Secretary Solis and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates traveled last Friday to Richmond, Va., to discuss themes from President Obama's State of the Union address. The day began with a meeting at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College with 35 African-American community, faith, education and business leaders. Solis highlighted the Labor
Department's commitment to training and skills development for those in minority and underserved communities, the importance of community colleges and the Summer Jobs+ program. Later, they visited Alstom Power, a manufacturing plant that uses clean, green energy technologies. They saw how the facility repairs power generation equipment in an energy efficient way, showcasing the resilience of American manufacturing during the economic recovery.
More than 600 people gathered last Thursday at the Department of Labor auditorium for two screenings of the film "A Better Life" a story about a father who wants to provide a better future for his son. The first event was tailored for students, while the second featured community leaders and advocates in the D.C. metro area. Film director Chris Weitz, Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator Diana Cortez, Wage and Hour Division investigator Lucia Garcia and DOL senior counselor Irasema Garza served as panelists for a discussion about the film, which was moderated by Secretary Solis. "This film touches upon many issues important to the Latino community from work safety to immigration and I'm glad we could have an open discussion here today," Solis said.
Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris visited the Twin Cities area on Tuesday. He gave a talk to a job club symposium hosted by the department's Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In the afternoon, he toured the Brooklyn Park campus of Hennepin Technical College to see firsthand how community colleges are partnering with local employers and nonprofit organizations to better train American workers to succeed in a skills-based economy. "Jobs Clubs have a critical role to play in helping job seekers regain their footing and transition back into the workforce. They leverage the power of neighbors and communities," Harris said. "Hennepin Tech is showing that the president's plan to invest in community colleges is the right decision. Community colleges around the country are preparing workers for in-demand jobs and creating pipelines for companies that are growing and hiring for the present and the future."
After 20 months of work with more than 100,000 hours logged, the Upper Big Branch Mine accident investigation team was greeted by Secretary Solis in Washington last week. Solis hosted leader Norman Page and the other members of the team that relocated to Beckley, W.Va., for more than a year and a half to complete the most extensive accident investigation in the history of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Solis was joined by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joe Main to thank the team for their hard work, persistence and diligence throughout the investigation, which concluded in December.
Secretary Solis was honored to deliver the keynote address at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund's 2012 Latino State of the Union. The event, hosted at the Newseum last Thursday, was kicked off with remarks by Solis and capped off with an all star panel which included MALDEF President Tom Saenz and other top Latino community advocates. The discussion, which took place in front of about 100 people and broadcasted online to thousands more, focused on civil rights, law and public policy. Solis set the tone, speaking largely about the state of Latinos in almost every sector of our society. "This is indeed a "make-or-break" moment for the Latino community," she said. "Latinos in the middle class and all those trying to get into the middle class need our help more than ever."
Main Gets First-Hand Look at New Coal Mining Technology
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main recently visited three coal mines to catch up on the latest mining technology put in place by Consol Energy and Alpha Natural Resources. Last Friday, Main traveled to Emerald Mine in western Pennsylvania for a demonstration of a new rock dust method called foam dusting currently in development by Strata Mine Services and DSI Underground Systems. Three days later, Main and members of his staff headed to northern West Virginia, where officials of Robinson Run No. 95 Mine showcased a wireless voice and text communication system that enables mine personnel at the surface to connect with workers hundreds of feet underground. The final leg of the tour occurred in Greene County, Pa., at the Bailey Mine. Along with Consol's Lou Barletta and Todd Moore, Main traveled underground to observe mine haulage equipment outfitted with a proximity detection system. Such systems provide audible and visual warnings and stop mobile machines before a pinning or crushing accident occurs. "These kinds of trips are invaluable opportunities to understand how the mining industry is progressing and what we need to focus our attention on to improve miner safety and health," said Main.
Jay Williams, director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, joined the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at North Phoenix Baptist Church yesterday for another job club symposium. Williams discussed the important role the manufacturing sector plays in our economy to create new jobs and highlighted President Obama's "insourcing" proposals from his recent State of the Union address for bringing good-paying manufacturing jobs back to the United States. The event also featured two informative panels about the success of Phoenix area job clubs in serving the long-term unemployed.
Borzi Joins Discussion on New Ideas for Retirement Saving
Current retirement models may not do enough to help workers be financially secure in their post-career lives. This was the premise of the "Re-imagining Pensions," conference hosted on Capitol Hill this week by the Pension Rights Center; The Urban Institute; and Covington and Burling. Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration Phyllis Borzi participated in a morning panel, responding with questions to presenters who offered their ideas for re-working current retirement models. Borzi agreed that there is a need to help a greater number of workers save more for retirement and pointed out that any changes to the current system would need to address a number of potential concerns before being implemented.
