United States Department of Labor; Good jobs for everyone.

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April 26, 2012
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Law, Labor and Opera

United States Department of Labor: 1913-2013 - 100 Years. Then, Now, Next.

President John F. Kennedy's first Labor Secretary Arthur J. Goldberg was considered at the time of his appointment to be the leading labor lawyer in the country, and during his tenure, he was often called the "Davy Crockett" of JFK's "New Frontier." Collective bargaining was Goldberg's main interest and he actively made the "good offices" of the federal government available to help settle or prevent strikes. He also became involved in a wide range of social and cultural issues in the Kennedy administration, and was instrumental in improving cultural life in

Secretary Arthur J. Goldberg.
the Capital and in beginning redevelopment of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor from Capitol Hill to the White House — the area where the Labor Department's headquarters is currently located. His passions for collective bargaining and culture merged in 1961: Much to the delight of the culturally-minded First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Goldberg settled a strike against the New York Metropolitan Opera preventing cancellation of the 1961-1962 season.

Championing Youth Summer Jobs

Secretary Solis fields questions from TV reporters during the event. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

As summer approaches, communities around the country are making a concerted effort to ensure the nation's youth have opportunities to learn valuable life and career skills through summer jobs. As part of the administration's Summer Jobs+ initiative, Secretary Solis traveled to Los Angeles to join Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in launching the city's HIRE LA's Youth program. "There is no replacement for the dignity that comes with earning your first paycheck," Solis said. "That's why we are working with businesses around the country to provide young people their first step in a lifelong career path." Through a partnership with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the City of Los Angeles and the L.A. Workforce Investment Board, local businesses are being called on to provide entry-level positions to qualified youth so that they can earn a paycheck to help their families while developing skills that will help them in their future.

Social Security, Medicare Outlook

Treasury Secretary Timothy Giethner looks on as Secretary Solis comments on the Social Secuirty and Mediare Trustees Report. View the slideshow for more images and detailed captions.

Secretary Solis and her fellow trustees for Social Security and Medicare issued their outlook on the financial health of the two programs on April 23. Solis indicated that the strengthening economy and increasing employment may begin to have a positive impact on the programs' funds going forward. "When more people are working, our payroll tax base grows," she said. "And so do the trust funds as more people are able to contribute to them." Solis joined Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in releasing the annual Social Security and Medicare Trustees' report. The programs provide a safety net for millions of America's retired workers and beneficiaries, many of whom are low-income and depend on them for survival. Despite the improving economy, Solis cautioned that some reforms will be needed, saying, "We must act soon to address the immediate and long-term imbalances between income and costs of the programs. The earlier those reforms can be made, the more options and the more time we have to better prepare those affected and to ease the burden on our most vulnerable communities."

Fewer Families With
Unemployed Members

In 2011, 11.5 percent of families included an unemployed person, falling from a peak of 12.4 percent in 2010, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued this week. The decline was the first since 2006. According to the report, the number of families who had at least one unemployed member during the year dropped by 652,000 last year, to 9.0 million from 9.7 million in 2010. BLS has been tracking family employment and unemployment since 1994.

On the Road in Waterloo

Jay Williams, director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers (right), and Education Secretary Arne Duncan (center) listen as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addresses the audience at a town hall meeting at Hawkeye Community College. View the slideshow for more images and detailed captions.

The White House Rural Council recently sponsored a discussion on the importance of job training and education at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa. Jay Williams, executive director of the department's Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack participated in the discussion. "Not everyone is going to get a 4-year degree, but you have to have skills beyond high school to compete in our new economy," Williams said. The college is part of a consortium led by Northeast Iowa Community College that recently received a $12.7 million grant from the Labor Department for targeted job training and workforce development in health care.

ODEP and Industry Group Partner

Martinez (center) displays publication 'Business Strategies That Work.' Click on the photo for a larger image and detailed caption.

Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor and head of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, signed an alliance agreement with the National Industry Liaison Group board chair Valerie Vickers on April 23 to promote the hiring of individuals with disabilities by federal contractors. Under the agreement, ODEP will work with the industry group to provide contractors with information, guidance and access to resources that will help them recruit, hire, retain and advance workers with disabilities. "ODEP looks forward to partnering with this association to promote effective disability employment practices among all members. Together we can build workplace equality that includes those of us with disabilities," Martinez said.

