More than 2,000 graduates filled the stadium of California State University, Los Angeles as Secretary Solis delivered their commencement speech. She emphasized that many of the students are the first in their families to attend college. "I have faith in you, graduates. You've come this far, but your journey is just getting started," said Solis. "You are constrained only by the limits of your imagination. You are capable of anything you set your mind to. Class of 2011, this is your time."
HS Grads With Disabilities Complete Internship Program
Office of Disability Employment Policy Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Special Assistant to the President on Disability Policy Kareem Dale delivered commencement remarks for 25 District of Columbia Public Schools high school seniors with disabilities who participated in Project Search. The program is administered by D.C. Public Schools, the D.C. Department of Disability Services, the D.C. Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services. The students worked as interns at the three federal departments, dividing their time among classroom study, office tasks, developing job-ready skills and learning workplace etiquette. "This graduation day would not have arrived without the hard work of the students, their dedicated teachers and job coaches, our committed parents and other family members, and the efforts of our partners," said Martinez.
Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, joined Dr.John Howard, director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, for a panel discussion on key issues and concerns of safety professionals at the American Society of Safety Engineers' Professional Development Conference Monday in Chicago. "We know that you need OSHA's support, just as we need yours," Michaels said to the attendees. "We are working every day to back you up with a broad arsenal of reforms that stops blaming workers for their injuries and puts the focus back where it belongs, on the employers, to find and fix problems in their workplaces."
OFCCP Reaching Out to Stakeholders in Atlanta
On June 10, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia A. Shiu and Regional Director Evelyn Teague met in Atlanta with workers, advocates, and community and faith leaders to discuss OFCCP's efforts to prevent workplace discrimination by federal contractors. They heard about the challenges faced by local residents in securing good jobs locally, even in an improving economy. The same day, Shiu invited veterans and service organizations to provide comments on proposed changes to the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, which seeks to improve the employment of protected veterans. "Being a federal contractor is a privilege, not a right," said Shiu. "I am committed to ensuring that equal opportunities are afforded to all workers and that businesses that play by the rules don't have to compete at a disadvantage against those that do not."
NY Faith Leaders in DC
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York hosted her second annual summit for African-American faith-based leaders earlier this week in Washington. A crowd of more than 250 faith leaders from across New York state had the opportunity to hear from a number of administration officials and congressional representatives. Ben Seigel, deputy director for the department's Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, participated on a grants workshop panel and congratulated several New York organizations recently awarded YouthBuild grants, including Abyssinian Development Corp. and Nubian Directions II. Seigel also shared information on DOL's new report on the Black Labor Force in the Recovery, next week's event with Secretary Solis and Attorney General Eric Holder on employment strategies for formerly incarcerated individuals, and the center's new Job Clubs project.
More than 400 people attended a federal job fair for people with disabilities in Richardson, Texas, last week. Representatives from various DOL agencies and others – including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Contract Management Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Labor Relations Board and the Social Security Administration – collected resumes for prospective job openings and answered questions about federal employment. Attendees participated in workshops and received information about employment and training programs. DOL's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management sponsored the fair.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration Michael Davis this week traveled to Chicago to spread the word about the department's recent proposal to redefine who is a "fiduciary" as someone with a legal responsibility to work in the best interests of his or her clients for the purposes of 401(k)-type retirement savings plans and individual retirement accounts. Under current rules, it is too easy for financial advisers to avoid fiduciary duty. Davis addressed nearly 300 plan sponsors and service providers at the Plan Sponsor Magazine National Conference.
Transparency & Accountability to Protect Workers Long Term
Bringing transparency and accountability to retirement planning is a key component of the Department of Labor's effort to protect workers. Addressing that issue, Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, recently told an international gathering of labor-management benefit plan advocates in New York City that her agency has taken multiple steps to make it easier for workers to enjoy a stream of income well into retirement. "We've proposed several measures around fee disclosure so workers can know the costs involved with investing and save money along the way," she said. "Additionally, we've proposed to classify investment advisers as fiduciaries, so an adviser can't offer guidance that is more financially beneficial to him than to his client, but would be required to act only in his client's best interest." Borzi added that, due to the complexities of retirement planning, workers need the best protection and guidance possible while they're still working hard in their earning years.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund honored Secretary Solis on Wednesday at its annual awards gala in Washington. Actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria presented Solis with the Excellence in Government Award in recognition of her advocacy on behalf of the Latino community, as well as racial and social justice. "I'm honored to receive this award, but you are the ones who are out there every day bringing Latinos into the mainstream, providing educational opportunities and legal aid," said Solis to the star-studded crowd. "MALDEF continues to make the American dream possible for Latino families like the one I come from."
Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employment and Training Administration Jane Oates recently was honored by the District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund during its Annual Graduation and Recognition Gala in Philadelphia. Oates was the recipient of the Paul Robeson Award for her efforts on behalf of working people to improve their livelihoods. A former Philadelphia schoolteacher, Oates was recognized for her dedication to the delivery of high quality training and employment to our nation's workers. The fund is a jointly managed, nonprofit trust of District 1199C of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and 50 health care employers in the Philadelphia region.
On Saturday, June 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will participate in an annual health fair in Buffalo, N.Y., organized by the local community. OSHA will staff a tent, conduct health and safety training and hand out free literature. The fair also will feature presentations on heat stress and an educational skit on how to file a complaint. This vibrant community event has drawn thousands of local residents in its four-year history.
California Receives $838.7 Million for UI Programs
California is the latest state to modernize its unemployment insurance program, triggering eligibility under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for more than $838 million released this week by the Labor Department. "The federal government made these funds available as an incentive for states to strengthen their safety net as our economy continues to recover," said Secretary Solis. California qualified for its full share of the funds by modernizing its law to include recent entrants to the workforce, part-time workers and workers who become unemployed because of compelling family reasons. The funds may be used to pay unemployment benefits or, if appropriated by the state's legislature, for administering California's UI program for delivering employment services.
OSHA Seeks Applications for $4.7 Million in Training Grants
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is soliciting applications under the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, through which a total of $4.7 million is available to nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, employer associations and labor unions. The grants will fund training for workers and employers to recognize workplace hazards and appropriate control measures, and to understand their rights and responsibilities under OSHA's regulations and standards. "The Department of Labor is committed to ensuring that businesses and workers are fully aware of health and safety rules," said Secretary Solis. "The programs funded by these grants will supply small businesses, hard-to-reach workers and those in high-hazard industries with the knowledge and tools they need to support safe and healthful workplaces."
Solis Signs Agreements with Guatemala and Nicaragua
Joined by Guatemalan Ambassador Francisco Villagrán De Léon and Nicaraguan Ambassador Francisco Campbell, Secretary Solis signed declarations on Thursday that will better protect the rights of Guatemalans and Nicaraguans working in the U.S. The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Wage and Hour Division also signed agreements to implement the declarations. "Individuals from Guatemala and Nicaragua make important contributions to the U.S. economy, and their workplace rights should be protected," Solis said. "I am pleased that the U.S., Guatemalan and Nicaraguan governments are working together to help make that happen."
Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the passage of the Miner Improvement and New Emergency Response Act, an important piece of legislation that came on the heels of mine disasters at the Sago, Aracoma and Darby mines. The law improved mine safety nationwide – upgrading mining standards, improving emergency response and requiring enhanced technology underground for post-disaster communication. The MINER Act also required that refuge chambers and caches of emergency air be available underground in emergencies. In the five years since its enactment, MSHA has implemented several provisions, policies and regulations under the act – often ahead of schedule and beyond requirements.
The first ever National Prevention Strategy, called for under the Affordable Care Act, was announced during a webcast by the National Prevention Council Thursday. It was created to help move the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on prevention and wellness. The goal of the strategy is to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. The National Prevention Council, comprised of 17 federal agencies (including the Labor Department) and chaired by the surgeon general, developed the National Prevention Strategy with input from stakeholders, the public and the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.
Stepping Up to be a Father
In anticipation of Father's Day, President Obama addressed fatherhood, personal responsibility and mentoring: "The work of raising our children is the most important job in this country, and it's all of our responsibilities – mothers and fathers," he said. The St. Petersburg Times recently featured a former Job Corps student, Javay Macelus of Tampa, Fla., who left the program at the age of 19 to care for seven nieces and nephews when his own mother, their guardian, died. Now 21, with the help of faith-based support, Macelus is raising children ages 10 through 17, as well as a great niece. He exemplifies the president's call to "step up" and make a difference in the lives of children. And even though he did not have the opportunity to graduate from Job Corps, he credits the program with helping him become who he is today.
Save the Date: Opening Doors Anniversary Stakeholder Call
To mark the one year anniversary of "Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness," Secretary Solis, who also serves as chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, invites stakeholders to participate in a conference call on June 22, at 3:30 p.m. EDT. Opening Doors is the first-ever comprehensive federal plan to prevent and end homelessness. Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs Derek Douglas and USICH Executive Director Barbara Poppe will join Solis to discuss the roles the federal government and administration have played in working to implement the plan over its first year. Key leaders also will share their thoughts on the impact of plan implementation to date and what is needed moving forward. The conference call will be interactive and USICH will answer submitted questions at the end of the call.
EBSA to Host Spanish Language Retirement Savings Webcast
The department's Employee Benefits Security Administration will host its first ever Spanish-language webcast on retirement saving June 22. The event, in coordination with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and the National Council of La Raza, will help participants to prioritize retirement and start saving through money management.
