women, or AAUW, published The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, a comprehensive report on the state of the gender pay gap in the U.S. which is updated as new data is made available through the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Released this spring, the most recent edition reports that in 2015 women working full time in the United States were paid 80 percent of what men were paid.

With traditional four-year colleges driving student loan debt up to a record high of $1.3 trillion and a purported “middle skills” gap, the Trump administration’s new executive order promotes paid apprenticeship programs so students can earn while they learn. Middle skills are trades like plumbing and welding that aren’t taught in four-year colleges or high school.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an individual employer, group of employers, or an industry association can sponsor a Registered Apprenticeship program. Program sponsors provide jobs to apprentices, oversee training development, and provide hands-on learning and technical instruction for apprentices. At the successful completion of the on-the-job and instructional learning, apprentices receive an industry-issued, nationally recognized portable certificate of completion.

Representative Gene Whisnant

Individuals with disabilities are major contributors to the modern workforce. However, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is almost double  the unemployment rate of the general population according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Taking the proper steps to provide workers with disabilities the appropriate accommodations could reduce this high unemployment rate, and provide opportunities to thrive at work. Employment is the most direct and cost-effective...

Public pension reform is at the forefront of many state policymakers' agendas for 2017. Participants in this webinar will hear a summary of legal issues around public employee pension reform in layman's terms with a focus on constitutional concerns. We will cover which reform provisions have been shot down by the courts, which provisions have held up to challenges and any lessons a state leader can take away from the totality of those rulings.

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