Ninety-two years ago this week, the Women's Bureau was established in the Department of Labor.
Public Law No. 259 gave the bureau the duty to "formulate standards and policies which shall promote the welfare of wage-earning women,
improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment."
It also gave the bureau the authority to investigate and report to the U.S. Department of Labor upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of women in industry. It is the only federal agency mandated to represent the needs of wage-earning women in the public policy process.
The bureau's first director, Mary Anderson (pictured) led it for almost 25 years and served for five presidents. During her tenure, she
saw the ranks of women workers more than double. Other notable women to lead the bureau throughout its history included Ester Peterson,
who served during the Kennedy administration and went on to become a nationally known consumer advocate; and Alexis Herman, during the Carter presidency.
At age 29, Herman was the youngest director in the bureau's history, and became the first African-American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor.
There are few people in this country that have had a more profound effect on the health and safety of workers than Tony Mazzocchi. The late labor advocate who pushed for the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health
Act of 1970 was inducted this week into the
Department of Labor Hall of Honor. Secretary Solis announced the induction in a video at the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health 33rd Annual Awards Celebration. Mazzocchi was recognized for spearheading the "right to know" and the "right to act" campaigns, empowering workers to have a say in their workplace conditions. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jordan Barab delivered remarks praising Mazzocchi for bridging the gap between rank-and-file workers and scientists and physicians, with the ultimate goal of holistic improvement in worker safety and health.
Secretary Solis was honored June 6 for her lifetime of advocacy on behalf of immigrant workers as she received the St. Joseph's Award at the Faith & Politics Institute's 15th annual breakfast. The award is named after the patron saint of workers. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka presented her with the award, and Solis acknowledged the labor movement's work to fight for better wages and safer working conditions for New York City's taxi cab workers, many of whom are immigrants. "I'm proud to report that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is doing its part as well by advocating for security cameras, car alarms, GPS and bullet-proof partitions, which have reduced attacks on taxi workers nationwide by 88 percent," she said. Solis talked about her parents' immigrant heritage and society's responsibility to protect the most vulnerable workers. Quoting "Leviticus," she said: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong."
Hiring workers with disabilities is one way employers can drive economic recovery and improve their bottom lines, Kathy Martinez, head of the department's Office of Disability Employment Policy, told employers this week. "We at ODEP are impatient," Martinez said. "We want change. We want action. We want inclusion. And we can't wait for it because our country can't afford to wait. Clearly, capitalizing on the talents of all segments of the population is essential for our economic recovery and growth and you, the employers, cannot afford not to include people with disabilities in your workplace." The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Business Leadership Network and the HSC Foundation in their new National Youth Transitions Center and National Veterans Center in Washington, D.C. Martinez and the employers discussed how ODEP can help businesses implement inclusive hiring practices as well as national and federal disability employment policy trends and initiatives.
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia A. Shiu delivered the keynote address at the Greater Los Angeles Industry Liaison Group's Summer Seminar at the University of California Los Angeles Faculty Center June 6. Speaking before about 100 business leaders, attorneys and consultants, Shiu described the special relationship between OFCCP and industry liaison groups. "Thirty years ago, the ILGs were born out of OFCCP's need and desire to communicate regularly, effectively and often with the community of federal contractors and subcontractors," said Shiu.
"It is a partnership that I believe is unique in the annals of government both in its nature and its longevity. Nowhere else have I seen such a structured and productive relationship between a federal enforcement agency and its regulated community."
'Descubre Tu Talento'
Secretary Solis and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited the Paul Simon Job Corps Center to kick off an initiative from Discovery Communications Descubre Tu Talento that will provide Spanish-language tips about workforce preparation, and web links to education and training resources from across the public and private sectors. "As the fastest growing group in the country, Latino progress in this recovery is critical to the nation as a whole. It's crucial to raise awareness in the Hispanic community about career opportunities and resources, and this initiative will be valuable in doing just that," Solis said. Resources and tips will be highlighted by on-air personalities during Discovery en Español broadcasts via a Spanish-language website and social media channel, and through local employers providing firsthand information on career opportunities. As one of the first collaborations, AT&T's Hispanic employee resource group, HACEMOS, will mentor students at the Paul Simon Job Corps Center.