The department's Employee Benefits Security Administration will hold a free women's retirement savings forum on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 12:30 3:30 p.m. EST at Bunker Hill Community College, lecture hall C202. Held in coordination with the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, "Women and Retirement: What Every Woman Should Know Before It's Too Late" will be open to the public and the media.
EBSA Women and Retirement: What Every Woman Should Know Before it's Too Late
Secretary Solis joined Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, on a whirlwind bus tour this week to highlight innovative ways that community colleges are partnering with businesses to train students for jobs in high growth industries. The tour began Wednesday at Columbus State Community College where Solis and Dr. Biden learned about a number of programs including LogisticsArt,
which works with 16 central Ohio
companies and has placed over 1,000 students in local jobs. This success has encouraged school officials to expand the program to the information technology and insurance industries. The bus then traveled to Centerville, Ohio, where Solis and Dr. Biden learned about the transformation of DimcoGray from a traditional manufacturer of plastic parts to a high-tech medical equipment business through partnership with Sinclair Community College and BioOhio. The first leg of the tour ended at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College which
is leading ten partners in a department-funded, $20 million Trade Adjustment Act Community College Career Training grant to replicate its successful Health Careers Collaborative program training nurses and other health care practitioners. These programs are examples of the types of training partnerships the president is looking to expand through the $8 billion Community College to Career Fund which would help community colleges develop curriculum that will meet the needs of local businesses. Following the events in Ohio, the bus made its way to Lexington, Ky., for the night, stopping by the UPS hub in town to say hello to UPS' twilight sort employees.
The Bureau of International Labor Affairs participated in the annual Human Resources Development Working Group meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Moscow, Russia. During the Feb. 5-10 meeting, Chris Watson of ILAB outlined best practices for countries that seek to bring more people into the formal economy by enhancing protections through the social safety net.Watson also distributed a questionnaire designed to generate dialogue among the participating countries on the need for an inclusive approach that ensures that people with disabilities are integrated into the 21st century workforce. Participants included representatives of 17 Asia-Pacific countries. The working group's next general meeting is scheduled to take place in Indonesia in 2013.
Agreement with Louisiana to Reduce Misclassification of Employees
Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, and Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink entered into a memorandum of understanding on Thursday regarding the improper classification of employees as independent contractors. This partnership is the 13th of its kind for the Department of Labor. "This memorandum of understanding helps us send a message: We're standing united to end the practice of misclassifying employees," said Leppink.
WB: 'African-American Women in the Military: Past and Present'
The Women's Bureau and The Black Archives of Mid-America will present "African-American Women in the Military: Past and Present," featuring an intergenerational panel of African-American women veterans on March 10 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. CDT at The Black Archives of Mid-America, 1722 E. 17th Terrace, Kansas City, Mo. 64108. Attendees are asked to pre-register for the free event. This event kicks off a year-long focus on women veterans being developed by the Women's Bureau, which will highlight their current employment opportunities and reintegration into the civilian workforce. To RSVP, send an email to Olivia Schuckman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Time Allotted to Comment on Caregiver Proposal
The comment period on a proposed rule to extend wage protections to workers who provide in-home care services has been extended by 14 days. Originally set to conclude on Feb. 27, the comment period has been extended to March 12. The rule proposed by the department's Wage and Hour Division would extend the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime pay requirements to nearly 2 million workers who are currently exempt because they are classified as "companions." If enacted, the proposal would clarify that companionship services are those directly related to the fellowship and protection of a care recipient.
The department has scheduled three webinars and one public briefing to educate stakeholders, program users and other interested members of the public on changes to the H-2B program made by a final rule and applying for temporary labor certifications under the new regulations. The rule will be effective on April 23. Each webinar is limited to 200 participants. The department encourages organizations or other groups of participants to access the webinars together from a single, centralized location to maximize attendance.
Tyler Morgan overcame tough, sometimes homeless teen years to proudly graduate from Oregon's Tongue Point Job Corps with a culinary certificate. So winning an audition to perform on American Idol at the same time was for him icing on the cake! Morgan, one of 7,000 local contestants who auditioned for the show's judges, continued in the competition with his singing of an original up tempo song. The 18-year-old cannot comment on his eventual fate since the show's final outcome has yet to be broadcast. Morgan, however, did say he is now "back in the real world," prepared to put his education to good use as a chef while not giving up his dream of becoming a recording artist. Job Corps "gave me foundational skills and taught me how to stay calm," he said.
