Solis Joins OFCCP Regional Managers at Annual Conference
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs managers from around the nation were addressed by Secretary Solis this week during their annual conference in Washington. Welcomed to the stage by OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu, Solis lauded the work of the agency and mentioned several major cases recently closed by the agency. While acknowledging the importance of big cases, she reminded the audience that all cases have an important impact. "Every case we take on is about real people," said Solis. "I want you to always keep the individuals – the workers behind the numbers – at the forefront of your minds as you go about your work."
A ribbon-cutting of a long-awaited WorkSource Center in the heart of South Los Angeles took place last Thursday. Community Career Development Inc., a non-profit workforce training provider, and the California Employment Development Department led the ceremony. Historically, the area has suffered from one of the highest unemployment rates in the county. On hand to celebrate the opening of the Compton WorkSource Center were 100 members of the community, including CCD Executive Director Gloria Moore; Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; and Michael Dolphin, EDD Los Angeles-Ventura County division chief. Also attending was DOL's Regional Representative Alicia Villarreal. The Compton WorkSource Center will include a learning center named in honor of Secretary Solis, who grew up in Los Angeles County.
The phrase "working lunch" took on a new meaning last Friday when Secretary Solis and Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration Jane Oates stopped by the Potomac Job Corps Center in Washington, D.C. Solis and Oates – along with center director Steven Belk and student leaders – dined on a meal prepared and served by the award-winning culinary class. Following lunch, Solis took a moment to tour the academic wing of the center, which received more than $6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. The money has been used to construct a career technical training complex and expand the course offerings for in-demand trades such as weatherization and HVAC repairs.
At a time when many have to do more with less, partnership is critical to success. The Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have taken note, and are teaming up to advance mine health and safety research. Representatives from the two agencies gathered earlier this week at MSHA's Safety and Health Technology Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Discussions focused on research areas of mutual interest, including underground mine atmospheric monitoring systems, coal dust explosibility meters, and the approval and next generation of self-contained self-rescuers used during mine emergencies. Following the meeting, top MSHA officials met with agency employees and toured several of the facility's laboratories. The day ended with a tour of the Mine Emergency Operations Center.
Georgia Construction Companies Take a Break to Talk Heat Dangers
In the midst of record setting heat, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Georgia Branch of the Associated General Contractors joined together with 31 construction companies in Georgia to discuss the dangers related to working in the heat. "Workers die from heat-related stroke or illness every year, and every one of these deaths is preventable," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator. "We are glad that the construction industry recognizes the importance of this issue and is supporting OSHA's heat illness prevention campaign."
Oates Hosts White House Business Council Roundtable
Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration Jane Oates traveled to the University of Massachusetts Boston Venture Development Center last Thursday for the White House Business Council's Winning the Future roundtable series. The event is part of an administration-wide effort to better communicate with America's businesses and educate them on resources available across the federal government. During the discussion, local employers spoke of a shortage of mid-level employees trained and qualified to work in high-tech start-ups and suggested ways the government can best support their employment and training needs. A local success story, the Venture Development Center has incubated promising, early stage technology and life science companies in an award-winning facility since May 2009. It has quickly become a cutting-edge center for emerging businesses in Boston. State Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne Goldstein, along with 20 high-tech and life science executives from the greater-Boston area were also in attendance.
DOL Supports Veterans Transportation Initiative
The department announced its support for "Veterans Transportation and Community Living, a new funding initiative designed to help ensure that veterans have total access to the full range of affordable transportation services in their communities. As part of an interagency collaboration between the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, the initiative will make $30 million in Section 5309 Bus and Bus Facilities funding available to local governmental agencies. The money will fund capital costs of implementing, expanding and increasing access to local One-Call/One-Click Transportation Resource Centers. Additional resources including training, technical assistance, outreach and social media support will be provided by department agencies like the Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy.
Public Comment Period Extended for Reporting Proposal
The Office of Labor-Management Standards has issued a 30-day extension for public comment on a proposal that would revise the interpretation of "advice" as it pertains to the employer and labor relations consultant "persuader" reporting requirements of section 203 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Public comments now must be received on or before September 21.
Snap it Fast: OSHA Photo Contest Deadline is August 12
August 12 is the deadline to submit your photo to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's "Picture It! Safe Workplaces for Everyone" photo contest. We are relying on the creativity and ingenuity of the public to raise awareness about workplace safety and health across the nation. Since the contest launched in May, more than 200 entries have been submitted to be judged by a panel that includes photography, workplace safety and communications experts from within and outside the Labor Department.