Seeking Solutions in St. Louis

Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers Executive Director Jay Williams was the keynote speaker at the Open/Closed: Exploring Vacant Property in St. Louis summit in on April 21. The summit focused on solutions for property abandonment, neglect, decline and vacancy. Several hundred people attended the conference, including local residents, university students studying urban planning, architects, developers and local government officials. In his keynote address, Williams shared his experience as the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, and his work with population decline and property abandonment. In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Williams said that as cities such as St. Louis look at ways to deal with vacant properties, they have to look at where they are today, weigh it against "what was perceived as the good old years, and then decide where you want it to be."

At the Table With Food Distributors

Members of the International Foodservice Distributors Association often have a lot on their plates, but this week member companies made time to hear department officials address the association's Washington Insight and Advocacy Conference. Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator Nancy Leppink and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Pat Shiu discussed priorities and tips for ensuring compliance with about 75 executives of food-service companies across the United States.

Helping Families in L.A.

Sec. Solis, Dr. Kathy Icenhower and Dr. Sushma Taylor discuss how the program uses its DOL grant to help families. View the Slideshow for more images and detailed captions.

As the largest family services provider in south Los Angeles, SHIELDS for Families provides dozens of programs to more than 5,000 families addressing issues such as homelessness, substance abuse, mental health and child protective services. Last week, Secretary Solis met leaders of SHIELDS and Treatment Communities of America, which offers vocational services, education, mental health and other services. The leaders discussed the establishment of the SHIELDS-Jericho job training center, as well as recent efforts aimed at improving staff recruitment, enrollment, community partnerships and client referrals.

Focusing on Transportation

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates participated on a panel this week seeking to foster a national dialog on enhancing development of a skilled transportation workforce at the National Transportation Workforce Summit in Washington, D.C. Oates joined Polly Trottenberg, assistant secretary of transportation for policy, and Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary of education for vocational and adult education on the panel. About 200 people involved in transportation workforce development in the public and private sectors, education and labor attended the summit.

STEM Jobs on the Increase

Providing the keynote address for the Council of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Adriana Kugler, chief economist to Secretary Solis, spoke about the growing importance of science, technology, engineering and math occupations in the labor market. Job growth in STEM fields is three times faster than in non-stem fields, and STEM jobs pay 26 percent more than non-STEM jobs, Kugler said. She reiterated the commitment of the administration to improve K-12 education that prepares the next generation for college, to make college more affordable, and to invest in STEM programs through public-private partnerships, including those supported by the Educate to Innovate initiative and the Community-College to Career proposal.

Oates Addresses Vocational Rehabilitation Conference

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates addressed the Spring Conference of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation on April 24. She discussed the importance of the relationship between the public workforce system and the public Vocational Rehabilitation program and thanked advocates for their tireless work on behalf of people with disabilities. After brief remarks regarding her experience and initiatives at the Labor Department and the strong partnership between ETA and the Office of Disability Employment Policy, Oates took questions and said she looks forward to working with this group further on accessibility issues, veterans outreach and apprenticeship opportunities.

New Apprenticeship Program

John Ladd and Denise Koo display the Certificate of Registration for the new apprenticeship. View the slideshow for more images and detailed captions.

This week, the Employment and Training Administration's Office of Apprenticeship is celebrating the addition of a new apprenticeship program focused on the public health informatics field. John Ladd, administrator of ETA's Office of Apprenticeship, and Denise Koo, director of the Scientific Education and Professional Development Program Office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, participated in a signing ceremony in Atlanta to add the CDC as a national program sponsor for a registered apprenticeship program. The program will serve the training and development needs of the CDC Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program, a 2-year fellowship for professionals with a master's or higher degree that applies information science and technology to the practice of public health. The apprenticeship program includes the participation of CDC medical doctors and those with doctorate degrees and is an important step towards the agency's efforts to expand public health informatics throughout the country.

OSHA Renews Alliance

Representatives from the Labor Department and Scaffold Access Industry Association at the signing of the alliance pose for a photo.  Back row left to right:  Mark Hernandez, Mark Briggs, area director, OSHA Houston South Office; Bill Breault, national SAIA past president; David Doucet, area director, OSHA Houston North Office.  Seated:  Chris Moody, regional SAIA chairman; Paula R. Manning, SAIA Safety Committee chairperson. Click on the photo for a larger image and detailed caption.

