Back in charge, House Republicans cut ‘labor’ from committee name


Just days after taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans once again eliminated “labor” from the name of a key policy committee.

“Each time the majority in the House of Representatives flips between Democrats and Republicans, the name of this committee changes,” explains a new page on the committee’s web site. “When Democrats control the House, the name is ‘Committee on Education and Labor,’ while Republicans rebrand it as ‘the Committee on Education and the Workforce.’”

But it wasn’t always so. Committee on Education and Labor was its name when it was first established in 1867. It was split into a Committee on Education and a Committee on Labor in 1883, and recombined into the Committee on Education and Labor in 1947. Labor was never banished from the committee’s name for 128 years, until the Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich took power in 1995 and renamed it the “Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities,” and then renamed it again as “Committee on Education and the Workforce” in 1997. Since then it’s gone back and forth. Democrats restored its historic name—Committee on Education and Labor—when they retook the majority in 2007 and 2011. Republicans turned it back into Committee on Education and Workforce in 2011 and again this month.

Why so much fuss over a name? And what have Republican lawmakers got against labor? 

The committee’s once-again chair—tenth-term North Carolina Republican Virginia Foxx—explained the name change in a Jan. 10 speech on the House floor.

“Words matter, and ideas have consequences,” Foxx said. “Influenced by Marxism, the left prefers to call work labor. This is a mistake…. The left uses the word labor to pit workers against employers, all in the hopes of bringing about more government control and a radical redistribution of wealth.

“Democrats also insist on using the word labor because they’re beholden to big labor,” Foxx said. “Democrats have made it clear that they wish to force all Americans into unions.”

As chair, Foxx will decide for the next two years which new labor policy bills will move in the House. In her four-minute opening salvo on the House floor, she made her hostility to the word labor and to unions crystal clear.

The committee web site immediately echoed her views. “‘Labor’ is an antiquated term,” said the newly rechristened Committee on Education and Workforce, adding that the term “carries a negative connotation that ignores the dignity of work.” 

“The term is something out of a Marxist textbook,” it continues. “Using outdated terms like ‘labor’ creates an overt bias toward union bosses while widening fissures created by Big Labor between workers and employers.”



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