Skip to Content

In the News

Pennsylvania state icon

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh pitches nursing jobs in visit to Chester County

  • Sec of Labor Visit
Originally Posted in the Daily Local

WEST CHESTER — U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th of Easttown, hosted U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on a whirlwind tour of some of the best workplaces of Chester County.

On Thursday, the congresswoman showed off construction and expansion at Chester County Hospital, where both the secretary and Houlahan participated in a roundtable discussion with hospital staff and local officials. The tour then moved on to West Chester University.

At Chester County Hospital the conversation centered on jobs — particularly nursing jobs. Walsh and Houlahan both said that big changes might soon occur if President Joe Biden’s proposed $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as a $1.75 trillion social spending bill, are passed by Congress.

Houlahan had been poised to race back to Washington to vote on the infrastructure plan, which Walsh thanked her for having a large role in drafting. The House of Representatives did not vote on the infrastructure bill Thursday night prior to the president’s departure for a visit to Europe, with some progressive House Democrats not fully embracing Biden’s infrastructure plan unless a deal was first reached on the social spending plan. A possible vote may take place Tuesday.

The Labor Secretary is the former mayor of Boston where he watched health care workers go in to work every day during the pandemic.

Walsh talked about the need to hire more health care workers before the current shortage becomes a long-term crisis.

“Sixty-thousand potential nurses are on a waiting list (for training) and the supply is there, but not the education,” Walsh said.

The presidential cabinet member suggested that retiring or aging members of the medical field might consider teaching. He also said that President Biden is aware of the situation.

“Can we create a pipeline for nursing?” Walsh said. “We don’t have a strategy of people wanting to get into the field.”

Michael Duncan, president of Chester County Hospital, participated in the roundtable discussion.

“With the (nursing) schools’ pay rate for teachers, they are better off working here,” Duncan said, “There are not enough nursing teachers.”

Houlahan shifted the conversation to child care. She noted that the infrastructure package would ensure that no parents earning less than $300,000 annually would pay more than 7 percent of their income for child care.

The U.S. Air Force veteran said she couldn’t afford child care while in the service and that was part of the reason she separated from the military.

“The cash-credit really changes the game,” Houlahan said.

Bill Adams, president of Local 654, is proud of the union’s ongoing construction work at the hospital. He talked about the apprenticeship program for the building trades where accountability is based on the pay rate which goes up as the skill level grows.

“It’s a culture — with learning from older journey workers,” Adams said.

Fred Ries is an apprentice with the IBEW. He said that unions are working hard to attract more veterans and inform vets of the positive opportunities.