Enhanced workplace safety for construction workers in the states of Louisiana and Texas is the goal of a renewed alliance signed recently in Houston by the Occupational Safety and Health Association and the Scaffold Access Industry Association, South Central Regional Chapter. The agreement gives partners the opportunity to develop educational training programs relating to scaffold and fall hazards, as well as applicable American National Safety Institute consensus standards. Communication methods will also be established for providing information to employers and employees in the commercial and residential industries.

Working with Libraries

Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Jane Oates this week met with more than 200 public library employees in high unemployment regions. As a panel participant at the Institute of Museum and Library Services conference, Oates addressed department priorities in meeting the country's workforce development needs and the department's role in encouraging partnerships with libraries. Library staff, which came from 46 states, plan to use the conference as a catalyst to create programs and services to meet their communities' needs.

Eating Healthy on Earth Day

Celebrities, kids and a host of VIPs participated in the gardening event. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

For Job Corps, Jamba Juice, and the National Gardening Association, Earth Day took on a different flavor during an event at Girard Children's Community Garden in Northwest Washington, D.C. James White, president and CEO of Jamba Juice and Mike Metallo, president and CEO of the National Gardening Association were on hand to announce the winners of their "It's All About the Fruit and Veggie" grants to innovative school and community gardening programs, including Girard, Urban Village Community Association Center and Thomson Elementary school. During the event, Edna Primrose, national director of Job Corps, highlighted the new Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyles (also known as HEALS) curriculum being used at Job Corps centers, talked about the growing number of Job Corps centers around the country using gardens as an important component of their culinary arts programs, and touched on the success of the recent pilot program at the Treasure Island center that is leading to internships and placement opportunities with Jamba Juice.

Aid For Ex-Nuclear Workers

The Labor Department's travelling resource center was in Amherst, N.Y., on April 25 to provide former workers of the Linde Ceramics Plant with eligibility information about a new class of workers recently added to the special exposure cohort of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. A worker included in a designated SEC class, and who is diagnosed with one of 21 specified cancers, may receive a presumption of causation under the law. For former Linde Ceramic workers, the designation became effective March 1, 2012, and applies to those who worked at the plant from Nov. 1, 1947 through Dec. 31, 1953 for at least 250 workdays. The law provides compensation and medical benefits to workers who became ill as a result of working in the nuclear weapons industry. To date, $34.5 million in compensation and benefits has been paid to 423 Linde Ceramics claimants.

Young Women's Conference

An address by the Labor Department's Director of Public Engagement, Dr. Gabrielle Lemus, launched the 59th annual Conference of Girls Incorporated held on April 22 in San Antonio. Lemus emphasized the department's unwavering commitment to job readiness initiatives and workplace standards for girls of all ages entering the 21st century workforce. She also highlighted skills training and guidance resources available for young women interested in specific growth industries. Lemus spoke to a network of public and private groups promoting the mission of Girls Inc., a non-profit organization with centers in mostly low-income areas that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, communication education, policy and media outreach, and self-empowerment.

EBSA to Host Retirement Forum in Atlanta This Weekend

What are some good ways to save enough for retirement? Who can you trust for retirement savings investment guidance? Get the answers to these questions and more this Saturday at Atlanta's Spelman College during the "African Americans and Retirement: What You Should Know Before It's Too Late" forum. Hosted by the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Economics Department at Spelman College, the event is free and open to the public and media. Speakers include federal officials, consumer advocates, academics and retirement experts. Space is limited to the first 150 registrants.

Upcoming Deadlines & Events

Open Funding Opportunities

CFBNP — Nashville Job Clubs & Career Ministries Roundtable Discussion

EBSA — Health Benefits Laws Compliance Assistance Seminar

EBSA — Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning Workshop

MSHA — Spring Thaw Workshop

OFCCP — 11th Annual Women Empowered Conference

OFCCP — OFCCP- Building Community and Veteran Partnerships

OFCCP — OFCCP- Community Based Education & Outreach

OFCCP — Community Based Organizations Roundtable Collaboration

OFCCP — Compliance Assistance for First Time Supply and Service Contractors

OFCCP — Construction Seminar

OFCCP — Developing Written Affirmative Action Programs

OFCCP — OFCCP and Industry Liaison Group

OFCCP — Community Outreach and Education Event

OFCCP — Compliance Assistance Seminar

OFCCP — Compliance Assistance Seminar for Construction Contractors

OFCCP — OFCCP and Industry Liaison Group

OFCCP — Service and Supply Seminar

OFCCP — Service and Supply Compliance Assistance Seminar for First Time Contractors

OFCCP — Technical Assistance Seminar

OFCCP — Women in Non-Traditional Occupations

OLMS — Compliance Seminar

OSHA — Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health Meeting

OSHA — Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health Meeting

WHD — Celebrating Children and Literacy

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What's New

Remember Workers. Post the Graphic. Share Your Story.

