Secretary Solis and Jane Oates, assistant secretary of Labor for the Employment and Training Administration, visited the Latin American Youth Center in the District of Columbia. A Labor Department grantee since 2007, LAYC's programs and services include educational enhancement; counseling, treatment and case management; community wellness; workforce readiness; residential placement; art and media; healthy recreation; and advocacy. Solis and Oates toured the facility and participated in a lively discussion with 15 program participants. Solis also met with students who painted portraits commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month that were displayed at the department during October.
Secretary Solis traveled to Philadelphia last week to participate in an interactive discussion with 250 attendees of a Social Venture Network Fall Conference focusing on the nation's economic recovery. Topics included current federal job creation incentives and ways business leaders and policymakers can work together to get more Americans back to work. Solis also visited Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School for a discussion with African-American faith and community leaders. She met with mentors and students in the nationally-recognized Amachi mentoring program and toured First Baptist Church of Paschall's home for abused and neglected boys. Her final stop was to Esperanza Academy Charter High School, where she observed experiments and presentations by science, technology, engineering and math students. Solis told the students, "Over the next seven years, there will be 2.5 million job openings in the STEM occupations. That's more than any other field. And people who work in these jobs make a lot more money than people who don't. On average, if you major in a STEM field in college, you will make a half-million dollars more over your life than people in other majors. That's some serious dough. So keep hitting the books. The skills you're learning here and in college will set you up for life."
OFCCP Participates in Disability Employment Forum in Chicago
Representatives of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in Chicago participated in a community forum hosted by NBC-TV5 Chicago and Access Living on the employment of people with disabilities, as part of Disability Awareness Month. Carol Downs and James Chillers from OFCCP's Chicago District Office joined six other community members for a panel discussion. "This was a great opportunity to discuss employment issues with representatives from the city of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and organizations who work on behalf of those with disabilities," said Marvin Jordan, OFCCP's interim deputy regional director in Chicago.
Ft. Meade Job Club Supports Maryland's Military Spouses
Representatives of the department's Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships took a trip to Ft. Meade, Md., this week to join the inaugural meeting of the Ft. Meade Military Spouse Employment Support Group, which provides networking assistance and job search counseling to military spouses, many of whom are new to the area. Staff from Ft. Meade Army Community Service recognized the challenges that military spouses face when they move to a new community and designed the job club to help the participating spouses — mostly women — expand their personal, professional and employer contacts so they are better positioned to land good jobs. The Labor Department has supported the Ft. Meade group through its Job Clubs Community of Practice and looks forward to working with more military bases across the country interested in starting job clubs.
Texas Job Corps Students Give Back on 'Make a Difference Day'
More than 500 of the department's Gary Job Corps students in San Marcos, Texas, have assisted with the cleanup of the devastating fire that destroyed more than 1,300 homes across about 35,000 acres in Bastrop, Texas.
The students joined the estimated 3 million people who participated in "Make a Difference Day" activities nationwide by conducting highway and park cleanups, as well as assisting at a local food bank and helping with fundraising for the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure in Austin.
Leppink Testifies on FLSA
Nancy Leppink, acting administrator for the Wage and Hour Division, testified before Congress on the department's regulatory and enforcement agenda under the Fair Labor Standards Act on Thursday. She told the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, "The act's minimum wage and overtime laws codify the value of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. It is through such laws that societies recognize the value and worth of human effort and provide their members the means to support and nurture strong families."
The National Safety Council Congress and Expo this week in Philadelphia featured Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels, who spoke about the Labor Department's efforts to keep workers safe on the job. Michaels highlighted how OSHA standards have been effective at preventing workplace fatalities and injuries, and discussed OSHA's new initiative involving injury and illness prevention programs. "Injury and illness prevention programs protect workers and improve the bottom line," said Michaels. He was joined by Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Michael Silverstein, assistant director of Washington state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health. "There's no question that [our standards] save lives," Michaels added. The keynote program opened with a 5-minute video recapping OSHA's first 40 years. Michaels also participated in a small forum with local community stakeholders to discuss recent OSHA initiatives and receive feedback about the department and its efforts.
