Campus & Community / News

Deputy secretary of labor says Obama jobs package benefits middle class

Seth Harris, undersecretary of labor, addresses DU law students on Sept. 27. Photo: Chase Squires

With President Barack Obama touching down in Denver to stump for his vision of recovery, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris was at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Sept. 27 to back the president’s newly revealed jobs plan.

Speaking at the law school’s Workplace Law Annual Keynote Speaker Series, Harris stressed how important he felt it is for Congress to back the president’s proposed American Jobs Act.

“Far too many workers feel like they are fighting a losing battle,” he said. “It’s been a once-in-a-generation crisis … workers didn’t cause the Great Recession and they certainly haven’t prolonged it.”

What is holding up recovery, Harris said, are policies that have granted favor to corporations at the expense of middle class and low-income workers. Wages have stagnated, unions have been pushed out of the workplace and technical developments have favored globalization and shifted jobs overseas, he said.

The jobs act, Harris said, provides federal money for the development of worker training programs at community colleges; an extension of unemployment benefits to include subsidized work programs; grants to rebuild American schools and infrastructure; and changes in taxation.

“For the past decade, we’ve allowed corporations to write the rules that regulate their industries and the wealthiest among us to feed at the tax trough,” Harris said. “The president’s plan better aligns our tax code with our values.”

Under the plan, Harris said, the average Colorado family would see a $1,700 tax benefit through changes to payroll taxes.

In the end, the goal is to help workers who have seen corporate profits surge while they’ve steadily lost ground.

“American workers haven’t been slacking off in the face of adversity, they remain the hardest workers in the world,” he said. “They just need government policies to catch up.”

For law students about to graduate in difficult economic times, Harris had some advice and reminded them that virtually nobody knows where their careers will take them. He said students can still set a moral course and always strive to do good.

“Almost nobody lives a linear life. We mostly zig and zag,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to get from here to there, but don’t back into your life … Try to make choices that you would like to hear in your eulogy.”


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