Secretary Solis prepares to celebrate 'hard hat' mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

Saturday, April 28, is Workers' Memorial Day. Secretary Solis kicked off the department's participation in commemorative events across the country, attending a "hard hat" mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City to honor fallen construction workers. She is also inviting people to join

Workers' Memorial Day poster. Click on the image to download the poster.
in honoring fallen workers by telling their stories and posting their messages of support on social media networks. One easy way is to use our 2012 Workers' Memorial Day graphic as your "profile" or "cover" picture on Facebook or Twitter avatar from Thursday, April 26, to Sunday, April 29. We also want anyone who has been touched by the death of a worker to share that experience online or by posting their name in remembrance. Let us know about your post by tagging the U.S. Department of Labor on Facebook or using #workersremembered as a hashtag on Twitter. Check the newsletter next week for stories about the department's Workers' Memorial Day events.

Hosting Families of Fallen Workers

Participants at the meeting share their stories. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

Families of workers who have lost their lives to workplace injuries visited the department last week to tell their stories and to express their views on current Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiatives. Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels along with OSHA leadership were on hand to meet with families who traveled to Washington, D.C., from across the country. Each family member told the story of the loved one who was lost and the trials of the healing process. The meeting was a sobering reminder of the tremendous urgency and vital importance of ensuring safe working conditions for all workers.

Safety Pays, Falls Cost

OSHA's Safety Poster. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

In 2010, more than 10,000 workers in the construction industry were injured after falling from heights, and another 255 workers died. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, accounting for one in every three construction worker deaths. On April 26, at an Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health in Los Angeles in observance of Workers' Memorial Day, Secretary Solis announced a major new outreach campaign to provide employers and workers with the information they need to prevent falls. The campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Occupational Research Agenda program. OSHA and NIOSH urge everyone in the construction industry to plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide the right equipment and train everyone to use the equipment safely. OSHA has created a new fall prevention website with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards.

National News

#EqualPay, More Than a Trend @DOL

Staff from the Women's Bureau and OFCCP answer the tweets. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

Highlighting new resources and tools released on Equal Pay Day, the department's Women's Bureau and Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs teamed up for @USDOL's first Twitter chat last Friday. More than 400 Twitter followers participated in the hour-long conversation on pay equity. Chat topics ranged from the WB's brochures to educate employees and employers on their rights and responsibilities under equal pay laws to OFCCP's enforcement efforts to address pay discrimination. Department staff also shared information on the winning Equal Pay Apps challenge, which will help educate the public about the pay gap and promote equal pay for women. Officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Justice participated in the discussion, as well as special guests from the American Association of University Women and Latinos in Social Media.

Summary of First-Quarter Mining Deaths Released

Ten miners died in work-related accidents at the nation's mines during the first three months of 2012. That's according to a first-quarter summary of mining deaths released this week by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Six of those deaths occurred in coal mines, while four occurred in metal/nonmetal mines. In an uncharacteristic trend identified over the three-month period, five of the deaths — three involving mine supervisors — occurred on five consecutive weekends. "Fatalities are preventable," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for MSHA Joseph Main, noting the importance of effective safety and health management programs. "Workplace examinations for hazards – pre-shift and on-shift, every shift – can identify and eliminate hazards that kill and injure miners," he said. "Providing effective and appropriate training will ensure that miners recognize and understand hazards and how to control or eliminate them."

MSHA, OSHA Announce Portable Breathing Device Phase-Out

The phase-out of problem breathing apparatuses in underground mines and at certain underground construction and confined work sites will begin immediately, according to the department's Mine Safety and Health Administration and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. On April 13, 2012, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a report of a joint NIOSH-MSHA investigation that determined that CSE SR-100 self-contained self rescuers did not conform to safety requirements. SCSRs are portable devices that, in the event of an emergency, can provide workers underground up to 60 minutes of breathable air. CSE SR-100s must be removed from non-mining work sites no later than May 31, 2012, and from underground mines by Dec. 31, 2013.

