YACHATS — Angell Job Corps could be facing new oversight or closure by September if legislators are unable to stop a proposal put forth by the Department of Labor late last month.
On May 24, Department of Agriculture notified the Department of Labor that the Forest Service would be withdrawing from operating Job Corps CCCs — 25 centers, which represent one fifth of the total Job Corps centers nationwide.
The Department of Labor, after considering data on performance, costs, ongoing needs, capacity and proximity, among other measurements, decided on a plan forward: closing nine centers and placing the remaining 16 under new contracted management or a partnership overseen by the Department of Labor.
Each of the two Job Corps CCCs in Oregon were sentenced to a different fate: Timber Lake CCC in Estacada has been proposed for closure, and Angell CCC in Yachats may be continued under a new contract operator or partnership.
If the proposed plan by the Department of Labor goes through, and the Yachats center is kept open under new oversight, Center Safety Officer Cynthia Bruce’s number one concern is safety.
“A lot of the (negative) things people have heard about Job Corps Centers,” said Bruce, “people getting hurt and stuff — they have all been contract centers.”
Bruce, who also serves as vice president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local 1697 union, explained that the Forest Service takes the safety of the students and the center very seriously, and that she knows of contract centers allowing their students loose on campus on the weekends. For contrast, students at Angell currently are always accompanied or escorted,
But there is no guarantee that Angell will remain open, Bruce said.
“They said they were shutting down this many, and they may contract (the rest) out,” said Bruce. “How they can contract out, I don’t know: because we’re on Forest Service land, and you can’t contract out Forest Service land.”
Angell Job Corps typically trains 160 students and employs 60 employees at any given time, though those numbers have recently decreased as the potential for closure looms. Those students not only work around the state and country to fight wildfires and assist with national disaster relief, but they also do a great number of local projects. Bruce explained that they have paved stones for the Port of Toledo, they have worked with the Newport Chamber of Commerce and they have been helping work on the Amanda Trail — to list a few of their projects. In addition, they volunteer with the Lion’s Club, at the Newport Veteran’s Stand Down, by holding blood drives and perform other public service projects. According to Bruce, those services could all end even if the center stays open, if it’s under a contractual management.
“The contract centers usually don’t do a lot with the community,” said Bruce.
The center also provides a unique environment for students who don’t fit in other educational settings — not to mention, all the students and staff on center spend all of their money on center and in the surrounding communities.
Battle for the CCCs
There have been outcries in cities around the country to keep local centers open. Recently it was announced that Montana Senator Steve Daines was able to keep the Anaconda CCC open after a conversation with the president about the center’s high performance ranking and successful school, as well as the impact on the students and local jobs.
And on June 4, two pieces of legislation were introduced and amended in both chambers of Congress in response to the announcement of the 25 CCCs fates. The first was standalone legislation introduced by Montana Senator John Tester, which would prohibit the transfer operations and closure of the centers in the fiscal years of 2019 and 2020.
The second was a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by six senators — including Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden — to effectively stop the Departments of Labor and Agriculture from bypassing regulations in order to close centers faster.
“These programs have a proven track record of helping young Oregonians get the job training they need to succeed while supporting essential management of our treasured public lands and wildfire prevention,” said Wyden in a release about the legislation. “Keeping Job Corps up and running for future generations shouldn’t be controversial. Congress should act and stop the dangerous efforts of this administration to undermine the program’s success.”
On June 5, a group of 18 Senators and 33 representatives banded together to send a letter to the secretaries of the Departments of Labor and Agriculture.
The letter detailed all the reasons that the decision of closures and alterations was a poor decision in the eyes of these legislatures, including: the high performance of the CCCs, the value of the centers in their local communities and the importance of CCC response and support in the event of natural disasters — such as Hurricane Harvey, for which Job Corps students provided 5,000 hours of support.
“After a difficult year of natural disasters and with hurricane and wildfire season quickly approaching,” read the letter, “now is precisely the wrong time to be reducing capacity at CCC’s. We strongly urge you maintain the CCC program.”
The letter concluded with a number of questions that the legislators wished for the departments to answer, further explaining the decision to close or alter 25 Job Corps centers.
Among the signatures on the letter were those of Merkeley and Wyden; Oregon Representatives Kurt Schrader of District 5, Peter DeFazio of District 4 and Suzanne Bonamici of District 1; and presidential hopefuls New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
With congress set to vote on the two introduced piece of legislation this week, Bruce said that she is hoping for good news from Merkley at his town hall on Friday, which will be held at Newport Middle School.
More information about the centers, their closure and ways to take action on the matter can be found at savetheccc.org.