The Labor Department is cutting funding for the Forest Service Job Corps Centers by $16 million, raising questions about possible furloughs or a reduction-in-force (RIF) at several centers.
The Forest Service Job Corps program trains young adults ages 16 to 24 in vocational skills in 30 occupations while assisting in the conservation of the country’s natural resources. Forest Service units also train students to help assist during national emergencies, including those caused by wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and tornados. The majority of the students who join the program are from poor families who are seeking an opportunity to get ahead. Katherine Martinez is one of those students who were given that chance and more by Curlew Job Corps and the employees who run it. Read her story here.
“If anything, Forest Service Job Corps centers should be increasing the number of enrollees, not denying deserving American youth of the program’s training, inspiration, and job placement,” said AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten in a letter to Sen. Patty Murray, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which authorizes funding for the Job Corps program. Moten also sent similar correspondence to other representatives and senators who write the laws for the Job Corps program and provide its funding.
This arbitrary cut is bad news for the students and the employees alike. Since 2013, the Forest Service has cut 400 positions from its Job Corps program, reducing the workforce to 1,500. However, management at the Forest Service reports that in program year 2015, if DOL is successful in cutting the allocation by $16 million, the agency will have to furlough every single employee for as many as 50 days or conduct a RIF at several centers. The first option would disrupt every single Forest Service center for as many as ten weeks. The second option would shutter several job corps centers.
The cut is DOL’s decision, not Congress’s, which has provided steady funding for the last three years. DOL is not imposing a similar cut on its own Job Corps centers. In fact, the agency is even opening two new centers.
DOL’s motive behind the cut is unclear, but one thing is clear if the cut is allowed to take place.
“More RIFs and furloughs will compromise performance and embolden critics who don’t appreciate the value of the program and would rather it be abolished or privatized,” Moten wrote.
Individual AFGE Forest Service Job Corps locals will be meeting with their elected officials during the August recess.
Want to learn more about the cut? Contact Tim Shorrock at [email protected].