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5 Questions for Rep. George Miller, Chairman, House Education and Labor Committee

January 10, 2007
Related Topics: Compensation Design and Communication, Wages and Hours, Featured Article, Benefits
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Rep. George Miller, D-California, became chairman of the just-renamed House Committee on Education and Labor this month, when Democrats took control of Congress. Representing the East Bay of San Francisco since 1975, Miller recently has played a prominent role in making an increase in the minimum wage a congressional priority. A close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Miller has helped shape the Democrats' Innovation Agenda, which calls for graduating 100,000 new scientists, mathematicians and engineers during the next four years. Miller recently spoke to Workforce Management staff writer Mark Schoeff Jr.
 
Workforce Management: In outlining your agenda in December, you emphasized that Education and Labor is the "people's committee." What did you mean?

Rep. George Miller: We think the core mission of this committee is to strengthen the middle class. This is where most Americans live. Its jurisdiction really speaks to the issues that were raised in the election. They all are in this committee, in one form or another: minimum wage, college costs, globalization, workforce skills and innovation. This committee has substantial jurisdiction that impacts people's lives: Are they able to organize their workplace; are they going to a workplace that is safe—to questions of whether they have retirement security.

WM: What differences will employers see in the committee under your leadership compared to the last 12 years under Republicans?

Miller: I have the strong sense that the corporate body includes employees. Often, you'll have corporate spokesmen talking as if their only obligation is to shareholders. The employees built up the company. There are three legs to the stool—the shareholders, the management and the employees.

WM: Is there tension between Main Street and Wall Street or does globalization benefit everyone?

Miller: For millions of people, that's not the case. Those parts [of globalization] that impact workers are discussed as a byproduct of the process. That's where government has to step in to mitigate some of that harm. There is a responsibility to the taxpayers of this country that the government asks questions about their well-being. Saying they'll be fine in the long run isn't really helpful.

WM: What would you like to see from employers in addressing those left behind in the global economy?

Miller:There's a whole range of things they can ask themselves: Are their policies encouraging the outsourcing of American economic activity and jobs? The corporate captains can figure out all the intricacies of international banking, intellectual property, copyright and pharmacy formularies, but they can't figure out anything in terms of workers and how workers compete across international boundaries. Something is wrong there.

WM: The Department of Labor has requested public comment on the Family and Medical Leave Act. Will Congress try to expand FMLA?

Miller: It's obviously a very popular program. We will review the impact it is having. There is growing consensus all across the country—from conservatives to liberals—about the tensions that fall on families in this economic system. It's part of the larger questions being asked about [pressure] between employment and family well-being.

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