International Scene

ILAB Leads Delegation to Oman

The department and the Oman Ministry of Manpower convened the first meeting of the Subcommittee on Labor Affairs on April 24 in Muscat, Oman. Representatives at the meeting reaffirmed their commitments under the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement to recognize and protect the rights stated in the International Labor Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The U.S. delegation, led by Amit Pandya, chief of staff of the department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs, included representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Muscat. Abdulla Murad Al-Mullahi, the Oman Ministry of Manpower's director of international organizations and external relations, hosted the meeting.

Promoting Rights of Dominican Nationals

Members of the WHD's Northeast Regional Office and Consul General of Dominican Republic for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Click on the image for a larger photo and caption.

The department's Wage and Hour Division signed an agreement last week with the Consulate General of the Dominican Republic in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of an effort to promote the labor and human rights of Dominican Republic nationals. Participants intend to establish a collaborative relationship to promote workers rights of Dominican nationals in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The relationship will help workers understand their rights and employers their responsibilities under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and the H-2A and H-2B programs under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The agreement was signed at the Dominican Republic consulate by Wage and Hour Division Northeast Regional Administrator George Ference and Consul Maximo Taveras, Consul General of Dominican Republic for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

News You Can Use

Interactive Map Details Performance of Job Corps Centers

Job Corps interactive map. Click on the map for the interactive version.

In an effort to improve dissemination of program data and provide transparency, the Employment and Training Administration's Office of Job Corps has developed an interactive map that showcases the performance of 125 centers nationwide. The map details each center's performance results in 14 categories, such as training completion and graduation rates for Program Year 2010 (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011). "Job Corps is preparing our youth for the jobs of tomorrow," said Edna Primrose, national director of Job Corps. "This interactive map will provide future students, stakeholders and the general public with the ability to evaluate the performance of each center in a user friendly, transparent way."

Around DOL

Solis Celebrates Earth Day With the Next Generation

Secretary Solis read aloud to the children at the center. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

Twenty excited pre-kindergarten children at the Department of Labor Child Development Center greeted Secretary Solis on April 24 with open arms and big smiles. In celebration of Earth Day, Solis read The Earth to the children, a book she donated to the Center last Christmas. Following the reading, Solis and the children planted two pots of forget-me-not flowers. She took one flower pot with her back to her office and the other was left with the children to care for in their garden. "We were excited that Secretary Solis was able to celebrate Earth Day with the children," Center Director Jennifer Beatty said. "She is very supportive of our school, and it means a lot to us that she took time out of her busy schedule to be part of this experience. The children will never forget it."

The Enduring Legacy of Frances Perkins

With DOL's Hall of Honor serving as the backdrop, Author Kirstin Downey reads from her book. View the slideshow for more images and captions.

When the idea of writing a book about Frances Perkins came to former Washington Post reporter Kirstin Downey, she was thinking that the first woman secretary of labor was quite the social progressive for a woman. But as time went on, Downey realized that Perkins was the foremost social progressive, regardless of gender, of her time. Downey spoke to Department of Labor employees in the Hall of Honor on April 26 about how Perkins' legacy is as relevant today as when she served from 1933 to 1945. Downey is the author of "The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience," and her appearance was sponsored by the department's Civil Rights Center as part of Women's History Month. The issues Perkins brought to the table then — unemployment compensation, child labor laws, a 40-hour work week, the need for reliable workplace statistics — became the cornerstones of the most important social welfare and legislation in our nation's history, Downey said. Perkins, who witnessed the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York where 146 garment workers died, focused on the ultimate goal of enacting laws that improve people's lives. According to Downey, Perkins was a woman aware of the obstacles of her time, but her small victories broke ground for the bigger victories of today's Labor Department and the direct impact the department has in the lives of 150 million people.

DOL Working for You

Training Helps Air Force Veteran Help Others

Jason Crane. Click on photo for a larger image.

When the housing market crashed, Air Force veteran Jason Crane lost his laborer's job and became homeless. But Crane received counseling and skills training through the department's Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, and that led to a job where he can help other veterans. At the St. Patrick Center in Missouri, Crane received computer and software training. The training propelled him into a paid internship with a fellowship program that helps house and reintegrate post-9/11 veterans. Crane expects to be working full time soon for the fellowship, recruiting veterans in 15 states for the housing program. He said the HVRP "gave me hope when I didn't have any" and now he is "looking to pay it forward" to help other veterans.

Safety Training for Construction Workers

Casey Perkins. Click on photo for a larger image.

