Illinois may be known as the "Land of Lincoln," but here's another moniker for the state: "Land of Labor Secretaries." Five (Durkin, Goldberg, Wirtz, Shultz and Martin) out of the 25 secretaries of labor
called Illinois their home.
There is a three-way tie — New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts — for the state claiming the second most labor secretaries (with three each). Two secretaries are Pennsylvanians, and happen to be the first and second secretaries of labor.
Young Workers' Savings Webinar
Secretary Solis spoke to college seniors and young adults new to the workforce on Wednesday about paying down student loans and debt and starting a savings plan. Nearly 150 people took part in a webinar hosted by the Employee Benefits Security Administration and other groups as part of National Financial Capability Month. Solis encouraged them to take advantage of employer-sponsored benefits, such as help with student loan payments and retirement
OSHA's Michaels Talks Safety
The American Iron and Steel Institute's Occupational Health and Safety Committee met this week in Washington, and Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, stopped by to highlight current OSHA initiatives. He stressed the importance of compliance and that a true commitment to workplace safety has to start at the top, reiterated OSHA's mission to protect the health and safety of America's workers, and invited the industry group to join in that mission.
All Boats Lead to Tampa
Returning to the Port of Tampa for a second time, Secretary Solis made the case for the administration's plans to increase exports to Latin American countries. "This port helps generate $8 billion of economic activity a year, and it supports nearly 100,000 jobs," Solis said. "You could fill Tropicana Field twice with the workers employed because of this port. We know how important it is to keep American-made goods flowing out of these waters, because when we do, good jobs flow in to the great state of Florida."
In her previous visit last fall, Solis made the case for infrastructure investments in ports, roads and bridges as part of the American Jobs Act. On this trip, she accompanied President Obama and talked about her work on the president's Export Council, noting that a doubling of U.S. exports by 2014 would be a key catalyst for economic growth.
Many workers have not saved enough for retirement and have not thought about what their financial needs will be when they leave the workforce. That was the sobering message Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi delivered this week at a forum on retirement readiness hosted by The Catholic University of America law school in the nation's capital. “Early retirees in particular, tend to underestimate long-term needs, including medical costs," Borzi said. “And, when workers have the option, they tend to take their nest egg in a lump-sum distribution when they retire, not knowing how to make that money last." To help workers enjoy a secure retirement, EBSA is examining the use of a lifetime income illustration in benefits statements, as well as ways to encourage employers to provide their workers with an income stream, such as monthly payments.
Labor-management apprenticeships have leveraged more than $750 million in private-sector investment to train American workers. And mentoring partnerships that bring together companies, labor unions, nonprofits and government can make a crucial difference in 21st century global economic competitiveness. That was Secretary Solis' message during her keynote address Tuesday at the Robert M. Mill Lecture Series at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa. She noted that more than 400,000 workers are enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs and earn an average of $50,000 upon graduation. In Allegheny County, nearly 100 different registered apprenticeship programs serve thousands of workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Solis praised the work of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for their efforts in this area, and also highlighted New Century Careers, which trains 1,000 Pennsylvanians for entry-level manufacturing jobs and helps another 7,000 existing manufacturing employees upgrade their skills. Solis noted that the U.S. manufacturing sector has created 470,000 jobs since January 2010, and said those numbers should continue to grow if industries make a commitment to train workers from within their own ranks.
Pizza may be the universal sustenance of college students, so to illustrate the pay gap in the workplace, women students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City were given two pieces of pizza for each one piece given male students to make the point that women have to work nearly twice as hard as men to receive equal pay.
The pizza motif was part of an
Equal Pay Day Rally Wednesday where students learned how the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provide services for women and the role each plays in fighting discrimination in the workplace. The rally was a collaborative effort by the department's regional Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Women's Bureau, the EEOC and the Career Services and Women's Center of the University of Missouri Kansas City.
Safety Stand Down in Georgia
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is partnering with construction contractors, the Federal Highway Administration, the state of Georgia and local government organizations to sponsor a safety stand-down hour at construction sites around Georgia during National Highway Work Zone Awareness Week, April 23-27. "The stand-down will heighten construction workers' awareness of and ability to identify and eliminate work-related hazards," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator for the Southeast.