OWCP Examiners Win Benefits for California Widow
Thanks to the persistence of claims examiners in the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs' Long Beach District Office, a California widow now has all of the benefits to which she's entitled. OWCP examiner Benjamin Guillermo reviewed more than 20 years of payments to Rosa Marie Tovar, whose husband, Alfredo, died on the job in 1986. After discovering that Mrs. Tovar's insurance carrier had neglected to apply annual cost-of-living adjustments to her benefits, Guillermo and colleague Michele Pappagianis worked for months to secure more than $200,000 in back-owed benefits and interest. Mrs. Tovar said that the payment will help her make student loan payments for her children, Alfredo and Esmeralda. Marco Adame, district director of OWCP's Long Beach office, called Guillermo and Pappagianis' effort "a great example of how our day-to-day work can make a huge positive impact on injured workers and their families."
DOL in Action
$32 Million Returned to Tribune Employee Stock Ownership Plan
The Employee Benefits Security Administration has announced that Tribune Co., GreatBanc Trust Co. and various insurance carriers have completed funding of a global settlement in the amount of $32 million to be allocated among the Tribune Employee Stock Ownership Plan's participants, and to pay for legal and administrative expenses. The settlement is with, among others, the department and the plaintiffs in a private class action lawsuit, and resolves the department's claims of violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. "The settlement ensures that the Tribune Employee Stock Ownership Plan's participants and beneficiaries will be able to receive the benefits that are rightfully theirs," said Secretary Solis. "I am pleased that participants' hard earned retirement savings have been returned."
This week, Secretary Solis announced the availability of $12 million for grants through the Workforce Data Quality Initiative, which will enable states to build or expand longitudinal databases that link workforce and education data to improve understanding about the performance of workforce development programs. "The grants awarded through this initiative will result in high-quality, long term data that will provide consumers, practitioners and policymakers with comprehensive information about the relationship between education and workforce development programs," she said.
List Industries Cited for Repeat and Serious Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $56,000 in penalties against List Industries Inc. after an inspection of its Deerfield Beach, Fla., manufacturing plant found amputation hazards that previously had been cited during OSHA inspections in 2007 and 2009.
Jeffboat Cited After Worker Fatality at Barge Manufacturing Facility
Jeffboat LLC has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for nine safety including one willful violations at its Jeffersonville, Ind., facility after a worker was fatally crushed when he became trapped between a malfunctioning transfer car and a barge. Proposed fines total $119,000.
Lawsuits Filed Against Farmer, Contractors in South Florida
The Labor Department is suing farm labor contractors and a South Florida grower over alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act that occurred during the 2011 green beans harvest in Miami-Dade County. The department is asking that Fisteac Farm Labor Inc., Joseph Fisteac, Ledford Farms and Troy Ledford pay workers three years of back wages and an equal amount of liquidated damages.
Employees Exposed to Electrical Hazards in San Antonio
Fresh From Texas has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with eight serious violations for exposing workers to numerous electrical hazards at the company's facility in San Antonio, including failing to ensure that workers were provided with adequate working space around electrical equipment, to ensure that the working space was not used for storage and not properly covering electrical equipment such as condenser units. Proposed penalties total $40,500.
New York Union President Sentenced for Embezzlement
Guy Masocco, former president of Steelworkers Local 897 in Cheektowaga, N.Y., was sentenced to 10 months of home confinement and three years of probation, and ordered to pay $31,701 in restitution after pleading guilty in August 2011 to embezzling from his union. An Office of Labor-Management Standards investigation found that, from December 2004 to November 2009, Masocco used his union credit card for personal expenses and submitted false claims to the union for reimbursement of wages he said he lost while conducting union business.
2 Workers Suffer Finger Amputations in Mount Enterprise, Texas
Mount Enterprise, Texas-based J.P. Spivey Supply has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and 13 serious safety and health violations after two workers had fingers amputated from coming into contact with a moving saw blade while cutting material. Proposed penalties total $57,200.
Defunct Company Ordered to Restore $661K to Retirement Plan
Compass Capital Partners Ltd. and owner Harris M. DeWese have been ordered to restore $661,206 to the defunct West Chester, Pa., company's retirement plan under a summary judgment obtained by the department. An investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration found that DeWese withdrew funds from the plan eight times from October 2006 to October 2007 and deposited them in his personal account and a Compass Capital Partners bank account. "These actions show a flagrant breach of fiduciary responsibility," said Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security.
2 Florida Companies Cited After Explosion at Gas Station
Coomes Oil & Supply Inc. and Florida Rock & Tank Lines Inc. have been cited by the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety hazards after an employee of the latter company was burned in an explosion at the 5th Wheel gasoline station in St. Augustine, Fla. Proposed penalties to both companies total $77,000.