Employee Benefits Security Administration Assistant Secretary Phyllis Borzi is taking her cause to protect workers' retirement savings to groups around the country. In the past week, she has addressed several groups regarding EBSA's efforts to close a much-abused loophole allowing advisers to give conflicted investment guidance to workers with 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts. Addressing the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association in California via the Web she said, "The law is clear. If you're paid to give investment advice then you have an obligation to put your client's interest first, not enrich yourself at your client's expense." Borzi delivered a similar message via online remarks to the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and traveled to New Orleans to address the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. EBSA will issue a proposed rule early next year to better protect workers saving for retirement by ensuring that investment advisers are held more accountable for the advice they provide.
South Florida Students Schooled on Construction Careers, Safety
More than 1,800 high school students from three counties in Florida attended the 10th annual South Florida Construction Career Days event to learn about opportunities in the construction industry, as well as the importance of safety in building and highway construction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration joined with construction partnership Parsons-Odebrecht to sponsor the event, along with a number of other schools, construction companies, engineering firms, government agencies, and professional and trade organizations. Among the various activities, students participated in learning labs on producing asphalt, designing bridges and tying rebar. They also received coaching on writing good resumes and developing interview skills.
The Little Rock Job Corps Center hosted the first-ever culinary expo for the Dallas region on Oct. 17–20. Weber Basin Job Corps Center of Ogden, Utah, took home the gold, winning the overall competition and in categories relating to taste, presentation and originality. The expo kicked off with a keynote address from P. Allen Smith, an award-winning garden and lifestyle designer and host of two public television programs.
Middle and high school students from the Columbia Heights Educational Campus in the District of Columbia welcomed Secretary Solis and Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration Jane Oates on Wednesday. Solis and Oates visited with government, civics and science classes to speak about the importance of math, science and high-tech careers in the global economy. They also encouraged students to explore career options via the Labor Department's "MyNextMove" and "MySkills MyFuture" websites. CHEC is part of the District of Columbia Public Schools system and serves more than 1,200 multicultural students.
The administration's "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" initiative was the topic of discussion when Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration met with representatives from the New Orleans mayor's office this week. Borzi discussed how to work together to spur economic growth in New Orleans with representatives of the mayor's office, the department's Employment and Training Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Domestic Policy Council. SC2 is an Obama administration initiative designed to strengthen local capacity and create jobs in six pilot cities by connecting experienced federal workers with leaders in local government, the private sector and other institutions. The Obama administration has relocated senior officials to New Orleans to help local leaders cut through federal red tape and advance recovery efforts for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as continued efforts after Hurricane Katrina. When Secretary Solis announced New Orleans' selection as one of the pilot cities in July, she said, "We understand that sending checks and issuing mandates from federal buildings a thousand miles away is not the way to rebuild New Orleans. There's a better way. And that's to be here right by your side to support your critical work."
Rev. Jesse Jackson encouraged students to take advantage of their educational opportunities and to learn more about financial literacy and business during a visit to the Atlanta Job Corps Center on Thursday.
For more than four years, the center's work-based learning students have been involved with the Rainbow Push Coalition, an organization founded by Jackson. Throughout the year, students participate in teen workshops and an annual conference that provides training in leadership, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, joined by Auto Recovery Director Jay Williams and Mayor Frank G. Jackson, will host a job clubs symposium on Nov. 9 in Cleveland at Mt. Zion Congregational Church. Job club directors, workforce development officials, faith and nonprofit leaders, employers, job seekers and workers are all invited to participate. Attendees will explore partnerships and discuss ways to strengthen communities by helping the unemployed regain their footing and transition back into the workforce.
CFBNP – Job Clubs Symposium: On the Front Lines of Getting Americans Back to Work
Leading the department's annual "Salute to Veterans" ceremony on Thursday, Secretary Solis used the forum to announce new initiatives designed to help military personnel receive training, find jobs and transition back into civilian life, including a curriculum redesign of the Transition Assistance Program. She also highlighted the findings of "The Veteran Labor Force in the Recovery," a new report that outlines the challenges returning military personnel face in finding employment. Following the ceremony, retired Air Force Col. Lisa Firmin, Army Brig. Gen. Barrye Price and Medal of Honor recipient Paul Bucha participated in a panel discussion with Secretary Solis on issues facing today's veterans.
Job Corps Students Tour Department's Electrical Works
Sixteen students from the Potomac Job Corps Center in the District of Columbia got an up-close look at the inner workings of the department's electrical system on Thursday. Conducted under the auspices of the Home Builders Institute, department electrician Anthony Wyatt (pictured on far left) led the aspiring electricians on a tour of the main mechanical room and cooling tower on the sixth floor. The visit gave the students "a visual experience of what electrical workers do on a job site and a chance to ask questions in what might become their career," said the HBI site supervisor, Gary Shavlik.
