They Fought Wildfires in Utah and Idaho; Now They’re Fighting for their Jobs

Categories: DOL

Congressman Rob Bishop didn’t like what he heard from AFGE activists about what’s happening at the Forest Service’s Job Corps centers.

As a strong supporter of the Job Corps center in Weber Basin, Utah, which provides job training to at-risk youths who would otherwise have no viable education/employment alternatives, the news that the Department of Labor could slash its budget by $16 million, forcing these young people out of the program on top of furloughing or laying off employees who help train them, was unacceptable.

After all, these Weber Basin Job Corps center students have served their communities by helping fight real fires in Utah and Idaho the past few weeks as part of their on-the-job training. 

The cut is the Department of Labor’s (DOL) decision, not Congress’, which has provided steady funding for the last three years. If allowed to happen, the $16 million cut will affect 26 Job Corps Centers operated by the Forest Service. The agency will have to either furlough every single employee for as many as 50 days or close 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.

“If anything, Forest Service Job Corps centers should be increasing their student enrollment, not denying deserving American youth of the program’s training, inspiration, and job placements,” Rep. Bishop said in a letter to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.

AFGE thanks Congressman Bishop for standing up for the students whose lives are changing for the better because of the opportunities given to them through Job Corps. We also thank AFGE Local 3284 President Andy Villalpando for reaching out to his congressman on this important issue that affects everyone in the community. 

Here’s AFGE Local 3284 President Andy Villalpando talking about his work in getting Rep. Bishop to send the letter to the DOL Secretary:

“When I first heard that DOL, which funds all of the federal Forest Service Job Corps, was purposing a $16 million cut to the budget, I immediately contacted [Legislative and Political Organizer] Tim Synder, who referred my concern to [Legislative Representative] John Threlkeld. 

A budget cut of $16 million that DOL was/is purposing would mean a five to ten week furlough across the board for all Job Corps employees, a RIF, and/or possible centers closures.

With John's support and encouragement I was able to contact Congressman Bishop’s office. John and I set up a phone conference with Mr. Adam Stewart, Congressman Bishop's office staff member, which required persistence because congressional staff are so busy.

During our phone conversation, I explained to Mr. Stewart how important Job Corps is to at-risk youths. I explained to him how much my work at Job Corps meant to me. I informed him that I was a veteran who served in the military for 21 years and have worked in Job Corps for 25 years. With my military skills, I am able to help students become good working employees. Because this is what Job Corps is all about. Mr. Stewart was a good listener. He took what we talked about to Congressman Bishop. I wasn’t sure the Congressman would respond to our concern, but he did, and I made sure all of my colleagues and their families knew of his support for the work we do for our community. [Legislative and Political organizer] Cheryl Kelso is working with our activists in Washington to get similar support from Senator Patty Murray, who is the ranking member on the two most important committees for DOL. 

I believe if you are sincere in what you believe and are fighting for you can work out a good working relationship with your elected officials.”


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