Science was high on the agenda this week at the American Society of Safety Engineer's Professional Development Conference and Exposition in Denver. Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, delivered remarks at the conference, highlighting a recent study that shows OSHA inspections save lives and jobs. More than 200 educational sessions were presented by safety and engineering experts on safety trends and best business practices, which earned participants safety management certificates. Michaels emphasized OSHA's new campaign to prevent falls and an outreach initiative to reduce heat-related illnesses in workers.
The 19th White House Hispanic Community Action Summit was held on June 2 at Temple University's Fox School of Business in Philadelphia. The event encouraged collaboration between community leaders and federal agencies to address issues of concern to the local Hispanic community. Representatives from the Employee Benefits Security Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, Wage and Hour Division and Women's Bureau were among the participants.
Learning While Volunteering
Nearly 100 elected officials and community, faith and business leaders attended the White House Office of Public Engagement's African American Policy Forum in Cleveland last week. The department cosponsored the event, which was hosted by the Cleveland Public Library. Student ambassadors from the Cleveland Job Corps Center volunteered at the forum focused on job training and the economy for the African-American community. "We learned about policies that were created to boost the economy and how to make life better for students like myself and the African-American community," said Harold Moore, one of the Job Corps' ambassadors. "Not a lot of people at my age get to experience an event of this magnitude."
Partnering on Skills
Many of the nation's jobs remain unfilled simply because the available workforce does not have the skills necessary for those positions, Jay Williams, director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, said last week at a Cleveland forum. "It is essential that the workforce system, training providers and government leaders work together," Williams said at the White House African American Regional Policy Forum. While in Cleveland, Williams toured Pile Dynamics, an Ohio manufacturer and recent recipient of a Manufacturing Innovation Project Award. The award is part of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" initiative to create partnerships between federal agencies and localities to spark economic development.
Rescue Teams Compete in Virginia
Amidst a steady rain and with just 80 minutes to navigate through a mock mine emergency, 17 coal mine rescue teams competed last week in the Governor's Cup Mine Rescue Contest at Southwest Virginia Community College in Cedar Bluff, Va. A simulated coal mine was set up with placards signifying various hazards the teams would encounter on their way to locating five miners whose fates were unknown. Events such as this one serve as training vehicles for mine rescuers who may one day be called upon to search for their comrades trapped underground following a mine explosion, roof fall or inundation of water. Also in attendance but strictly as a spectator was Alpha Natural Resources four-legged mine rescue team member. Ginny, a Dutch shepherd, is the first canine ever to be specifically trained to participate in surface and underground searches for missing miners.
Steve Ronson, executive director of Australia's Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman Regional Services and Targeting Division, recently met with Wage and House Division staff in New York City. Ronson was briefed on WHD's "Obtain, Maintain, and Sustain" enforcement strategy and how the agency is moving to leverage outside resources to impact overall compliance. During the visit hosted by the division's district office, Ronson met with WHD's Northeast Deputy Regional Administrator Carl Smith; District Directors Maria Rosado and Irv Miljoner; Community Outreach and Resource Planning Specialist Shaharazade Thompkins-Lewis; Regional Enforcement Coordinator Kim Fung, and WHD Investigator David An.
Solis at the Clinton Global Initiative: Credentials Are Critical
Since its founding in 2005, former President Bill Clinton's foundation has taken on some of the world's most vexing challenges, such as the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, rebuilding disaster-ravaged Haiti, and empowering women in countries with oppressive regimes. On June 7, the Clinton Global Initiative tackled unemployment here at home during a conference in Chicago that brought together leaders in business, philanthropy, nonprofits and government. In multiple meetings with experts convened by CGI America, Secretary Solis shared her vision for greater collaboration to put Americans back to work. She focused on strategies to provide industry-recognized credentials to at-risk youth and displaced adult workers seeking good-paying jobs. Solis noted that 21 of the 30 fastest-growing U.S. occupations require a postsecondary certificate or degree, and she offered solutions to meet President Obama's goal of helping the United States lead the world by 2020 in the percentage of citizens with industry-recognized credentials. "We have some of the best minds in our agency working on credentialing American job seekers," Solis said. "From returning service members to returning citizens who are coming back into society after incarceration, it really doesn't matter where you've been or where you want to go, because you're not likely to get far in the current job market without the right training and credentials. That's why the Department of Labor is focused like a laser on this issue."