The Wage and Hour Division is launching an enforcement and education initiative designed to prevent minimum wage, overtime,
record-keeping and child labor violations at Los Angeles area restaurants. Investigators will make unannounced visits to restaurants throughout Los
Angeles County, where nearly 72 percent of all restaurants investigated in the past six years were in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Those violations resulted in $2.2 million in minimum and overtime back wages owed to more than 1,400 workers.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration will host a retirement savings forum on Saturday, April 28, from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. EDT at Spelman College in Atlanta.
The "African Americans and Retirement: What You Should Know Before It's Too Late" forum is open to the public and the media. Space is limited to the first 150 registrants.
A proposed tribal consultation policy, creating a formal process through which the department will engage with federally recognized tribes, is open for comment in the Federal Register. "This policy aims to strengthen the U.S. government's interactions with sovereign tribal nations. We look forward to receiving feedback and implementing the policy," said Secretary Solis. A series of consultative listening sessions, including meetings with representatives of the Native American community, the department's Native American Employment and Training Council, and the National Congress of American Indians, preceded finalization of the proposal.
As the economic recovery has taken hold, nearly 85 percent of the job creation in the past two years has been driven by the growth of small and medium sized businesses. The critical importance of this business community to the overall economy was the main message of Adriana Kugler, chief economist to Secretary Solis, during the Power of Small Summit held at Georgetown University this week. Kugler spoke about the main challenges faced by small businesses and the role that the Labor Department and the Obama administration have played in providing training, tax breaks and access to credit to small businesses. Attendees at the summit, organized by SAP and Georgetown University, consisted of business organizations, small business owners and government officials.
Partnerships in Maryland
The Rev. Phil Tom, director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, addressed the winter semester graduation ceremony of CASA de Maryland's Workforce Training Program. CASA's partnership with Prince George's Community College and Montgomery Community College offers specialized vocational training courses, including blueprint reading, ceramics and tiling, computer repair, and international cuisine. The partnership brings community college courses off-campus and into community centers, increasing accessibility for community residents, many of whom juggle work, school, and family obligations. CASA students also received workforce safety and hazards training supported by a Susan Harwood grant through the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The Frances Perkins Building stands at the base of Capitol Hill and overlooks a part of the Mall a place that provides a window on history. That was the case Tuesday when the space shuttle Discovery flew over the Capitol, the Mall, the White House and much of the Potomac River. Here's our vantage point on the shuttle, and the tip of our hat to NASA and to the Discovery, one of NASA's hardest working spaceships.
The Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation will host a traveling resource center in Amherst, New York, to provide information about a new class of former employees of the Linde Ceramics Plant located in Tonawanda, New York, recently added to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act's Special Exposure Cohort.
OWCP Traveling Resource Center to Assist Nuclear Weapons Workers
In Ohio, President, Secretary See Skills in Action
In 1980, 43 percent of Lorain County, Ohio's, workforce was involved in manufacturing, including many in assembly line occupations.
Today, that number is less than 16 percent. All across America, such changes have led to the need for entire communities to quickly reinvent
themselves through training in order to take advantage of today's growing employment opportunities. Enter Lorain County Community
College, which played host to President Obama and Secretary Solis this week during a visit to highlight the impact of federal funding for
job training. During the visit, the president sat down with students in the college's
transformations program for computerized numerically controlled machining,
which places more than 90 percent of participants in jobs within three months of graduation. The program, funded
through the Workforce Investment Act, provides critical services for unemployed workers, helping them land jobs in high-demand advanced manufacturing fields. Speaking before a packed house, Lorain County Community College President Roy Church said, “As a region, we are at a pivotal moment.
Our ability to help companies grow jobs relies on having a ready talent pool, but many of these jobs are very different from even a few years ago. Ensuring that the college and its workforce partners are offering the right training and education to prepare people for these jobs is our highest priority."
Turning the Unemployment System Into a Re-Employment System
In an ongoing effort to improve the functionality and efficiency of the Unemployment Insurance system, the Department of Labor on Thursday announced guidance to states seeking to revamp their UI programs to help their unemployed obtain jobs faster. The announcement kicked off the first overhaul of the Unemployment Insurance system in decades. The department will award up to 10 states the opportunity to incorporate innovative re-employment strategies in their UI programs to help the unemployed get back to work more quickly, while also lowering costs and ensuring that participants receive vital worker protections. This guidance is the first of several reforms to the UI system that will provide states with more flexibility to respond to changes in the economy, provide employers with tools to avoid layoffs, help the unemployed get back to work faster, and expand "start up" opportunities.