The Bureau of International Labor Affairs will host a web chat on August 10 starting at 10 a.m. (EDT), to answer questions about the agency's fiscal year 2011 Solicitations for Grant Applications. The presentation, which is text-only, will discuss the Global Action Program on Child Labor Issues, Global Evaluation and Monitoring Project, and the Project to Combat Exploitative Child Labor in Sugarcane Growing Areas of the Philippines.
ILAB FY 2011 Solicitation for Grant Applications Chat
Mine safety is getting a funding boost. The Mine Safety and Health Administration will allocate $1 million in grant money for programs that focus on emergency preparedness and mine emergency prevention for underground mines. The Brookwood-Sago grants program is named in memory of the men who died in mining disasters in Brookwood, Ala., and at the Sago Mine in Buchannon, W.Va. "Training is the key to proper and safe emergency response," said MSHA Assistant Secretary Joseph Main. "These funds will enable miners and mine emergency responders to receive the necessary training that may one day save lives if a mine emergency occurs."
Alcoa Mill Products Settles Discrimination Case with Labor Department
Alcoa Mill Products Inc. settled a discrimination case with the U.S. Department of Labor by paying more than $540,000 in back wages to 39 Hispanic, African-American and female applicants who were denied jobs at the company's plant in Lancaster, Pa. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs conducted a scheduled compliance review and determined that the company violated Executive Order 11246, which obliges federal contractors to ensure that qualified job applicants receive equal consideration for employment without regard to their sex, race, color, religion or national origin. "No worker should be denied a job because of factors that have absolutely nothing to do with his or her ability to accomplish the work," said OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu.
Small Businesses "Adding In" Individuals with Disabilities
In remarks Thursday at the National Diversity Forum, Secretary Solis announced the availability of approximately $1.6 million in funding for the Add Us In initiative. This second round of grants is designed to identify and develop strategies to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. "The Labor Department is committed to ensuring that every American who wants a job can find one, including people with disabilities. The Add Us In initiative will help businesses develop strategies to provide a broader range of employment opportunities for this underutilized group of workers," Solis said. Also at the forum, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez participated in an "Oprah-style" conversation to discuss strategies for small and minority-owned businesses to better include people with disabilities in their hiring. The lunch-time discussion with Alexa Posny, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services at the Department of Education and Deputy Assistant Secretary Roberta Gassman from the department's Employment and Training Administration explored how underserved communities can work together to equip disabled youth with the skills that small businesses need.
Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the Labor Department administering the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act. The EEOICPA provides compensation and medical benefits to eligible workers and their survivors who became ill as a result of working in the nuclear weapons industry. Over the last decade, the department has paid more than $7.2 billion to more than 71,000 individuals, including former workers and their survivors. "Since the EEOICPA's inception, the Labor Department has been committed to fulfilling the promises made to Cold War veterans," said Rachel P. Leiton, director of the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation. "I am very proud of the hard work and dedication of our employees."
Job Corps Grad on the Front Lines of DOL Contact Center
When students and parents call the department's National Contact Center with Job Corps questions, program alumni, Rodrigo Salvatierra, is often the one providing useful information. Salvatierra, a Woodstock, Md., Job Corps graduate, fields dozens of calls daily from people seeking advice on Job Corps' enrollment and locations, eligibility, and course schedules. He even takes some calls from employers seeking to hire students. Salvatierra, said his time in Job Corps taught him "social skills and how to interact with people" while improving his command of the English language. He parlayed that training and his desire "to work in customer service" into his current job. In the past year, more than 500,000 calls regarding Job Corps have been handled by the Contact Center.
TAA Helps Twosome Reinvent Their Careers
Secretary Solis has said that the Trade Adjustment Assistance program "can help participants keep food on the table for their families, and train them for new employment opportunities." TAA recipient, Geri Dillon agrees. Dillon was laid off from her high paying finance job with a Michigan manufacturer. TAA allowed her to go back to school and earn a Master's Degree.
Her former employer was so impressed Dillon was hired back at a higher salary. Dillon says, "the government has to invest in its people and their education if it wants to stay a global competitor."
And when Virginia Vaught's job with a semi-conductor manufacturer was outsourced to China, she reinvented herself by taking TAA long distance online training while moving from one state to another. Vaught eventually graduated with a degree from a community college in Washington State. She now works for an Idaho archives center. "The TAA program provided me with peace of mind" and "gave me a sense of self worth" in a new career, Vaught said.