Companies Cited After Complaint Filed on Behalf of Foreign Students
After responding to a complaint on behalf of foreign students hired under the U.S. Department of State's J-1 visa program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations totaling nearly $290,000. Exel Inc., which manages a Palmyra, Pa., facility for the Hershey Co., was issued nine citations for record keeping violations, and one for failure to develop and implement an effective hearing conservation program. SHS Group LP, a temporary staffing provider at the facility, was issued one citation for its failure to provide training on lockout/tagout of energy sources to employees.
Trinidad Drilling Cited for Exposing Workers to Fall, Electrical Hazards
Trinidad Drilling has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing workers to falls and electrical hazards at the company's worksite at Well No. 1H, Phantom Wolfcamp, northwest of Barstow, Texas. Proposed penalties total $79,805.
Precision Drilling Cited for Exposing Workers to Safety Hazards
Precision Drilling Co. L.P. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with serious and repeat safety violations following an inspection of the company's work site northeast of Pecos, Texas. The serious violations are failing to ensure portable fire extinguishers were kept in their designated places and to remove or repair damaged electrical cords. Proposed penalties total $69,300.
Assistance for Minnesota Workers Impacted by Flooding
A $477,065 National Emergency Grant will provide continued temporary employment for eligible dislocated workers assisting with cleanup and recovery efforts made necessary by the severe storms and floods that hit southeastern Minnesota in 2010.
Summit Equipment & Supply Cited with 24 Safety Violations
Summit Equipment & Supply has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 24 safety violations for failing to provide adequate guards on machinery and train workers in proper safety procedures at its Akron, Ohio, facility, among other hazards. OSHA opened the investigation on Aug. 25, 2011, after receiving a complaint alleging unsafe working conditions. Proposed fines total $56,400.
Basic Grain Products Cited After Worker Injured by Conveyor Belt
Basic Grain Products Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 13 safety violations for failing to ensure hazardous energy sources were secured, among other dangers. OSHA opened an inspection in September based on a complaint that a worker had suffered sprains, multiple lacerations and contusions as a result of having clothing become caught in a conveyor belt that had not been properly locked out prior to maintenance and cleaning activities. Proposed fines total $112,000.
Grants Announced to Train Workers in High-Skill, High-Demand Jobs
Traveling through Cincinnati, Ohio, to promote a Community College to Career bus tour, Secretary Solis announced more than $183 million in grants to provide education, training and job placement assistance for American workers in high-growth industries such as advanced manufacturing, energy, health care and information technology through the second round of the H-1B Technical Skills Training Grant Competition. The grants, funded through fees paid by employers to bring foreign workers into the United States under the H-1B program, are intended to prepare American workers for these jobs and to help businesses reduce their need to use the H-1B program.
Georgia Air Products Manufacturer Cited for Safety, Health Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $53,300 in penalties against air distribution products manufacturer Price Industries Inc. after identifying 13 safety and health violations at the company's Suwanee, Ga., plant. OSHA's October inspection was initiated in response to a complaint.
Milk Specialties Cited with Willful, Other Violations After Fire at Facility
Milk Specialties Co. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with three safety violations, including one willful violation for combustible dust hazards. OSHA opened an inspection following a report of a fire resulting from a dust explosion in a machine at the company's Fond du Lac, Wis., facility. Proposed fines total $72,000.
Jones General Contracting Cited with Trenching Violations
Ten serious citations have been issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Jones General Contracting LLC, based in Woodbury, Ga., for violations found at a water line installation site. OSHA began an inspection in October after receiving a complaint about safety conditions in trenches being dug to install pipes. Proposed penalties total $40,200.
Louisiana's Department of Children and Family Services Violates FMLA
Louisiana's Department of Children and Family Services in Baton Rouge, La., has agreed to pay a former employee $36,599 following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act when the employee was terminated after missing work due to a serious health condition.
Amy Food Cited for Exposing Workers to Possible Amputations
Amy Food Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with one willful, four serious and three other-than-serious citations for exposing workers to possible amputation hazards at the company's Houston facility. OSHA initiated a safety inspection following a complaint alleging that several employees had suffered near amputation incidents while operating machinery. Proposed penalties total $77,100.
Wisconsin Grain Co-op Cited for Failing to Protect Workers from Falls
Landmark Services Cooperative, a Wisconsin grain cooperative, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with one willful safety violation for failing to protect workers from falls while they were loading grain products into rail cars at the co-op's Evansville facility. Proposed fines total $70,000.