Each year, National Equal Pay Day reflects how far into the current year women must work to match what men earned in the previous year. This year, April 17 marked that day. Nearly 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women, on average, are still paid less than men. For the average working woman, this pay gap means $150 less in her weekly paycheck, $8,000 less at the end of the year, and $389,000 less over a lifetime. For women of color and women with disabilities, the disparity is even bigger. The White House Equal Pay Task Force, which includes DOL professionals and others who work to combat pay discrimination, released a report in conjunction with Equal Pay Day. The report details the significant progress that the task force has made to fight pay discrimination. On Friday, April 20, at noon EDT, join a Twitter chat about equal pay for women by following hashtag #EqualPayChat.
Earlier this year, Secretary Solis announced the Equal Pay App Challenge
inviting software developers to use labor data and other online resources to create apps that promote equal pay. The department received an enthusiastic response to the challenge and now anyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer can find tips on important salary topics, including typical pay ranges, skill-level requirements for certain jobs, and how to negotiate salaries.
The Summit of the Americas are institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas. From April 13 – 15, Secretary Solis accompanied President Obama to the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, where the president met with leaders of Latin America, the Caribbean and Central America to discuss the mutual challenges facing the hemisphere on such issues as sustainable economic growth, foreign policy, national security and more opportunities for people and businesses. As part of the administration’s delegation, Solis participated in highly productive bilateral meetings with Colombian Minister of Labor Rafael Pardo and Colombian labor leaders. In a teleconference with the White House press corps, Solis noted that Colombia has made very impressive strides on workers' rights but many challenges remain. She also reiterated the department’s commitment to work side by side with Colombia on overcoming those challenges. Solis said, “Improving the labor situation in Colombia is a priority for the Obama administration and my Department of Labor. We are in this for the long term. We know that meaningful and sustainable change takes time, and we will be there every step of the way to see this through.”
The top labor officials from Germany and the United States agree that robust worker training programs are essential to building dynamic 21st century economies. It was one of many areas of agreement between Secretary Solis and German Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen during a discussion on labor reforms held Thursday at the Newseum and moderated by Ed Luce of the Financial Times. More than half of Germany's young people participate in an apprenticeship program one reason that Germany has the lowest unemployment rate and highest manufacturing export totals in the European Union. Solis agreed that expansion of the Department of Labor's registered apprenticeship program and the Obama administration's community college initiative are two important ways for the United States to remain competitive in the advanced manufacturing sector. The leaders also discussed the success of Germany'sprogram that encourages companies to reduce employee hours in lieu of layoffs as a smart strategy to weather economic downturns. The Obama administration has pushed a similar work-sharing program, which is used in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
$20 Million In Grants Available to Enhance Disability Employment
The department has announced the availability of $20 million in grants to fund cooperative agreements that will improve educational, training and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The department expects to award six-to-10 grants, ranging from $1.5 to $6 million, to be spent over a three-year period. The solicitation for grant applications is the third round of funding through the Disability Employment Initiative, a joint program of the Employment and Training Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy.
Delta Air Lines Agrees to Corporatewide Safety Measures
Following a 2010 workplace fatality, Delta Air Lines has signed a corporatewide settlement agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect workers who operate baggage handling vehicles.The agreement, which relates to the use of seat belts, covers approximately 90 of the Atlanta-based company's airport sites that fall under federal OSHA's jurisdiction, as well as 16,000 Delta employees and 6,000 baggage handling vehicles. “OSHA's corporatewide settlement agreements are highly effective tools for ensuring that companies address hazards that can injure or kill their workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This kind of widespread change within corporations can go a long way toward keeping workers across the country safe and healthy at the end of every workday." The agency recently sent a hazard alert letter to airlines across the nation reminding them that they are obligated to comply with applicable seat belt use requirements.
Benefits.gov Celebrates 10 Years of Citizen Service
The Benefits.gov program celebrated its 10th anniversary and track record of success in serving the American public on Monday. Benefits.gov, formerly GovBenefits.gov, has increased public access to critical information regarding government benefits and has reduced the cost of providing benefits information. "For the past 10 years, Americans have been able to turn to Benefits.gov as the trusted online source for the information about government benefits and eligibility that they need. The Department of Labor is proud to be part of the Benefits.gov partnership, and I congratulate the website on this important milestone," Secretary Solis said. Benefits.gov is the product of a collaborative partnership of 17 federal agencies, and the Department of Labor is the managing partner.