MSHA's Newly Formed Coal District 12 Begins Operations
The Mine Safety and Health Administration's District 12 office has begun operations in southern West Virginia, splitting the former District 4. The new office — to have jurisdiction over field offices in Pineville, Logan and Princeton — eventually will be located in Pineville; it is temporarily housed at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver. The District 4 office will remain in Mt. Hope and oversee field offices in Mt. Hope, Mt. Carbon, Madison and Summersville. "Splitting this district will allow MSHA to more effectively execute its mission, provide adequate oversight and keep pace with the evolution of the coal industry," said MSHA Assistant Secretary Joseph Main.
Navy veteran Glen Williams has a passion for helping his fellow veterans and especially those who are disabled veterans, like himself. But when he found himself out of work, Williams turned to the department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service for assistance. "After researching the federal job hiring process and struggling to navigate it, I wrote an email to VETS and asked for assistance to better understand the process and my rights and benefits as a veteran," he said. VETS worked with Williams to refine his resume and showed him protocol on replying to job leads. He received a LinkedIn message seeking someone who was familiar with the government, military and human resources recruiting companies, leading him to a position as a disability and military outreach community recruiter. He began the job in February and now works to connect veterans and individuals with disabilities with job opportunities at Walgreens stores throughout the nation.
TAA Helps Employee Land Better Paying Job
Ken Darrah had years of experience working as a maintenance technician when he lost his job. With support from the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, he was able to go back to school and increase his chances of finding a better paying job. With tuition help from the Virginia Employment Commission, Darrah said he "jumped right on the chance" to enroll in Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Va., to study industrial electronics technology. After two years of complicated courses in welding, electronics and computer troubleshooting, he graduated summa cum laude with an associate degree. Darrah was hired as a maintenance manager at a local company. The TAA program "helped me enhance my resume and put me on the road to success," he said.
DOL in Action
More Than $1.9 Million in Fines Proposed Against Alabama Lumber Mill
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of $1,939,000 against the Phenix Lumber Co. in Phenix City, Ala., and its principal, John M. Dudley, for egregious and other safety violations, including exposing employees to amputation and fall hazards. Previously, Phenix Lumber had been cited 77 times by OSHA since 2007. "This situation reflects a systemic problem with the way this company approaches safety and demonstrates an egregious disregard for workers' safety and health," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. OSHA has proposed that the employer be included in its Severe Violators Enforcement Program, which subjects employers to mandatory follow-up inspections and, where appropriate, enhanced settlement provisions and federal court enforcement under Section 11(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Federal contractor ThyssenKrupp Elevator Manufacturing Inc., a global producer of elevators, has agreed to pay $288,333 to 248 women who were systematically rejected for positions at the company's facility in Middleton, Tenn. The company also has agreed to make job offers to some women from this group as positions become available. This settlement follows an investigation by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs into the company's hiring practices.
Farm Labor Contractors Fined for Transportation Violations
DOL has assessed the maximum penalties allowed against Madera, Calif.-based Mid-Valley Labor Services and Riverdale-based Ayala Corp. for willful transportation violations under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, totaling $41,300. Additionally, more than $50,000 in back wages owed to 120 farmworkers was recovered after the department's Wage and Hour Division determined that wage violations also had been committed. WHD initiated investigations following two separate traffic accidents in 2010 that resulted in the deaths of six migrant workers and serious injuries to six others, all of whom were being transported by the employers in an unsafe and unlawful manner.
Grant Increment Extends Assistance for Monaco Coach Corp. Workers
The Labor Department has provided a $1,263,164 National Emergency Grant increment to continue services for about 1,050 workers affected by layoffs at Monaco Coach Corp. in Coburg, Ore. This increment, awarded to the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, will continue the delivery of re-employment and retraining services to eligible workers. "Today's release of additional funding means that former employees of Monaco Coach will continue to receive case management and training services to help them better compete for new jobs," said Secretary Solis.
OSHA Sues Real Estate Management Co. to Protect Whistleblower
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sued CMM Realty Inc. in Columbia, S.C., for allegedly firing an employee who reported workplace and environmental concerns regarding asbestos at one of the company's worksites. In November 2010, OSHA enforced the whistleblower provisions of the Clean Air Act by ordering the company to reinstate the individual and pay him $56,222 in compensatory damages and back wages. OSHA is now suing the company in federal court for violating Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which forbids companies from discriminating against employees who file a complaint.
OSHA Fines Mississippi Poultry Company Following Fatality
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Marshall Durbin Cos. for 12 safety and health violations following the death of a worker who was struck by a tractor trailer while filling potholes at its plant in Hattiesburg, Miss. The company was cited with one serious safety violation related to the fatality for not requiring workers to wear high-visibility clothing and not implementing traffic control measures. The company received seven additional serious and four repeat safety and health violations concerning improper machine guarding, failing to label hazardous chemicals and electrical hazards. Penalties total $120,000.