Fidos, Feds Get Fit at Humane Society Dog Walk
Department of Labor Fitness Center members in Washington, D.C., volunteered their lunch hours Wednesday to provide companionship, love and affection to shelter dogs during the Washington Humane Society's People & Animal Cardio Klub walk. Under a bright blue sky, people and pooches followed a trail around the Capitol grounds and the National Mall. The adoptable dogs were able to channel their energy and interact with humans while volunteers improved their cardiovascular health under President Obama's "Feds Get Fit" initiative. Virginia Medeiros, from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, walked a white pit bull named Ghost because she "loves animals" and wanted to let the dogs enjoy themselves. Sarah Warren from the Employment and Training Administration said that walking brown boxer Cutie Pie gave both of them a chance at "play time." Anthony Dickinson, also from ETA, said it was fun to give some exercise and affection to his companion, a white pit bull named Blue.
More than 18,000 students from across the country took part in an online Web chat last week with Secretary Solis; the topic: how to prepare today for the jobs of tomorrow. The event was organized by Discovery Education, which provides engaging digital resources to schools and homes to connect classrooms and families to a world of learning. During the live chat, Solis talked with students about job opportunities in growing fields like health care and advanced manufacturing, as well as the importance of STEM (science, technology, education and math) education for America to remain competitive. The event was part of an ongoing partnership between the Labor Department and Discovery Communications to encourage all Americans to explore careers.
ILAB Helps Ghana Children Go to School Instead of Fields
In a visit last week to Ghana, Kevin Willcutts and Samantha Schasberger of the department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs witnessed the progress that is possible when parents make a commitment to their children to substitute schooling for work. Willcutts, ILAB's deputy director, explained, "Our projects help children gain access to education by promoting school enrollment and catch-up classes. We met a boy from a department-funded project who described how this project helped persuade his parents that he should be in school. Before the project, his parents removed him from school a couple of times a week. During the harvest season, he would work on the farm full time. Now his parents encourage him to stay in school and attend classes." Other villagers took note, saying they now understand there are some tasks that children should not be asked to do, such as working with pesticides or carrying heavy loads. ILAB's project is helping change perceptions at the individual and community level about the dangers of child labor and the value of education.
Guam Apprenticeship Program Helps Workers "Earn and Learn"
Secretary Solis announced on Tuesday that the Guam Department of Labor has been formally recognized as the agency that will administer the territory's Registered Apprenticeship system. Through its "earn and learn" model, Registered Apprenticeship will improve opportunities for workers by preparing them for highly skilled careers while earning a paycheck. "Participants in Guam's apprenticeship program will receive a nationally recognized credential, and employers will benefit from a highly skilled workforce that is trained to industry standards," said Secretary Solis. The department's Employment and Training Administration's Office of Apprenticeship has formally recognized apprenticeship agencies in 25 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.
New Alliance Strives to Keep Millions of Restaurant Workers Safe
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently formed an alliance with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United to help reduce and prevent worker exposures to cuts and burns, as well as slip, trip and fall hazards. The ultimate goal is to provide workers and employers with better training on safety hazards and best practices within the restaurant industry, with a special focus on workplace safety issues related to young workers and small businesses. The alliance also will write fact sheets, develop a safety and health booklet, and develop case studies on lessons learned. "Restaurants and other eating and drinking businesses employ 11.6 million people in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of these workers are under 20 years of age," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Many teens' first work experience is in the restaurant industry, so this alliance is a great opportunity to reach these and other restaurant workers and employers to raise awareness of ways to promote safer, more healthful workplaces."
Wage and Hour Division Opens Field Office in Del Rio, Texas
The Wage and Hour Division has opened a new field office in the Del Rio Federal Building. "We are extremely pleased to announce the opening of another Wage and Hour Division office in the state of Texas," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the division in the Southwest. The Del Rio Field Office, which has oversight for agency enforcement throughout the Del Rio metropolitan area as well as southwest Texas, is an extension of the San Antonio District Office. The new office is located at 111 E. Broadway St., Suite A-220. Call 830-703-2125 to receive assistance in English or Spanish.
