November 07, 2023

Ranking Member Takano Opening Statement at Veterans' Employment Hearing

Press Contact

Libby Carlson

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mark Takano (CA-39) delivered the following remarks, as prepared, at the beginning of the Full Committee’s hearing on veteran employment and opportunity:

“Thank you, Chairman Bost. And thank you for holding this hearing on The Impact of America’s Businesses on Veteran Employment and Opportunity.  

Before we begin, it’s impossible to discuss employment without addressing recent news in the automotive industry. 

I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the United Auto Workers on a truly groundbreaking agreement with Ford, Stellantis, and General Motors.   

Thousands of veterans are members of the UAW, and in the words of President Biden when he visited the picket line ‘You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid now.’ 

The agreement reached last week is a massive win for the UAW, American Workers, Veterans, and the entire United States. 

Unions are good for America, and unions are good for veterans. 

Now to the topic at hand.  The Biden Economy has pulled this country from, what some believed, was an inevitable recession.  

Unemployment is down, wages are up, spending is up, and inflation has cooled since the months immediately after the pandemic. 

Does that mean everything is perfect?  In the words of President Biden – ‘Come on man!’  No – more work is needed.  We need to… 

  • Raise wages for veterans in the workplace to reflect the wage gains of the 1% and company executives; 
  • Strengthen employment protections so guard and reserve members don’t have to worry if their jobs will exist when they return from serving their country; 
  • Ensure that opportunities for veterans of all backgrounds are fair; 
  • Simplify the process for veterans to translate their skills in the military into the marketplace; 
  • And make it easier for veterans to start their own business. 

Chairman Bost, you and I have served together on this Committee for more than 8 years now.  I want to thank you for introducing our resolution honoring this week as Veterans Employment Week.    

While we may have our differences from time to time, and while there are certain issues on which we will never see eye-to-eye, one thing I have appreciated about working with you is that whenever possible, we have done our best to find common ground. I think we can both agree that the goals I outlined are worth pursuing in this Committee. 

Today we have the opportunity to talk to some of this country’s largest employers, along with some veteran small business owners.    

Veterans on average earn more than their civilian counterparts, but I hope we can learn why veterans wages aren’t growing as fast as non-veterans. 

I hope we can also learn what employers think of diversity initiatives.  I believe we are at our best when we harness the power of our diversity to spur creativity and innovation.  However, we know some in Congress have decried diversity goals and initiatives – so I look forward to hearing if employers feel the same.   

Further, I want to learn more about how employers treat guard and reserve members when their requirements to our nation’s defense conflicts with their employee responsibilities. 

In preparing for this hearing, our staff attempted to find a large employer of veterans that doesn’t used forced arbitration agreements.  However, call after call yielded proof that forced arbitration agreements are rampant in the workplace – forcing servicemembers to choose between employment and upholding their duty to our nation.  Something I find truly shameful.  

In our EO Subcommittee hearing earlier this year it was asked – how common are forced arbitration agreements for servicemembers? It turns out extremely common. 

 I hope our witnesses before us can explain how exactly their company uses forced arbitration, and what that means for guard and reserve members.  

We have the chance to make real change in employment rights for servicemembers, and I hope this serves as a wake-up call. It is time to ban forced arbitration agreements for guard and reserve members.  

I look forward to engaging with our witnesses this morning.”