Workplace safety for Spanish-speaking workers in the construction industry has been enhanced because of an ongoing 2-year-old alliance between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Region VI Austin Area Office in Texas and the Workers Defense Project (Proyecto Defensa Laboral). OSHA officials attend regularly scheduled meetings with these workers to emphasize awareness of hazardous working conditions and how to report workplace abuses. OSHA also distributes bilingual information on heat stress and a variety of construction safety topics. The nonprofit Workers Defense Project, which seeks fair employment and safe working conditions, has provided scores of workers with 10-hour OSHA safety training under a Labor Department Susan Harwood grant. "OSHA helps all workers recognize a workplace hazard and to know the steps necessary to report it," said Casey Perkins, OSHA's Austin area director.

It Happened on the Hill

Oates Testifies on UI Reforms

Last week the Labor Department announced important reforms to the Unemployment Insurance system being implemented as a result of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 signed by President Obama in February. This week, the changes were the topic of conversation on Capitol Hill as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates testified before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources. Lawmakers discussed the extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and spent a significant portion of the hearing asking questions about prospective state demonstration projects to identify innovative strategies that quickly connect unemployed workers with good jobs. "Helping unemployed Americans find good jobs is a top priority for the president and we are pleased to have the opportunity to promote innovative re-employment strategies," said Oates in her testimony." As a result of the changes announced last week, up to 10 states will be able to use administrative funding – or apply for a waiver to use Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds – to implement and evaluate programs that expedite the ability of people to return to work.

DOL in Action

Settlement Reached in Firing of Barge Captain

The department has entered into a settlement agreement with St. James Stevedoring Partners LLC to resolve findings by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that the company illegally terminated an employee in New Orleans for safety complaints. An OSHA whistleblower investigator found that a riverboat barge captain was terminated after complaining to the U.S. Coast Guard about an inoperable starboard vessel. "Employees must feel free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said John M. Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. Under the settlement agreement, St. James Stevedoring Partners will pay $245,000, representing the most significant financial settlement under the Seaman's Protection Act since OSHA assumed jurisdiction of the whistleblower provisions of that law in October 2010.

'Struck By' Vehicle Accidents Targeted in 4 States

To help protect workers from "struck by" vehicle accidents in the workplace, the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration this week launched a regional outreach initiative in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska to educate employees and employers. "Struck by" injuries and fatalities are caused by conventional traffic/passenger vehicles, forklifts and other equipment, such as cranes and yard trucks. During fiscal years 2008 through 2011, 14 percent of all workplace fatalities investigated by OSHA's Kansas City regional offices involved "struck by" incidents. Causes typically involve vehicles in reverse striking a pedestrian outside the driver's field of vision and vehicles falling off ramps, inclines or unstable ground.

Suit Filed to Recover ESOP Losses at Parrot Cellular

The department has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking to recover losses suffered by participants in the Parrot Cellular Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP. The suit alleges that the defendants caused or permitted the ESOP to purchase stock for more than fair market value and that the company's principal owner, Dennis Webb, enriched himself by millions of dollars at the expense of the plan and its participants. Parrot Cellular, part of Entrepreneurial Ventures Inc., operates Parrot Cellular telephone retail stores in northern and central California and is the sponsor of the worker retirement plan. Parrot Cellular and EVI are headquartered in Campbell, Calif.

Storm Cleanup Assistance for Kentucky

An $859,793 National Emergency Grant was awarded to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to assist with storm clean-up and recovery efforts. Severe storms struck Kentucky on Feb. 29 and continued through March 3. The funds will be used to create 65 temporary jobs for eligible dislocated workers to assist in clean-up and recovery efforts. "The storm-battered citizens of Kentucky will get much-needed help with clean-up and recovery in the counties hardest hit by recent storms. The department's funding is part of the federal government's commitment to helping these communities fully recover and rebuild," Secretary Solis said.

New York Dairy Co-op Cited for Repeat Hazards

Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 12 alleged violations of workplace safety standards at its Rochester, N.Y., milk production facility. A total of $200,300 in fines has been proposed. An inspection by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office identified several deficiencies in the company's process safety management program; a detailed set of requirements employers must follow to address the use of large amounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, the chemical was anhydrous ammonia, used in the plant's refrigeration system. The company had been cited in 2009 for similar hazards at its Cheektowaga, N.Y., facility.