Secretary Solis was the keynote speaker at the White House Summit on Community Solutions for Disconnected Youth, held June 4. In her speech, Solis described department initiatives to provide at-risk youth with access to employment. "These students are often called at-risk youth. But I often call them our best youth. These kids — many of whom were written off by society — are investing in themselves and their future. They amaze me, inspire me, and give me hope." She was welcomed by Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, and Wendy Spencer, the CEO for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Three panels at the summit discussed new initiatives that would allow young people access to opportunities in employment and education. The summit built upon a recent toolkit developed by the private sector to help businesses engage young people, as well as the administration's Summer Jobs+ initiative.
Improving the Link Between Workforce and Education Data
Grants of about $12 million have been awarded by the department to assist 12 states in implementing or expanding workforce databases and link them to education data to help improve the overall performance of workforce development programs. The Workforce Data Quality Initiative "will allow states to develop high-quality, long-term data that will provide consumers, practitioners and policymakers with comprehensive information about the relationship between education and workforce development programs," Secretary Solis said.
Former Madoff Employee Pleads Guilty to Multiple Charges
Former Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC employee Craig Kugel pled guilty this week to multiple charges, including conspiracy, tax fraud and violations of the Employee Income Retirement Security Act. The plea follows a multiagency investigation that included the department's Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of the Inspector General. According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, Kugel was aware that there were individuals on the BLMIS payroll who did not work for the firm but who still received salaries and benefits, and that he created and maintained false BLMIS employee records on their behalf. He faces up to 19 years in prison.
Commitment to Nuclear Weapons Workers Reaches Milestone
The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs has reached a significant milestone in the administration of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act: more than $8 billion has been paid to claimants nationwide. Enacted in July 2001, the EEOICPA provides compensation and medical benefits to current and former employees who have fallen ill as a result of working in the nuclear weapons industry. Toxic substances and exposure to radiation are common hazards in nuclear facilities, and the department's administration of Parts B and E of the Act covers workers, contractors and subcontractors who have been diagnosed with radiation-induced illnesses and cancer. OWCP operates resource centers across the country to provide workers with information about qualifying illnesses and established targeted goals for strengthening the timeliness and effectiveness of the claims process, demonstrating its continued commitment to providing outstanding customer service to workers and families.
The department's Employee Benefits Security Administration is soliciting nominations to fill five three-year vacancies on the Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, also known as the ERISA Advisory Council. The deadline to submit nominations is Aug. 3. The 15-member council provides advice on policies and regulations affecting employee benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Members serve for staggered three-year terms and are appointed by the secretary of labor to represent specified groups and fields that are involved in employee benefits.
House Committee Focuses On Green Jobs and Press Lock-Ups
Department officials testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on June 6 about efforts to train workers for good, sustainable jobs in "green" industries and on planned security changes to press lock-ups, where pre-release economic data is provided the news media. Jane Oates, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, testified the department, as it helps prepare the nation's workforce for the economy of tomorrow, has made "a number of strategic investments to ensure that, as the green sector grows, businesses will have the talent they need to prosper." Carl Fillichio, senior advisor for communications and public affairs, told the committee the department provides press lock-ups "solely for the purpose of serving the public" and new security measures will ensure that sensitive economic data are not prematurely released. John M. Galvin, the Bureau of Labor Statistics acting commissioner, testified alongside Oates and Fillichio.
About 21 million people are victims of forced labor, according to a new global estimate issued by the International Labor Organization on June 1. Secretary Solis commended the ILO for its research and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment "to bring resources to bear on the scourge of modern slavery." The Bureau of International Labor Affairs participated in a briefing hosted by the ILO at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., on the new statistics. Eric Biel, ILAB's acting associate deputy undersecretary, and Charita Castro, division chief of ILAB's research and policy division, spoke at the briefing, attended by about 120 people. Other participants included Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the State Department, former Ambassador Mark Lagon of the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and Neha Misra of the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center.
Sharing Strategies of Program Evaluation From Around the World
Understanding the outcomes and effectiveness of government policies is critical in promoting and developing the most successful training programs and enforcement strategies. The primary way to assess the impact of a particular program is through rigorous, evidence-based evaluation techniques. This week, the department hosted a joint United States – European Union roundtable on Evaluation Strategies and Methodologies as part of an on-going effort to develop best practices for data collection, analysis and program evaluation. Deputy Secretary Seth Harris opened the event by highlighting the value of partnerships, learning exchanges and dialogue about employment and labor market policies across governments, and across continents. Several senior members of the department and other federal agencies were joined by their counterparts in European countries as well as research organizations and think tanks from around the world.
