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AFS Applauds Introduction of the JOBS Act

The Legislation, Addressing The Skills Gap, would amend the Higher Education Act by expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term job training programs.

In March, Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, legislation that would amend the Higher Education Act by expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term job training programs. The bill would help students access training for the millions of vacant jobs that are unfilled in part due to a shortage of qualified workers.

The bipartisan JOBS Act is a critical step towards eliminating outdated barriers to Pell, while also making sure that short-term postsecondary job training programs are aligned with needs of local manufacturers, including metalcasters.

“We applaud Senators Portman and Kaine for their leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with Congress to advance this proposal,” AFS CEO Doug Kurkul said.

AFS will be advocating for this bill during the upcoming AFS Government Affairs Fly-In, June 11-12.

Under current law, Pell Grants (needs-based grants) can only be applied toward programs that are over 600 clock hours or at least 15 weeks in length, even though many job training programs are shorter term. The JOBS Act would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality job training programs that are at least eight weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials and certificates. 

OSHA Seeks Input on Powered Industrial Trucks Standard
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a request for information as it considers updating its powered industrial trucks standards for construction and general industry.  The standards, which cover forklifts, fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by an electrical motor or an internal combustion engine, haven’t been updated in nearly 50 years. OSHA commonly lists forklift accidents as one of the top 10 workplace health and safety concerns in the U.S. each year. Foundries have been cited for forklift violations over the years.

The agency is requesting feedback on the types, age, and usage of powered industrial trucks; maintenance and retrofitting; how to regulate older powered industrial trucks; types of accidents and injuries associated with operating these machines; costs and benefits of retrofitting the machines with safety features; and other components of a safety program.

OSHA says it will use the information received to determine what action it may take.  AFS will be submitting comments by the June deadline.    

Senators Introduce Bill Protecting U.S. Rail and Bus Manufacturing From Chinese State-Owned Enterprises
Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) introduced the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act, which would prevent Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds from being used by transit agencies to purchase rail cars or buses manufactured by Chinese-owned, controlled, or subsidized companies. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chair Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), are original cosponsors of the legislation. The ban, however, wouldn’t affect projects that don’t receive federal aid. AFS supports the legislation, along with our members that produce and supply rail, bus and transit castings.

The Chinese government continues to use a range of state subsidies and predatory practices to undermine market competition in certain sectors of the U.S. economy. Two of these sectors, rail/transit manufacturing and bus manufacturing, are included as part of China’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, a plan targeting global dominance in this key sector.    

DOL Unveils New Overtime Rule
The U.S. Department of Labor unveiled its long-awaited proposal to update and revise the overtime exemption regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which DOL estimates will make more than one million new workers eligible for overtime pay.

The Department is proposing to raise the current minimum salary threshold from $455 per week ($23,660 annualized) to $679 per week ($35,308 annualized).

Additionally, the proposal increases the total annual compensation requirement for “highly compensated employees” to $147,414 per year from $100,000. While DOL’s new proposal does not include automatic increases to the minimum salary level or the highly compensated test, the agency has asked for comments on whether these tests should be proposed to be updated every four years through notice-and-comment rulemaking.  In addition, the agency also opted not to vary the threshold based on regional or other costs of living differences around the country.

If finalized, the proposal would replace the 2016 final rule issued by the DOL under the Obama Administration, which would have increased the minimum salary level for exemption to $913 per week ($47,476 annualized). Dozens of states and business groups requested a nationwide injunction blocking the 2016 rule from taking effect, which was granted days before the 2016 rule was set to take effect.  

Comments on the new proposed overtime rule are due May 21. DOL anticipates that the final rule will become effective on January 1, 2020.  For additional information, contact Stephanie Salmon, AFS Washington Office, 202-452-7135.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the April 2019 issue of Modern Casting