Teaming Up for Greener Healthcare
Funded by an Employment and Training Administration grant, a national initiative led by Healthcare Career Advancement Program, also known as H-CAP, has paved the way for the Los Angeles County and USC General Hospital's Environmental Services department to forge a labor-management partnership called, "Greening Healthcare and Advancing Careers." The project – aimed at reducing waste, promoting recycling, using less toxic chemicals and improving health and safety for patients and staff -- is being piloted under the leadership of H-CAP, Health Care Without Harm; North Seattle Community College; the Service Employees International Union Education and Support Fund and The Labor Management Project. During a recent visit by Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, workers talked about their new understanding of the impact of their work on patient care, as well as their own health and safety.
Agency heads from across the administration joined Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today to sign the "Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898." As part of a commitment to ensuring strong protection from environmental and health hazards for all Americans, federal agencies have agreed to develop environmental justice strategies to protect the health of communities overburdened by pollution. The public will be provided annual progress reports on agency efforts. "No one should have to work in unhealthy or hazardous conditions," said Secretary Solis. "The Department of Labor is pleased to be part of this important initiative to ensure that vulnerable workers have access to information and can voice environmental concerns both about where they live and where they work."
OSHA Cites Georgia-based Contractor Following Worker Fatality
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Creative Multicare Inc. of Stockbridge, Ga., with two willful, five serious and one other-than-serious violation following the death of a worker who was exposed to excessive amounts of methylene chloride while removing paint from a bathtub surface. Proposed penalties total $162,000.
More Than $83K in Back Wages for Texas, Credit Union Employees
Following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division, which found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, American Airlines Federal Credit Union in Fort Worth, Texas, has agreed to pay $83,608 in overtime back wages to 295 tellers, loan officers and customer service representatives. The credit union improperly classified its salaried employees as exempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions and paid them "straight-time" wages rather than time and one-half as required by the FLSA. The company will also properly classify and compensate employees for all hours worked in the future.
The department announced a $3 million National Emergency Grant to create 230 temporary jobs to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts in the aftermath of severe flooding along the Mississippi River in May and June. "Floods dealt a severe blow this spring to many communities in Mississippi," said Secretary Solis. "I am pleased that the Labor Department can support cleanup efforts that will help lead to a sustained recovery for Mississippi's impacted communities."
A $3.75 million National Emergency Grant will provide access to training and support services for approximatley 375 workers affected by the closure of Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome, Ga. The facility is a state-run mental health hospital for developmentally disabled and mentally ill patients, which is scheduled to close on Sept. 30. The grant "will assist workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own," said Secretary Solis. "The training and support they receive will help them obtain new employment in the area's high-growth industries."
Rhode Island Manufacturer Cited after Worker Dies During Testing
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Composite Rigging Ltd. and Co., a North Kingstown, R.I., manufacturer of carbon fiber sailboat rigging, for 18 alleged serious violations following the death of a worker. A sling holding a tensioned rigging cable in a test bed failed, causing the cable to shoot across the room and strike two workers, one fatally. OSHA found that the test bed guards were not utilized to prevent employees from being struck by the cable. The company faces $54,400 in proposed fines.
OSHA Seeks to Improve Whistleblower Protection Program
In a continuing effort to improve the Whistleblower Protection Program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it is implementing additional measures to strengthen the program and is releasing an internal report detailing a recent top-to-bottom program review. "The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their legal rights without fear of retaliation is crucial to many of the legal protections and safeguards that all Americans value," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "The new measures will strengthen enforcement of the 21 whistleblower laws that Congress charged us with administering."
Two Alabama Manufacturers Cited for Safety Violations
Homeland Vinyl Products has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 13 safety violations following an inspection at their vinyl and plastic extruding factory in Birmingham, Ala. Proposed penalties total $56,400. In a separate case, OSHA cited Sunbelt Fabricators Inc. in Steele, Ala., for 21 safety violations. Proposed penalties for the manufacturer of industrial blowers and fans total $44,600. Both inspections were part of the agency’s Site-Specific Targeting program for workplaces with the highest rate of injuries and illnesses.
Puerto Rican Nursing Home Workers to Receive Back Wages
The U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico has approved a consent judgment ordering Hogar La Bendición Inc., a nursing home facility, and company officer Elba Garcia Hernandez to pay nearly $19,000 in back wages and interest to 10 workers employed as caretakers and kitchen staff. The judgment resolves a lawsuit filed by the Department of Labor after a Wage and Hour Division investigation disclosed willful and repeat violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. Separately, the department has assessed the defendants $1,540 in civil money penalties for these willful and repeat violations. Hernandez was the subject of a previous, unrelated Wage and Hour Division investigation, in which she was required to pay $21,026 in minimum wage and overtime back wages.