Vets Attend VETS Job Fair
Scores of hopeful job candidates attended a Veterans' Employment and Training Service "Veterans Hiring Fair" held at the Department of Labor headquarters building on June 6.
The fair was open to veterans qualified to fill GS-13 to GS-15 positions in the agency, such as deputy director of national programs and grants and transition services analyst. Approximately 12 positions are open to applicants. Tracy Underwood, an Army veteran and federal employee, said he attended the fair to "look for a better opportunity" to advance his career. Charles Emerson of the Army National Guard said after he retires from military service in the fall that he will be "looking for an opportunity to continue serving the nation" through a job with VETS.
Linda Hutchinson got a third chance at beginning a new career through the department-funded Mature Worker Program. Hutchinson closed her first business, a print shop, after a health scare, and later saw her second business in home décor destroyed by a fire. Guided by her motto that West Virginian women "never quit," Hutchinson sought career guidance through Facebook postings, which led her to mature worker counseling provided by the Southwestern Community Action Council. After what she describes as "a hard comeback," Hutchinson works as an assistant in the Logan County health department at a job she says she truly enjoys.
Because of ETA Funding, Mechanic Makes Career Transition
Pennsylvanian Jim Kistler left a self-described "dead-end job" as a diesel mechanic for the promise of a better future, thanks to departmental funding. Kistler took three weeks of oil and gas industry training and received certification at the local Westmoreland County Community College. His education was provided through Marcellus ShaleNET, an Employment and Training Administration funded program that recruits, trains and places workers in jobs across the natural gas industry and its supply chain. The 50-year-old Kistler said the program "helped me reinvent myself and was the best move I have ever made financially." He now is in charge of a large fleet of vehicles for a local energy production company.
DOL in Action
Illinois Roofing Contractor Faces OSHA Fines
Roofing contractor Woodridge Enterprises Inc. in Lemont, Ill., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with four safety violations for failing to protect workers from falls at two separate job sites in Hinsdale and Carol Stream. OSHA's inspections were initiated under the agency's fall protection program. An inspection opened Feb. 29 at a residential site in Hinsdale found two repeat violations involving a failure to provide fall protection on a scaffold higher than 25 feet and provide fall protection for workers engaged in construction activities. A second inspection was opened March 7 at a commercial roofing job site in Carol Stream, where another serious violation was cited for not providing sufficient fall protection to workers on a low-slope roof. Proposed fines total $54,120.
May was Mine Rescue Training Month at the Mine Safety and Health Administration. A series of activities featured a two-day national mine emergency summit with stakeholders and three days of mine rescue skills training at the agency's academy in Beaver, W.Va.; a mine emergency response drill at the Bailey BMX Mine near Washington, Pa.; and a demonstration at West Virginia University's Academy of Mine Training and Energy Technologies facility near Morgantown, W.Va. These activities help prepare first responders for emergencies. Joseph Main, the assistant secretary of labor who heads MSHA, praised first responders as "the backbone of mine emergency response the men and women called upon to do the heavy lifting when mine fires, explosions, roof falls, inundations of water and other such events occur."
Car Wash Company Pays $246,000 to Resolve Wage Violations
Vizza Wash LP, doing business as Wash-Tub in San Antonio, Texas, has paid $246,438 in back wages to 308 employees following an investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division. Violations included illegal deductions from employees' paychecks for items such as uniforms, insurance claims and cash register shortages, which resulted in the employees' pay falling below the federal minimum wage, and failure to pay the minimum wage to employees paid on a commission basis when the commissions did not equal at least $7.25 per hour for all the hours worked each week.
Mississippi Company Cited for Serious Safety Hazards
Azz Inc., doing business as AZZ Galvanizing Services in Richland, Miss., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 22 safety and health violations following a complaint alleging hazards. Seventeen serious and five other-than-serious violations were found, including failure to conduct inspections of lockout/tagout procedures, unapproved electrical cords in wet locations and trip and fall hazards. Penalties total $78,500
Mountain Lakes, N.J.-based Pinnacle Foods Group LLC has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 27 serious safety and health violations at the company's Fayetteville facility, including exposing employees to inhaling ammonia, among other workplace hazards. OSHA's Little Rock Area Office initiated an inspection under the agency's National Emphasis Program for Chemicals. Proposed penalties total $156,700.
