Sherrod Brown seeks regulations to force businesses to provide job training

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has introduced legislation that would force businesses to provide job training for workers if they will be affected by the introduction of new technology.

The Workers’ Right to Training Act applies to workers who will see their jobs change in the company because of the new technology and workers who will lose their jobs because of it. If the worker is losing a job, then the company would be meant offer training for a position in a similar company.

“No matter how technology changes, Ohio workers will always be our greatest resource,” Brown said in a news release. “But right now, too many workers are left behind when companies decide to adopt new technology. We must work to ensure that workers aren’t treated as a cost to be minimized but rather treated with the dignity they’ve earned to have an equal say in how best to implement new technology in the workplace.”

The legislation would also require that companies provide a 180-day notice to workers whose jobs will change because of new technology and a 270-day notice to workers who will lose their jobs from it. Employers would be required to pay six-month severance to workers who lose their jobs for this reason.

Brown toured the state of Ohio to discuss his plan, which is designed to protect blue collar workers from the increasing automation of jobs. His stops included Akron, Lima, Mansfield, St. Clairsville, Youngstown and Toledo.

The legislation has support from the Ohio AFL-CIO, which is a union, but has faced criticism from free-market groups that argue that there could be unintentional consequences.

“Ohio workers are the best in the world at what they do,” Tim Burga, the president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, said in the news release. “Senator Brown recognizes the ability of Ohio’s workforce to meet any challenge and his bill requires companies to do the same. Workers drive the success of our economy, and with a seat at the table, they will look out for the interests of working families rather than the interests of Wall Street that continue to leave workers and families behind.”

Andrew Kidd, an economist at The Buckeye Institute, told The Center Square via email that lawmakers should be in conversation with the business community about the potential side effects of these regulations. The Buckeye Institute is a free-market, Ohio-based think tank.

“It is important that businesses and policymakers are taking a serious look at the impact of automation on workers, but they should be in conversation with each other,” Kidd said. “Businesses should be clear about what it would take to train their current workforce for the future. And policymakers should avoid imposing harmful regulations that many companies may not be able to accommodate, negatively impacting job creation, business development, and the well-being of workers’ families.”

Kidd said that public-private partnerships, such as a local government working with a community college, could lead to solutions that help workers get the help they need without imposing costly regulations that can harm businesses.