Secretary Solis this week visited the Continental Automotive Systems plant in Seguin, Texas. The facility, which recently added 700 new jobs and plans to hire more, manufactures engine control modules for powertrains and emissions systems for Ford, Chrysler, GM and Honda. The company is noteworthy for its safety program, and has been approved 10 years in a row for OSHA’s Voluntary protection Programs (VPP) due to its efforts to achieve exemplary occupational safety and health standards. In VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent injuries, illnesses, and workplace hazards. Secretary Solis, in keeping with her commitment to good and safe jobs for everyone, congratulated Continental’s management and employees for the plant’s excellent safety record.
The Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos, Texas got a special visitor this week, when Secretary Solis toured the center’s medical, carpentry, transportation and communications union trades facilities and classrooms. She also observed the high school and GED program at the nation’s largest Job Corps center and spoke with staff members and students. “A history teacher once told me I could go to college,” Solis told her hosts. “I was planning to go to college when my high school counselor told me I should only expect to become a secretary. She was right I am the Secretary of Labor.” Solis encouraged students to set goals and continue their education. She also reminded staff members “you, as instructors, are mentors to these students. You must guide them into productive futures.” San Marcos City Mayor Susan Narvaiz was on hand at the center to present Secretary Solis with the key to her City.
Executive Director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers Ed Montgomery visited General Motor’s Recovery Act-funded battery manufacturing plant in White Marsh, Maryland on Thursday. The facility received a $105 million battery manufacturing grant to increase its production of the second-generation GM global rear-wheel electric drive system. “This investment has created long-term job security here at White Marsh GM where previously even short-term security was uncertain,” said Dr. Montgomery. “This investment has also been wonderful news for suppliers in the area. As a Maryland guy myself, I am happy to see this important technology which will assist GM nationwide in becoming a leader in this advanced technology by this Recovery Act investment here in my own state,” he added. The project is expected to add more than 189 jobs at the Baltimore plant, and more than 1500 jobs among GM’s suppliers.
The department's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) joined with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in a major Hollywood production. Last Saturday, ODEP and the people who bring you the Emmy awards joined forces on "Lights, Camera, Access!" -- a groundbreaking disability employment conference. The goal of the conference according to Secretary Solis: "Make it possible for people with disabilities to be more visible, both in front of and behind the camera.” Entertainment industry union leaders, studio executives, directors, producers, writers, actors, and studio human resource executives participated in panel discussions and workshops to develop an industry-wide call to action that integrates disability employment initiatives. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences Executive Committee John Shaffner, President of the Screen Actors Guild Ken Howard, actor Robert David Hall (From CSI) and other notables joined Secretary Solis and Assistant Secretary for ODEP Kathy Martinez for the event.
Secretary Solis highlighted the administration’s investments in getting the economy back on track and moving forward on Monday at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) in San Antonio. Among the Labor Department programs she discussed: training for green jobs; enforcing wage laws and labor rights; and increasing workplace safety. She also unveiled a new Spanish language initiative on retirement planning (see related story) and reiterated the president’s commitment to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality. Solis called on NCLR members to work with DOL so that “together we can leave a legacy of public service.” Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, Phyllis Borzi, also spoke at the conference.
Three Department of Labor officials testified Tuesday before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor regarding the agency’s support of the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 legislation. Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels testified on the needed reforms to our nation’s workplace health and safety laws.
Solis Highlights Job Training, Worker Protection, and Need for Immigration Reform
Secretary Solis spoke at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Annual Conference in Albuquerque, N.M on Wednesday, highlighting the investments DOL has made to provide workers with the safety net to get through this economic crisis and the job-training skills for 21st Century jobs. “This will not be a real recovery until people can feel it in their own lives. Their worries, fears and problems are the focus of this administration and for me at the Department of Labor. That’s who I am fighting for everyday,” she told the audience. Solis also spoke about DOL’s efforts to ensure that all workers have a safe workplace and are paid fairly, and stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
On July 23, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Wage and Hour Division will jointly sponsor a free one-day conference at Florida Atlantic University to improve Hispanic workers’ knowledge of workplace rights and their ability to exercise those rights. Leaders of community organizations, faith-based groups, unions, consulates, the medical community, and government representatives are encouraged to attend.
