Republicans hate workers, schools, children, teachers and people of color
Having no cash to pay for her food a woman searches her wallet for enough food stamps to pay for her purchase at a grocery store in West New York, New Jersey. Republicans want to slash her eligibility for the food stamps she so desperately needs. | AP

WASHINGTON—The congressional Republican majority hates public schools. They hate kids, especially children of color. They hate teachers. And they hate unions.

How else to explain their decisions on the House money bill funding the Labor Department, the Education Department, the National Labor Relations Board, and related agencies?

In party-line votes on July 14, the Republicans on the House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee cut 33% of the dollars for the NLRB and 80% for Title I schools, which educate the poorest kids, most of them children of color.

The education money slash represents the Republican “intent to end public education in America,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the top Democrat on both that panel and the full Appropriations Committee.

“It eliminates present and future job opportunities for young adults, seniors, and working families. It jeopardizes maternal, pediatric, and public health. This bill is shameful. But based on where the majority has taken this entire process, sadly, it is not surprising.”

Shameful extends to its treatment of the NLRB. In this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the agency received its first dollar increase since 2014. The cut to $200 million would take the agency back to 1998 in regular dollars—and far less than that after inflation, its NLRB Staff Union said. Democratic President Joe Biden sought $376.4 million for the board in fiscal 2024, which begins Oct. 1.

Cutting this year’s sum by one-third would be “an existential blow to the agency’s ability to enforce federal labor law in the workplace,” the union said in a statement it split into tweets.

“The NLRB last year was granted its first budget increase since 2014. This increase, while warmly welcomed, was a mere 8%. When accounting for inflation, this is FAR below what the agency should have in resources if Congress had fairly funded it over the last decade.

“Most of last year’s increase has simply gone to keeping the lights on. Some hiring has been done, but we are mostly replacing what is lost through standard annual attrition. We are not even close to replacing the 50% of field staff that have left the agency since 2002.”

At a time when unionization drives are soaring and workers are increasingly organizing, taking to the streets against rapacious bosses, or both, the board’s workers are already overworked. Cuts will hurt hard, their union said.

The School Administrators (AFSA) blasted the education cuts. “Investing in our children’s education should be a top priority. These budget cuts not only undermine the potential of our students but also hinder any progress toward offsetting the post-Covid-19 learning loss…in schools across this nation.

“Our children deserve better than a diminished future due to inadequate funding of vital education programs. Furthermore, cutting education funding disproportionately impacts low-income communities, perpetuating inequities and limiting opportunities for those who need them the most.”

The cuts came as lawmakers work their way through the money bills before Congress skips town for its August recess. The House’s ruling Republicans have seized on the money bills, along with the annual military spending bill, to promote their right-wing social issues agenda, too.

For example, the money bill for the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services retains the longtime Hyde Amendment banning spending of any federal Medicaid funds for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.  It also cuts all family planning money—read cutting “Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood is a particular bugaboo of the so-called right-to-lifers, a key section of the GOP base.

And that same money bill bans any spending for diversity, equity, and inclusion or for teaching critical race theory in U.S. schools. Never mind that CRT isn’t taught in K-12, but discussed in higher academia—except Florida. There, right-wing GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis banned it in state universities.

The military bill bans abortion funding and bans DOD dollars to aid a service member who must travel out of state to obtain an abortion because of a state-passed abortion ban.

The Republican money bill also reduced OSHA by more than $100 million, drawing criticism from Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health. Martinez called the cuts “dangerous to workplace safety…heartless and ill-advised.”

“OSHA already operates with a meager budget,” Martinez continued. The Republicans’ money bill “would slash resources for inspections and enforcement and sends a chilling message: The safety of American workers is not a priority. If enacted, this could pave the way for more injuries and tragedies, as employers may neglect safety standards without adequate oversight.”

NACOSH demanded lawmakers “reject this ill-conceived budget, empower the American workforce” and adopt Democratic President Joe Biden’s proposed 17% OSHA budget hike. “Let’s provide the resources needed to ensure workers no longer risk their health and lives for a livelihood.”

The Republicans also banned electronic voting in union recognition elections and two planned pro-worker NLRB rules. One, the “joint employer rule,” says a corporate headquarters—think McDonald’s in Chicago—and your local McDonald’s franchise are equally responsible for obeying, or breaking, labor law. Also out: The NLRB ruling that fewer workers are “independent contractors” outside labor laws.

The budget resolution lawmakers passed on a party-line vote earlier this year specified 22% cuts, back to 2021-22 levels, for all domestic discretionary programs, such as labor law enforcement and education spending, while boosting money for the military and for treating veterans. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., forecast his caucus would go beyond that. The House panel did.

DeLauro said the education spending cuts alone are 28%. The Title I money, which was dramatically boosted during the coronavirus pandemic, would fall by 80%, Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said. He justified the collapse by saying Title I schools still can use $31 billion in funds they got, which have been unspent.

In a thinly disguised dog whistle against both teachers’ unions and the students of color whom those schools serve, Aderholt declared, “These funds disproportionately support big city public schools, the same public schools that failed to educate the most-vulnerable children entrusted to them, by closing their doors for almost two years” due to the pandemic.

“Until these (past) funds are drawn down and used responsibly, the committee will not continue to make investments in these failing schools,” Aderholt threatened.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.