Court Action Seeks to Recover Retirement Funds

The department has filed a complaint in federal court seeking to restore $63,582.14 in health care premiums and retirement plan contributions withheld from the paychecks of employees at several companies that are part of JJD Industries in Schiller Park, Ill. The lawsuit, which is based on the findings of an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration, alleges that John Dombek III – president, fiduciary and part owner of JJD Industries – improperly managed the benefit plans' assets in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Connecticut Contractor Cited Following Fatal Fall

American Building LLC, a Trumbull, Conn.-based steel erection contractor, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged willful and serious violations of workplace safety standards following the Oct. 25, 2011, death of a worker at a site in Stamford. American Building employees were installing metal roofing onto a prefabricated steel building when one of the workers fell 35 feet to the ground and sustained fatal injuries. An investigation by OSHA's Bridgeport Area Office found that employees lacked proper fall protection and were not adequately trained to recognize and avoid fall hazards.

Ohio Union Sued for Election Violations

The department recently filed suit against the Postal Police Officers Association, located in Willowick, Ohio. The lawsuit seeks to nullify the July 29, 2011 election for president and first vice president and seeks a new election for those officer positions under supervision by the Office of Labor-Management Standards. The complaint alleges that the union violated Sections 401(c) and 401(g) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act when a union official used a union list of members' email addresses to transmit a campaign statement.

Citations for Two Alabama Metal Fabricators

Escofab Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 11 safety and health violations – including one willful citation for failing to correct overhead crane deficiencies – at the company's metal fabrication shop in Atmore, Ala. Proposed penalties total $67,970. OSHA has also cited S & K Machineworks Co. Inc. with 17 safety and health violations following two inspections at the company's production facility in Theodore, Ala., that identified worker exposure to hexavalent chromium and silica, among other hazards. "Companies must protect employees from both immediate and long-term hazards. Employers need to take proactive measures to prevent exposure to hazards rather than wait for an OSHA inspection," said Joseph Roesler, OSHA's area director in Mobile. Proposed penalties total $50,645.

Forever 21 Store in NJ Mall Cited for Hazards

Retail clothing chain Forever 21 Inc. was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with two repeat and five serious safety violations at its store in Bridgewater Mall in Bridgewater, N.J. The alleged violations, which resulted in $69,000 in proposed penalties, include inadequate workspace around electrical equipment, blocked exit routes, and tripping and fire hazards in storage areas.

OSHA: Georgia Workers Lacked Fall Protection

Norcross, Ga.-based construction company LRG Framing Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for six safety violations at a residential work site after OSHA observed employees working at heights of up to 30 feet without fall protection, among other hazards. Proposed penalties total $66,660.

Employees Exposed to Excessive Noise

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited AA Foundries Inc. in San Antonio with one willful and 20 serious violations for exposing employees to excessive noise levels and overexposure to lead and other heavy metals. The investigation was part of OSHA's Primary Metals National Emphasis Program. Proposed penalties total $107,600.

Two Ohio Companies Cited for Endangering Employees

The department's Occupational Health and Safety Administration has cited two companies in Ohio — Wrayco Industries Inc. and Garland Welding — for safety violations. Wrayco Industries in Stow was cited for 14 serious safety and health violations. OSHA initiated an inspection on Jan. 19 in response to a complaint alleging numerous safety violations. Proposed fines total $51,300. Garland Welding was cited with 30 violations at its Lowellville metal fabrication shop. A complaint prompted a health inspection on Oct. 26, 2011, which triggered a subsequent safety inspection. Proposed fines total $94,500.

Citation for Exposing Workers to Multiple Hazards

Big D Brake and Clutch Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 17 serious violations for exposing workers to multiple safety hazards. Violations included failing to ensure that exit doors were unlocked, keep exit areas free from obstruction, properly store compressed gas cylinders, provide required machine guarding, ensure forklifts are properly serviced and maintained, provide forklift operator training and repair electrical wiring deficiencies. Proposed penalties for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company total $46,200.

Oil, Gas Services Company Cited Following Explosion

High Roller Wells Pearsall SWD No. 1 Ltd. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 10 serious safety violations following an explosion and fire that injured three workers at the company's Pearsall, Texas, worksite. The violations included failing to ensure workers are provided with fall protection while working on the tops of tanks, that equipment and electrical wiring are rated for the environment in which they are being used, and that necessary precautions are taken to prevent possible ignition sources, such as sparks or static electricity. Proposed penalties total $46,200.

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