Online Tool Highlights Job, Training in Health Care
Virtual Career Network, a new online tool that allows people to explore more than 80 different health care occupations and tap into job listings, was launched this week. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates made the announcement at a Goodwill Industries International conference April 17 in Washington. Goodwill, along with two other department grantees, received funds to ensure that local training centers in nearly 100 sites across the nation have the appropriate number of computers, sufficient Internet connections and trained career coaches to make use of the Virtual Career Network and provide in-person support for job seekers. The virtual network is sponsored by the Employment and Training Administration under the leadership of the American Association of Community Colleges and is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will hold a meeting of the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health on May 3 in Washington. The council advises Secretary Solis on all matters relating to the occupational safety and health of federal employees, including reducing injuries and illnesses, and how to encourage federal agencies to establish effective safety and health programs. The tentative agenda includes review of revised recommendations on permissible exposure limits, proposed changes to the Federal Agency Recordkeeping rule, and H1N1 recommendations recently approved by the secretary.
Where in the World Is Job Corps Grad Tamika Sherin?
In any given week, you might find Job Corps graduate Tamika Sherin in Rome, London, Los Angeles or New York. The Continental Airlines flight attendant attributes her career success to the education and experience she received at New York's Cassadaga Job Corps Academy. After leaving home at 17, Sherin held a series of low-paying jobs and then completed a stint in the Army. At 24 she enrolled in Job Corps "to focus on my education and training and not worry about rent or bills." She graduated with her high school diploma and a certificate in office skills and was hired by the airline. Sherin mentors Job Corps students, telling them, "complete the task at hand and get your education."
Back in the Workforce and Giving Back to the Community
After being out of the labor force for 24 years, Connie Runyon refreshed her job skills and found employment through the department-funded Mature Worker Program. Runyon took computer courses offered by the Southwestern Community Action Council in West Virginia. They helped place her in an on-the-job training position with a local child advocacy organization. She now works full time for that group as an office manager. Runyon, 59, said the program "gave me the opportunity and the confidence to work and give back to the community." The program's Alissa Stewart said her organization's motto is, "If you have the will, we'll find a way."
It Happened on the Hill
Highlighting the Success of the Public Workforce System
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates in Senate testimony on Tuesday, highlighted the leadership role the public workforce system plays in developing training programs, the need to develop competency models and ongoing partnerships at the federal, state and local levels. She testified as part of a panel before the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion. The subcommittee also heard from Education Department Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter and Roger D. Kilmer, director of the Commerce Department's Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The panel focused on promoting American competitiveness by filling jobs today and training workers for tomorrow.
DOL in Action
Brokerage Company to Pay More Than $633,000 to Pension Plans
Morgan Keegan and Co. Inc. has agreed to pay $633,715.46 to 10 pension plans following an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration that found pension rule violations. The full-service brokerage company violated federal law when it recommended certain hedge funds of funds as investments to employee benefit plan clients covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. These recommendations resulted in the hedge funds of funds paying Morgan Keegan revenue-sharing and other fees. The investigation was conducted by EBSA's Atlanta Regional Office. "The law is very clear: If you accept a fee to give investment advice to a retirement plan, you are a fiduciary and must therefore act solely in the best interests of the participants in that plan," said Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security. "Third-party payments should never be the motivating factor behind which investments brokers and advisers steer retirement clients into."
Child Labor Violations Found at Midwest Candy Store Chain
Candyopolis, a retail confectionary chain in the Midwest, has been assessed $12,000 in civil penalties by the department after investigations by the Wage and Hour Division found teens at seven stores were allowed to perform hazardous jobs prohibited by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The investigations, conducted at 13 stores in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, also disclosed violations of the FLSA's minimum wage, overtime pay and record-keeping requirements, resulting in back wages totaling $6,737.40 for 275 employees.
Boomerang Rubber Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 31 health and safety violations including two willful and five repeat after a worker's arm was amputated while he was performing maintenance on a rubber processing machine at the truck mat and mud flap manufacturing plant. OSHA initiated an inspection of the company's facility in Botkins, Ohio, on Oct. 6, 2011, under the agency's National Emphasis Program on Amputations. Proposed penalties total $265,160.