Inspection Found Workers Lacked Protective Clothing
Brown-Campbell Co. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 19 alleged safety and health violations, including four repeat infractions, following a Dec. 5, 2011, inspection that was initiated based on a complaint. Inspectors found workers were not provided protective clothing and that several machines lacked guarding at the specialty steel products company in Maple Heights, Ohio. Proposed fines total $64,400.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration has resolved a delinquent debt settlement with Resurrection Coal Co. Last January, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia filed a complaint against Resurrection for failing to pay final civil penalties assessed for 245 violations issued during inspections at three of the company's operations: Mine No. 1 and Mine No. 2 in McDowell County, W.Va., and Mine No. 4 in Wyoming County, W.Va. The complaint demanded a judgment against the company for delinquent debt totaling $44,158.33, including interest. In March, the company reached a settlement, paid the fines and the complaint was dismissed. "Mine operators must take the monetary penalties assessed against them very seriously," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main. "I applaud the efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office to collect the delinquent debt owed by Resurrection."
Back Wages Suit Filed Against Massachusetts Agri-business
The department has filed a lawsuit against Chang & Sons Enterprises Inc. a Massachusetts-based business that grows, harvests and packages bean sprouts and other agricultural products, and distributes them throughout New England, New York and New Jersey, for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division found that 14 employees, most of whom worked approximately 90 hours per week, were paid a flat salary that amounted to less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The lawsuit seeks more than $200,000 in back wages plus an equal amount in liquidated damages, both payable to the affected workers.
Arc Flash Injures Two Workers for Electrical Contractor
Interstate Electrical Services, a North Billerica, Mass., electrical contractor, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged willful and serious violations following a November 2011 arc flash blast at an Andover job site. Two workers installing electrical service were seriously burned when a piece of equipment made contact with an energized part of an electrical panel, resulting in the arc flash. OSHA's Andover Area Office determined that the energized electrical panel was not effectively guarded to prevent workers from coming in contact. Additional electrical hazards were posed by a damaged power cord and an energized electrical wire that was not protected against damage. The company faces $81,000 in proposed fines.
DD Stucco and Renovation LLC in Clifton, N.J., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for six safety violations related to fall hazards at a Mountain Lakes, N.J., work site. OSHA opened an inspection in November as part of its local emphasis program on falls. Violations include a lack of fall protection for employees working on a scaffold that was not fully planked. Proposed penalties total $108,240.
Youth Services Agency Ordered to Reinstate Whistleblower
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Anchorage, Alaska-based North Star Behavioral Health System to reinstate an employee who was fired after reporting safety concerns about compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act at the company's residential youth facility outside of Anchorage. An investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program found that the termination violated the whistleblower provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act. OSHA's order requires that North Star immediately reinstate the whistleblower to his former position and pay him nearly $60,000 in back wages, $75,000 in emotional distress damages, $100,000 in punitive damages, $2,018 in compensatory damages and approximately $35,600 in attorney fees. North Star also must post OSHA's whistleblower protection fact sheet.
The Wal-Mart Super Center store in Cobleskill, N.Y., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards and a proposed total of $52,600 in fines following inspections by OSHA's Albany Area Office. OSHA found hazards similar to those cited at stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio and Texas. These included obstructed emergency exit access, employees unable to safely operate pallet jacks in obstructed aisles and passageways as well as fire extinguisher and electrical hazards. Additional citations addressed a lack of eye, face and hand protection as well as safety training for employees operating cardboard balers.
Three Pennsylvania-based contractors have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged violations of workplace safety standards at a work site located at the Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. The largest penalties, $159,800, are proposed against JDE Inc. of Souderton, Pa., general contractor for the construction of a field house on the campus grounds. Also cited were steel erection contractor Superior Fabric Structures of New Providence, Pa., with $21,000 in fines, and Masonry contractor Pat Campion, doing business as Campion Construction Co., of Glenside, Pa., which faces $12,600 in fines.