EBSA Sues North Carolina Fabric Mill Company President
The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Lincolnton, N.C.-based Belding Hausman Inc. and President Curtis Wilford Stowe to restore $144,459 to the defunct company's deferred compensation plan. The Employee Benefits Security Administration alleges that the defendants did not forward $59,230 in employee contributions and $72,703 in participant loan repayments to the plan but commingled those funds with the general assets of the company. The defendants' failure to restore these funds to the plan caused participants to suffer $12,526 in lost earnings through July 2010. "Fiduciaries are obligated to act solely in the interest of plan participants and not to use these plans for the benefit of themselves or their companies. The Labor Department will not tolerate fiduciaries who neglect their responsibilities under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act," said Isabel Colon, acting director of EBSA's Atlanta office.
Former Plumbers Union Official Gets Prison Time for Embezzling
April Franklin, former office secretary and bookkeeper for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 333 in Lansing, Mich., has been sentenced to 42 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release for embezzling more than $400,000 from the union and its apprenticeship fund. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $411,979.37 and perform 300 hours of community service. During an investigation conducted by the department's Office of Labor-Management Standards, the Office of Inspector General and the Employee Benefits Security Administration, it was revealed that Franklin issued herself checks from the training fund to pay for personal expenses and her monthly credit card bill. She also pocketed cash dues remitted by members and falsified accounting records.
OSHA Issues Notices for 37 Violations to Fort Bragg
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued notices for 37 safety and health violations following inspections of the U.S. Army's Fort Bragg installation as part of OSHA's Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program. Among the safety violations were fall hazards due to a lack of a guard rail; a ripsaw not outfitted properly to prevent kickback; and a lower portion blade and crosscut table saw that both lacked machine guards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Trinidad Drilling for three serious and two repeat violations following the fatal electrocution of a worker at the company's job site near Garden City, Texas. The repeat violations involve failing to ensure that flexible electrical cords were properly spliced and failing to inspect flexible cords. The company was fined $91,000 in proposed penalties. OSHA also cited Enterprise Products Transportation following a fatality that occurred at the facility's tank wash operation. Twenty nine serious violations were issued, including failing to install and maintain fall protection equipment, failing to provide safe access to work platforms and to provide the required respiratory protection for employees performing tank wash. Proposed penalties total $160,000.
Amusement Enterprise Pays Thousands in Civil Money Penalties
The department's Wage and Hour Division has assessed $25,295 in civil money penalties against Blue Bayou Waterpark and Dixie Landin' – two Baton Rouge amusement complexes. Investigators cited child labor violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and found that 49 minors, ages 14 and 15, were allowed to work more than eight hours per day. The employer has agreed to comply fully with the FLSA in the future.
The department has recovered $23,636 in minimum and overtime back wages for four employees of Goodfellas Cafe LLC, known locally in New Haven, Conn., as Cafe Goodfellas. The action comes after Wage and Hour investigators found violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Goodfellas Cafe and owner Gennaro Iannaccone were also assessed a civil money penalty totaling $1,870 for willful and recurring FLSA violations.
Monro Muffler Brake Faces More than $180,000 in Fines
Rochester, NY-based Monro Muffler Brake Inc. was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 10 alleged violations of workplace safety standards after an employee was burned in a fire at the company's Hyannis, Mass., location. OSHA investigators found fire hazards from an open gasoline container, the presence of combustibles where a torch was used and employees smoking in the auto service area where combustible fuel is located.
Jackson, Ga.-based C. Scott Fulcher, doing business as 2-Brothers Enterprises Inc., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for two willful and one serious violation following a trench cave-in. OSHA found that the trench walls were vertical with no means of cave-in protection provided. Dirt placed at the edge of the trench had fallen into the trench, trapping the worker who was freed by emergency crews but who later died from his injuries. Penalties total $116,200.
Battery Recycling Company Cited for Hazardous Lead Exposure
Georgia-based Exide Technologies was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with a serious violation for exposing workers to lead at concentrations greater than the reduced permissible exposure limit at the company's facility in Frisco, Texas. A repeat violation was also cited for failing to prevent exposure to lead at concentrations greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period. Proposed penalties total $77,000.
The Wage and Hour Division has fined three berry farms in Southwest Washington a total of $73,050 for violating provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, including employing children as young as six years old as farm laborers. All three employers took immediate steps to come into compliance by removing the underage workers, signing consent judgments permanently enjoining them from violating the FLSA in the future, and requiring them to attend training conducted by the Wage and Hour Division for the next three years.