Applied Property Management Co. Inc. in Hoboken, N.J., has agreed to pay $73,990 in back wages to seven maintenance workers following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division’s Northern New Jersey District Office. Investigators found that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay an overtime premium to the maintenance workers, who also served as live-in superintendents at the company’s properties, when they worked more than 40 hours per week.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sued LOTO Services LLC and its owner, Allan R. Lochhead, doing business as Aquatech Canvas & Consignment, for allegedly terminating an employee because the person raised health concerns about rodent infestations at the company’s facility in Stuart, Fla. The lawsuit resulted from an OSHA investigation that found the firing violated whistleblower protections in the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The suit seeks to have the employee reinstated and paid back wages, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.
The Guam Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers Local 1581, based in Mangilao, Guam, has agreed to conduct new nominations, a new election, and installation for the office of president under supervision by the Office of Labor-Management Standards. An OLMS investigation revealed that 137 union members in good standing were denied a reasonable opportunity to vote in the 2011 election when seven polling sites, listed on the notice of the election as sites at which balloting would be conducted, did not open. The violation only affected the outcome of the election for the office of president.
Flooring Manufacturer Cited After NJ Fatality
American Biltrite Inc., which manufactures commercial flooring and performance sheet rubber, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one repeat and nine serious safety and health violations following the November 2011 death of a worker who was crushed in a coating machine while attempting to clear a jam at the company's Moorestown, N.J., facility. The company, based in Wellesley Hills, Mass., was cited for failure to use energy control, or “lockout/tagout," procedures prior to allowing the employee to enter the machine's danger area. “This company continues to compromise the safety of its workers by disregarding OSHA's safety and health standards," said Paula Dixon-Roderick, director of OSHA's Marlton Area Office.
Wood Product Manufacturers in Louisiana Cited for Hazards
Dis-Tran Steel LLC and Dis-Tran Wood Products Holdings LLC in Pineville, La., have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with a total of 14 safety and health violations for exposing workers to combustible dust, electrical, welding and other hazards. Dis-Tran Steel, which manufactures steel utility poles, was cited for six serious violations, including a lack of required machine guarding. Dis-Tran Wood Products, which manufactures wood cross arms for utility poles, was cited for five serious violations, including failing to provide dust-right electrical enclosures to prevent wood dust explosions. The companies are subsidiaries of Pineville, La.-based Crest Industries Inc. Combined penalties total $72,000.
Employment Services for Washington State Military Communities
Approximately 900 military spouses and civilian defense workers in Washington State who were affected by decisions of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission will receive assistance under a $2,736,650 National Emergency Grant increment awarded Thursday by the department. The grant increment will allow affected individuals to continue to receive re-employment and job training services. The commission consolidated Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base to create Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which serves the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. “Today’s award will provide continued crucial job placement assistance, skills training and other re-employment services to help displaced workers launch new careers," said Secretary Solis.
Back Wages for Nearly 500 Health Care Workers in South Dakota
Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., has agreed to pay $70,157 in back wages to 487 current and former employees at 12 of its health care facilities after an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division found employees were not compensated correctly for work breaks, in violation of the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Investigators found that Avera McKennan deducted time from employees' hours for meal and rest breaks that were less than 30 minutes in duration. Because the breaks were not counted toward employees' total weekly hours, the employees were not correctly compensated for overtime hours.
$7.7 Million for Storm Cleanup in Southeastern Ohio
The department today awarded a $7,733,360 National Emergency Grant increment to the Ohio Department of Job and Family
Services. The grant will be used to continue funding approximately 700 temporary jobs for eligible dislocated workers to
assist with ongoing cleanup and recovery efforts following the severe storms and floods that struck southeastern Ohio between April 4
and May 15, 2011.
Misclassified Workers to Receive $431,000 in Back Wages
Elevations Shoring LLC of Kenner has agreed to pay $430,956 in overtime back wages to 186 current and former employees following an investigation
by the Wage and Hour Division. The investigation by the
division's New Orleans District Office found that the employer misclassified the workers as independent contractors and
paid "straight time" for all hours worked rather than time and one-half for hours over 40 in a week and that the company kept
two sets of payroll records. "Misclassification of employees is unacceptable, and the Labor Department will ensure that every worker is paid the
wages he or she is entitled to receive," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator of the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest.
Tennessee Tomato Grower Fined for Agricultural Labor Law Violations
The Wage and Hour Division has fined Fish Farm Partnership, a Newport, Tenn.-based tomato grower, $205,250 in penalties after an investigation disclosed numerous violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act as well as provisions of the H-2A temporary nonimmigrant visa program. The division also found that 59 employees are owed a total of $50,727 in back wages.