Sec. Perez decries ‘false choice’ between labor, businesses

It’s a “false choice” to pit labor leaders and business owners against each other, top Obama administration officials said on Thursday.

Instead of stirring up tension between workers and management, the heads of the Labor and Commerce departments said that both sides should work together to make sure the country’s workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future.

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“We need to work together to make sure that we’re in it all together, that we’re employing people with the skills to compete,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said at a White House summit on labor and management partnerships.

“We reject these notions that you have to either take care of your workers or take care of your shareholders. We reject the false choice that says you either have job growth or job security,” he said.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker added that an area of shared interest would be for businesses to prioritize investing in training programs to teach new workers the tricks of the trade. 

“We owe our workforce stackable credentials and good career paths and clarity about how you achieve that,” she said

Pritzker added that the country was at a “tipping point,” and that “business really gets that they need to step it up.”

“They need to play a greater leadership role in skilled training and … get over some of the phobias that we’ve seen,” she said, which have made it harder for people that have been out of work for more than six months to get a new job.

The long-term unemployed have faced some of the biggest obstacles to returning to work. The rate of long-term joblessness is more than 200 percent higher than it was before the economic recession hit. About one of out three unemployed workers has been that way for more than six months.  

Partnerships between unions and businesses to build new training programs can help combat that trend and build “the pipeline of tomorrow’s workers,” Perez said.