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Senator Hassan Questions Labor Secretary Nominee on Workforce Training and Expanding Job Opportunities for Workers in Recovery from Substance Misuse

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today participated in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee nomination hearing for Marty Walsh, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Secretary for the Department of Labor.


Watch Senator Hassan’s questioning here.


Strengthening Workforce Development


During her questioning, Senator Hassan highlighted the importance of expanding workforce training for those who have lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussed how her bipartisan Gateway to Careers Act could help accomplish this goal.


“I’ve reintroduced the bipartisan Gateway to Careers Act, something we talked about when we spoke last week, with Senators Young, Collins, and Kaine,” Senator Hassan said. “[Our bill] would support opportunities for workers to earn as they learn, as well as provide important supports to workers who face barriers like transportation or child care assistance.”


Senator Hassan asked Mr. Walsh how the Department of Labor could work with other departments, like the Department of Education, to expand learning opportunities to Americans who lost their jobs.


Mr. Walsh spoke about the importance of working across federal agencies to help bolster workforce development efforts across the country, and said that he looks forward to working with Senator Hassan and others on the Committee to expand job training to more workers. “Job training is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s not a progressive or conservative issue, there are people all across the aisle, wherever they are, and they’re struggling right now. And having the ability to make an immediate impact on their outcome – or their family’s outcome - is really important,” Mr. Walsh said.


Supporting Workers in Recovery


The Senator also discussed the need to expand job opportunities for workers in recovery from substance misuse. “We continue to grapple with the opioid epidemic, often leaving individuals in recovery struggling to find their way back into the workforce, and I think there are employers who want to be helpful but maybe don’t have tools to do it,” Senator Hassan said.


Mr. Walsh agreed and talked about the importance of providing workers in recovery with second chances and reducing the stigma around addiction.  


Eliminating the Subminimum Wage


Additionally, Senator Hassan emphasized the importance of supporting workers who experience disabilities, which includes eliminating the practice of paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.


“I just want to note how proud I am of the people of New Hampshire, and the businesses of New Hampshire, for being the first state in the country to outlaw the subminimum wage while I was Governor,” Senator Hassan said. “And that was really because business leaders stepped forward, and said we value these workers, they do great work, why the heck don’t they get the same wages as everybody else?”


Last year, following calls from Senator Hassan, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged the repeal of the policy that allows employers to pay subminimum wages to workers who experience disabilities.