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‘Workforce’ replaces ‘Labor’ as Kline’s committee changes names

The shift from Labor to Workforce is a signal of the different priorities a John Kline-led committee will begin with.

WASHINGTON — It’s goodbye ‘Labor’, hello ‘Workforce’ for Rep. John Kline, as the committee he’ll chair in the 112th Congress will revert back to the Education and Workforce moniker it held when Republicans were last in charge of Congress.

The committee was originally dubbed the Education and Labor Committee when it was founded in 1867, according to the National Archives, the name it held (aside from when the committee was split into Education and Labor separately) until 1995, when the Contract with America Republican majority renamed it the Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities.

That name was changed in 1997 to Education and the Workforce, the name it held when current Speaker-designate John Boehner chaired it. When Democrats retook the House in 2006, they switched it back to its old Education and Labor moniker. And now that Republicans are back in charge, Labor is back out and Workforce is back in.

The move signals a subtle yet important shift in messaging, as the word “labor” has become a Capitol Hill shorthand term for organized labor, or unions, while “workforce” is a word more preferred by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Indeed, the committee under Kline is unlikely to proceed with any of the major unions’ top priorities, as the new chairman has been strongly opposed to card-check union organizing elections and will be actively working to roll back parts of the new health care overhaul law that labor so strongly supported.