The Trump administration wants to merge the Departments of Labor and Education into one entity that would be called the Department of Education and the Workforce, according to news sources. The proposal was announced at a cabinet meeting yesterday.

The combination department would be broken into four sub-agencies. The administration has said previously that education should focus on training skilled workers to meet future employment needs.

Track record doesn't inspire confidence

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA Jordan Barab called the proposal, which could turn OSHA and MSHA into educational agencies that just provide education, training and fact sheets to employers “a bad idea.”

Barab writes on his blog: “Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary of Labor during Obama’s second term notes that only parts of DOL and Education deal with worker training. Most of the Department of Labor consists of enforcement agencies like OSHA, MSHA, Wage & Hour and OFCCP that protect workers’ health and safety, pay, benefits and anti-discrimination rights.”

Barab continued: “The National Employment Law Project points out that the Trump administration’s track record on labor issues doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that this proposal is being done in the best interests of workers.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers said that "in any normal administration, combining some of the core functions of the Education and Labor departments might make sense." However, Weingarten noted that "There is nothing normal about this administration, so we're extremely skeptical of the motives here given how hostile Betsy DeVos and President Trump have been to public education, workers and unions."

Eliminating barriers

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos expressed strong support for the proposal, calling it a “bold reform” that would eliminate “artificial barriers between education and workforce programs.”

The administration's consolidation proposals also include moving U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- to Health and Human Resources (HHS) and renaming the agency the Department of Health and Public Welfare. Critics say the administration wants to use the word “welfare” in the name because of its negative connotations. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, offering nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families.

Other proposed reorganizational changes include:

  • The word "food" would be removed from the Food and Drug Administration's name. Federal oversight of food safety would instead be carried out by a USDA agency called the Federal Food Safety Agency.
  • The US Postal Service would be restructured or readied for conversation to a privately held corporation.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control system change to a nonprofit organization.

The plan will likely face significant opposition in Congress.

Click here to read Jordan Barab’s blog post about the proposed merger.