3-Month Phase in for Employers to Follow Fall Protection Directive
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced a three month phase in period to allow residential construction employers to come into compliance with the agency's new directive to provide residential construction workers with fall protection. The period will run through Sept. 15. "We want to make sure that the residential construction industry has every opportunity to successfully come into compliance with the new directive," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "I am confident that this phase in period will provide employers the additional time and flexibility they need to alter their work practices in accordance with the requirements of the new directive."
$1.3M in Back Wages, Benefits Recovered for Construction Employees
The department's Wage and Hour Division has recovered $1.3 million in unpaid prevailing wages and fringe benefits for 67 employees of CAL Construction Co. Inc., a Chelsea, Mass.-based contractor, for work performed on a Long Island, N.Y., low-income housing project funded in part by the Recovery Act. The company and owner, Cesar A. Lemus, in addition to making this payment, have been debarred from bidding or working on future federally funded contracts for a period of three years.
Former NAGE President Sentenced in Embezzlement Case
Garold Lawson, former president for National Association of Government Employees Local R14-139 in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was sentenced to six months of confinement, four months of home confinement and three years of probation after pleading guilty to embezzling $67,566 in union funds. The indictment and conviction follow an investigative audit by the Office of Labor-Management Standards that revealed inadequate documentation to support mileage, allowances and reimbursed expenses incurred by Lawson.
WHD Recovers More Than $90,000 for Kentucky Restaurant Employees
Louisville Irish LLC, owner of Sully's Restaurant and Maker's Mark Restaurant and Saloon in Louisville, Ky., has agreed to pay $90,840 in back wages to 53 employees following a Wage and Hour Division investigation that found the company failed to correctly pay tipped employees as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. "The Labor Department has zero tolerance for non-compliance with the laws that protect these vulnerable workers, and is working to eliminate all such violations in Kentucky and throughout the country," said Karen Garnett, director of the WHD's Louisville District Office.
Worker Death, Injuries Prompt Investigation in Wis.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued one safety citation each to Lewis Construction Inc. and Cedar Falls Building Systems Inc. for the willful violation of failing to adequately brace formwork while pouring concrete walls. Lewis Construction also received nine safety citations for serious violations. An investigation was prompted by the death of an employee, and injuries to three others when a wet concrete wall collapsed at a building site in Chippewa Falls, Wis.
Cooper Tire and Rubber, 2 Contractors Cited for Combustable Dust
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. and two of its maintenance contractors with 25 safety violations at the company's Tupelo, Miss., plant, including exposing workers to hazards associated with combustible dust. Proposed penalties total $254,900. "The level of disregard for workers' safety is truly shocking," said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's area office in Jackson. "It should not take a fire or explosion for employers to implement necessary safety measures to protect their employees."
OSHA Cites 3 NYC Contractors for Hazards Following Fatality
The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Sing Da Corp., H Rock Corp. and Vera Construction Inc. for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards following an investigation of a fatality that occurred on a construction site in Elmhurst, N.Y. At the time of the incident, employees were filling an 18-foot-high by 65-foot-long concrete block wall with cement when the wall collapsed, killing one employee and hospitalizing three others. Proposed penalties for the three employers total $116,312.
Contractor with History of Violations Faces $243K In Fines
Lessard Brothers Construction Inc., a Lewiston, Maine, roofing contractor with a long history of violating workplace safety standards, faces a total of $243,360 in proposed fines after inspectors found four employees exposed to potentially life-threatening falls. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration previously had cited Lessard Brothers and its predecessor, Lessard Roofing & Siding Inc., 10 times for fall protection violations. Due to management's knowledge of the hazard and the required safeguards, Lessard was cited for four egregious willful violations, one for each exposed employee. This significant enforcement action qualifies the contractor for OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program.
Texas-based Arreola Masonry Cited with Serious, Repeat Violations
Arreola Masonry has been cited with three serious and three repeat safety violations for exposing workers to fall hazards at its Austin, Texas, facility. As part of a regional emphasis program on construction hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation that found the company failed to ensure a scaffold platform was safely designed, have a competent person inspect the scaffold for defects and provide scaffolding fall protection such as guardrails. "The leading cause of construction fatalities is falls," said Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director. Proposed penalties total $46,200.
West Virginia Manufacturer Cited After 3 Workers Die in Explosion, Fire
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited AL Solutions Inc., a manufacturing company based in New Cumberland, W.Va., with 18 safety and health violations following an explosion and fire that caused the deaths of three workers. OSHA inspectors found that the company's use of an unsafe water sprinkler system with flammable metals created an explosion hazard. "This tragedy could have been prevented," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "It is imperative that employers take steps to eliminate hazards."