DOL Working for You
Seniors Empowered to Help New Jersey's Blind
It had been 10 years since Jeanette Robinson-Gordy worked as a teacher, but thanks to a department-funded senior worker initiative, today she serves as a Braille instructor in New Jersey. Robinson-Gordy, who is legally blind, enrolled in the Experience Works Senior Community Service Employment Program and received training in Braille, independent living, mobility and technology skills at the Joseph Kahn Rehabilitation Center in New Brunswick. She did so well in Braille that she was hired by the center to become a Braille instructor. She also completed her master's degree in education. The program "gave me the skills I needed to perform daily and with pride," she said. "Now at 62, the sky is the limit."
North Carolina Training Program Works Like Well-Oiled Machine
After many years in the construction industry, David Waugh suddenly found himself unemployed. But through a continuing education program funded by the Workforce Investment Act, Waugh has reinvented himself as a welder for a machinery manufacturer. Waugh, 51, was given career counseling and received a scholarship through WIA-backed DavidsonWorks in Lexington, N.C., to study welding and take improvement courses in math and computer skills. When he graduated, Waugh entered an on-the-job training program where he sharpened his skills in his new career. He was eventually offered a full-time welding job with the local machinery manufacturer and has now worked his way up to a supervisory position with the company. Waugh said the training he received through the program "laid out the career path and gave me the skills necessary to succeed."
DOL in Action
Black Lung Survivor Benefits Upheld in Court
A key provision of the Black Lung Benefits Act signed into law last year has been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The court upheld benefit eligibility for survivors of miners who were entitled to benefits at the time of their deaths. Prior to the 2010 provision, a survivor had to prove that black lung caused the miner's death to be entitled to benefits, even if the miner was previously receiving benefits at the time of death. B & G Construction Co. challenged the new provision, contending it was unconstitutional under the due process and takings clauses of the Fifth Amendment. The appellate court rejected their contention. "We are committed to providing the benefits that claimants are entitled to under the law — benefits that so many workers and families depend on when black lung has taken away their health and livelihoods," said Office of Workers' Compensation Programs Acting Director Gary A. Steinberg.
Dallas Dough Products Facility Cited for 27 Violations
Anaheim, Calif-based Bridgford Foods Corp. was cited for 27 safety and health violations at its frozen bread dough production facility in Dallas, Texas, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency proposed $422,600 in fines for the violations, which ranged from failing to establish a hearing conservation program to making sure that machines had proper guarding to prevent workers from coming into contact with moving parts. The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Restaurants in Tennessee Pay for Repeat Wage Violations
Two La Campina Mexican Grill restaurants in Piney Flats and Kingsport, Tenn., have agreed to pay $39,232 in minimum and overtime back wages to 23 restaurant workers after investigations by the Wage and Hour Division disclosed willful and repeat violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act at both locations. The department also assessed $4,301 in civil money penalties. The company previously was investigated by the division in 2008 and found to be in violation of the FLSA's record-keeping requirements.
Florida Manufacturing Company Cited for 24 Safety, Health Hazards
An inspection of Sen-Dure Products Inc. in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has resulted in citations for 24 safety and health violations with proposed penalties of $68,600. The manufacturer of industrial radiators and heat exchangers failed to eliminate amputation, fall and electrical hazards. It also exposed workers to hexavalent chromium, lead and loud noises. OSHA initiated its inspection as part of the agency's site-specific targeting program for companies in high-hazard industries.
A re-inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of Milac Manufacturing Inc., a chrome products preparer in Moultrie, Ga., resulted in citations for eight safety violations with total proposed penalties of $110,220. OSHA conducted a follow-up inspection after the company failed to confirm that violations cited in 2010 had been corrected.
Grant Awarded for Recovery Efforts After Texas Wildfires
The department awarded a $1,423,992 National Emergency Grant to the Texas Workforce Commission to create temporary jobs for dislocated workers to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts in the aftermath of wildfires that began in August. "Despite the best efforts of firefighters and emergency crews, this summer brutal wildfires scorched thousands of acres in Texas destroying homes and businesses," said Secretary Solis. "The jobs created by this federal grant will provide paychecks for workers who need them and assistance for communities as cleanup and repair efforts continue."
OLMS Probes Lead to New Union Elections in Calif., SC
A new supervised election has been agreed to by officers of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1309 in San Diego, Calif., following an investigation by the Office of Labor-Management Standards that uncovered infractions in the union's elections last November and December. Among them: at least one ineligible member voted while other union members were not sent ballots. The union's agreement with OLMS calls for a new election for president/business agent, financial secretary-treasurer and two executive board positions. The new election must be held by Feb. 29. Across the country, in West Columbia, S.C., officers of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 334 also have agreed to a new supervised election for president and vice president to be held by Jan. 4. The agreement follows an investigation by OLMS that found some candidates in the union's election this past March had campaigned on work time.
