Occupational protectionism hurts workers

Occupational protectionism hurts workers


It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in Nebraska on the occupational licensing front. Yesterday was particularly interesting. My colleague, Laura Ebke, testified yesterday in support of LB1187 introduced by Sen. Andrew LaGrone to allow for universal recognition of occupational licenses held in good standing in other states for individuals coming to Nebraska to work.

This bill is a big deal for Nebraska. Arizona passed this same bill last year – the first in the country.  This is an opportunity for Nebraska to again be a national leader on the occupational licensing front.  Other states also want to be national leaders. Our neighbors Iowa, Missouri and Kansas have introduced this legislation in 2020.

I can think of no reason that common sense shouldn’t prevail here. If I have been working as a licensed professional in another state, I’ve held my license in good standing, and I decide to move to Nebraska to work, why shouldn’t the state grant me a license?

Completing education hours and taking tests are great, but in all honesty, I can think of no better teacher than good old-fashioned work experience.

It was a blatant protectionist parade by the opposition. One testifier said that Nebraska’s standards would make him inclined to believe that 15 years of work experience would be needed to work in Nebraska as a licensed geologist. 15 years!! Essentially 10 people testifed saying this bill was a bad idea. That by passing this bill, the safety and welfare of Nebraskans would be jeopardized.

What I ultimately heard was this, “Our standards in Nebraska are high. Your professional experience and license in good standing in another state doesn’t matter. We do not welcome workers from other states.”

My first career was as a dietitian. I recall that doctors and other health professionals would look at the lab coat I wore and ask, “What do all of those letters mean?”  No one other than those in my own profession knew what “RD, LMNT, CNSC, CSO” meant.  13 letters.  That’s more letters than the letters making up my first and last name. In fact, one doctor I worked with would refer to the embroidery on my lab coat as “alphabet soup.” My knowledge and professional abilities were due to work experience, not due to the 13 letters behind my name.

I hope yesterday’s LB1187 hearing was an eye opener for the committee. I hope they decide to be friendlier to Nebraska’s workers than the protectionists were.

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