Department Awards $66.7 Million in YouthBuild Grants
Secretary Solis announced $66,678,357 to help183 community groups in providing education and training to young people across the United States. The YouthBuild program assists out-of-school youth in obtaining their diplomas or GEDs, at the same time providing occupational training in the construction industry. While acquiring leadership skills and participating in community service, at-risk youth construct and renovate affordable housing within their communities. "President Obama and I are delighted to provide second year funding for this successful program, which does so much for youth and their communities," said Secretary Solis. "Not only does the YouthBuild program assist young people in obtaining additional education, it provides them with a sense of accomplishment, and empowers them to be good citizens and productive members of their communities."
Solis Talks Immigration Reform with AFL-CIO President
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join Secretary Solis on Monday July 19th for a live webcast discussion on immigration reform. Discussion topics will include the exploitation of illegal immigrants and the negative effect it has on labor standards nationally. Be sure to tune in at 1 p.m. EDT to learn more!
At the direction of Secretary Solis, a delegation of three top DOL officials traveled to seven cities in four Gulf States (Ala., Miss., La. and Fla.) July 7 - 9. Employment and Training Administration Assistant Secretary Jane Oates, Deputy Administrator of the Wage & Hour Division Nancy Leppink and the Director of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Patricia Shiu met with local and state leaders and workers affected by the BP Deepwater spill to hear their concerns and offer DOL resources. The three leaders were also there to echo a joint message: DOL is offering increased assistance and job training opportunities to impacted workers losing their jobs and ensuring that fair wages and anti-discrimination practices are locally enforced.
Calif. Nurse Succeeds Thanks to WIA, Recovery Funding
When she visited Sacramento, California’s American River College in February, Secretary Solis met students whose lives were enriched by funding from both the Workforce Investment and Recovery Acts.
One such student was Rhonda Gage, 53, who yearned to become a registered nurse after serving eleven years as a medical assistant. With DOL funded schooling, Gage studied full time while working part time, taking key classes in labor and delivery, surgical nursing, and cardiology. Today she works for a healthcare firm making three times what she previously earned.
“Secretary Solis was so positive, especially for the health care industry,” Gage said of their meeting, while the program funding “is what opened the door for me to nursing.”
India’s Secretary of Labor and Employment, Prabhat C. Chaturvedi, and a delegation from the Indian Embassy participated in an informational tour of several facilities in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area July 14-16. During the visit, the delegation met with representatives of DOL agencies and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The delegation also met with officials from the State Department and the U.S.-India Business Council, and later visited the College of Southern Maryland, a public community college to observe programs dealing with youth employment, skills development, and occupational safety and health. The tour is the result of discussions between Secretary Solis and India’s Minister of Labor and Employment Millikarjun Kharge during this year’s G20 meeting in Washington, D.C.
News You Can Use
Two New District Offices Now Taking Calls
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is now taking calls in two new district offices in McAllen, Texas and Oklahoma City, Okla. Each new office will serve as a “one-stop shop for compliance assistance to the employer community concerning the federal labor laws we enforce.” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for WHD's Southwest Region. The offices will also connect employees, employers and community-based organizations with the resources and assistance needed to ensure that workers in low wage industries are paid fairly for all hours worked.
In celebrating the 15th anniversary of the DOL's national retirement saving education campaign, the Employee Benefits Security Administration unveiled new retirement savings tools in Spanish. The publication, “Como Resolver el Misterio de la Planificacion de su Jubilacion,” offers a simplified, bottom-line approach for calculating how much an individual needs in order to retire and helps them plan how to get there. The companion online interactive worksheets and guide will help individuals perform calculations to de-mystify retirement planning.
Many new mothers often give up on breastfeeding when they return to work, but they may not have to any more. The Wage and Hour Division has just released guidance detailing a provision in the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide nursing mothers the space and time to express milk in the workplace. The law, which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act, states that nursing mothers must receive a reasonable amount of unpaid break time as well as a private place other than a bathroom for their nursing needs.