Ohio Company Cited Again for Training Failures
USUI International Corp., an automotive parts supplier that manufactures fuel line metal tubing and plastic fan blades for machinery, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 13 safety and health violations. Two repeat violations, previously cited in May and June 2010, involve failing to enforce and train workers in "lockout/tagout" procedures to prevent equipment from starting up during maintenance. The Monroe, Ohio, company faces proposed fines of $90,600.
Contractor Fined for Fifth-Floor Fall Hazards in NH
When an OSHA inspector observed a construction worker at a Portsmouth, N.H., work site operating without fall protection on a building's fifth-floor level, OSHA opened an investigation. Twin Pines Construction Inc./Teles Construction Inc., a framing contractor based in Everett, Mass., was cited for fall hazards of up to 57 feet at the site. Proposed penalties total $180,100.
About 115 former employees of the Pittsburgh branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland will receive re-employment services under a $504,000 National Emergency Grant awarded by the department. The workers were laid off when the branch consolidated. "This federal grant will assist workers in Pittsburgh who lost their jobs through no fault of their own," said Secretary Solis. "These workers will receive re-employment services and training to help them obtain jobs in Pittsburgh's growing industries."
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Gardner Equipment Co. for safety and health violations at its Columbus and Juneau, Wis., facilities, including one willful violation for failing to ensure that workers used personal protective equipment while painting metal birdhouses at the Columbus facility. OSHA has proposed $125,900 in fines for a total of 22 violations found at the two locations.
Nebraska Grain Handler Cited for Endangering Workers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Cooperative Producers Inc., a grain elevator facility in Franklin, Neb., for six safety violations involving a variety of hazards. OSHA initiated its inspection under a local emphasis program targeting grain handling establishments. Proposed penalties total $126,500.
Whistleblower Protection Rule Under Sarbanes-Oxley Published
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published interim final rules this week in the Federal Register that would revise the regulations governing whistleblower complaints filed under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The act protects employees of publicly traded companies and their subsidiaries, and of certain other employers, from retaliation for reporting mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, Securities Exchange Commission violations or improprieties relating to fraud against shareholders. OSHA is requesting public comment on the interim final rule. "Fraudulent practices by publicly held corporations have contributed to the economic difficulties currently facing our nation," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "The best way to prevent this from happening in the future is to ensure that workers feel free to blow the whistle on corrupt corporate practices without fear of retaliation. OSHA is committed to protecting the rights of those workers to speak out."
Pet Food Co. Hit with More Than $750,000 for Health, Safety Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited All-Feed Processing & Packaging Inc., headquartered in Alpha, Ill., for 23 safety and health violations at its pet food production and packaging facility in Galva. The infractions included willful violations of OSHA's air contaminant, respiratory protection and hearing conservation standards. Some violations were cited under OSHA's "general duty" clause, including failing to provide appropriate fire and explosion protection in locations where concentrations of combustible dust existed. Proposed fines total $758,450.
Civil Penalties Upheld in 2008 Arizona Copper Mine Fatality
Penalties totaling $77,000 against Freeport-McMoran Morenci Inc. will stand. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission has upheld two civil penalties issued to the owner of a surface copper mine in Arizona in the September 2008 death of a miner. The 67-year-old worker was killed at the mine's Number 6 bedding plant in Greenlee County when he fell to his death through an opening on an elevated walkway. The Mine Safety and Health Administration cited the mine operator for failing to properly protect the opening, assessing a $70,000 fine because the violation constituted more than ordinary negligence. MSHA also issued a special assessment of $7,000 for the mine supervisor's culpability in the accident.
Hospital Executives Ordered to Repay $600,000 to Retirement Plan
Two former corporate officers of a community hospital in East Los Angeles have been ordered to repay $600,692 plus post-judgment interest to the ElaStar Community Hospital Retirement Savings Plan. Based on an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration, the department filed a lawsuit alleging that the chief executive officer and chief financial officer of ElaStar delayed and failed to remit contributions and loan payments withheld from employees' paychecks. The officers then comingled the money in other accounts used to fund hospital operations before filing for bankruptcy and closing the hospital in 2004. In addition to restoring the funds, they must pay a 20 percent penalty.