New Analysis on Job and Economic Impact of the Recovery Act
Vice President Joe Biden and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer unveiled the Council of Economic Advisers’ quarterly report on the economic impact of the Recovery Act on Wednesday. The report finds that the Recovery Act had a significant impact on employment and economic growth with 2.5 to 3.6 million jobs created. The report also found that the Recovery Act is leveraging substantial investment from private companies and other entities.
Jane Oates, DOL’s assistant secretary for employment and training and Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education, co-hosted the "Adults in Transition: Learning Strategies to Support Career Change" forum at Harper College in Palatine, Ill., on Tuesday. The forum facilitated discussion among experts regarding promising practices in skills-upgrading and workforce transitions for adults. Participants included workforce, adult education, and postsecondary education experts and practitioners from states that have implemented successful models. The forum is one of a series designed to inform the two departments as they improve the capacity of the workforce system to serve the expanding number of adults, including dislocated workers, who require re-training to re-enter the workforce and embark on new careers that pay a family-sustaining wage.
DOL in Action
Protecting Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Workers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) entered into an alliance this week with the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) and the Pennsylvania/OSHA Consultation Program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The alliance was formed to improve workplace safety and health for oil and natural gas workers throughout the Pennsylvania Appalachian region. OSHA will work with PIOGA to develop a tailored training and education program designed to identify and prevent worker exposure to hazards specific to the industries. The alliance will involve OSHA area offices in Erie, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre and will remain in effect for two years.
$119.6 Million to Assist Workers Impacted by Foreign Trade
The department announced this week a total of $119.6 million in funding allocations for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to states to assist workers who lose their jobs due to outsourcing and foreign trade. These allocations are from the second distribution for fiscal year 2010 and represent, along with previously distributed initial allocation and reserve requests, approximately 90 percent of the total amount available for TAA training for this year. The remaining funds are being held in reserve by the Labor Department for distribution as needed at the end of the fiscal year. “America’s workers, including those who have been adversely impacted by trade, deserve our full support,” said Secretary Solis. The TAA program seeks to provide workers with the opportunity to obtain the skills, resources and support needed to become re-employed.
MSHA Designates $500,000 in Mine Safety and Health Training Grants
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced $500,000 in grants for states or non-profit entities that help identify, prevent, and avoid unsafe working conditions in and around mines. These grants are part of the Brookwood-Sago grants program that was started in 2006 as a provision in the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act. "The training provided by these grants will aid workers in identifying, avoiding and preventing unsafe working conditions in and around all mines, and will help ensure that miners can go home to their families at the end of every shift," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. This year’s funding will target the development and implementation of training and training materials for mine emergency preparedness and mine emergency prevention in underground mines. The competition will close on Aug. 18.
Electric vehicles are expected to become a common sight across America and around the globe in the near future. That makes battery manufacturing an industry with tremendous potential for sustained growth. For cities like Charlotte, N.C, it also means good jobs and strengthened economic activity. Thursday, Secretary Solis toured Charlotte-based Celgard LLC—the country’s largest lithium battery separator producer. Separators are a crucial part of the batteries powering most mobile phones, digital cameras and laptops. They are also at the core of a new generation of electric drive vehicles. Earlier this year, Celgard received $49 million in Recovery funded grants to help expand its manufacturing operations at both its Charlotte and Concord, N.C. sites. That expansion is expected to add more than 200 jobs within the company, and an additional 1,000 among Celgard’s suppliers. With a federal commitment to green technologies and an improved infrastructure for electric vehicles, the potential for even more good news is evident. As Solis put it to Celgard’s workers, “You are the cutting edge.”
DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) offers rewarding opportunities to promote equality in American workplaces. OFCCP is responsible for ensuring that all contractors doing business with the federal government do not discriminate and take affirmative action. Explore the positions below or view all the rewarding careers with DOL.
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Director, Division of Policy, Planning & Program Development