This month marks the 97th anniversary of the Monthly Labor Review, which has been continuously published by the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics since 1915. Many people do not know that BLS is actually older than the Labor Department. It was founded in 1884 to measure labor market activity, working conditions and price changes in the American workforce.
The bureau was originally housed in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and moved over to Labor (whose functions were also housed at Commerce) when the Labor Department was created in 1913. From the beginning, BLS published substantial information, releasing its first annual report in 1885, in addition to preparing frequent reports at the discretion of Congress. The annual reports continued publication until 1912 when they were replaced with the bimonthly Bulletin. Monthly Labor Review as we know it began in 1915 under the name of the Monthly Review, which was revised to its current nomenclature in 1918. Originally published in print, the publication went completely on-line in 2008. Today the Monthly Labor Review serves as a journal of fact, analysis and research from BLS to provide the public with important economic information in a broad variety of fields.
New Members for Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship
Secretary Solis has announced six new appointments and 21 reappointments of members to the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. The committee is charged with expanding apprenticeships into all sectors of the economy and building partnerships that increase apprenticeship opportunities for Americans. In her announcement, Solis noted that August will mark the 75th anniversary of federal support of apprenticeship programs, adding that "apprenticeships serve as an important avenue into a growing number of career pathways, and the committee's work will help to enhance and expand that role."
The Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation hosted the department's Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at a July 12 meeting held at the Career Center at Arnold Station. Paula Brand, career advisor for the corporation, coordinates a network of job clubs in the Annapolis, Md., area that help professionals get back to work. With a focus on networking and peer support, the Arnold Job Club has helped place into jobs one out of three people who attend at least one Job Club meeting. Ben Seigel, CFBNP deputy director, provided information about the national Job Clubs Initiative at last week's meeting, which was attended by people seeking employment and local recruiters.
A memorandum of agreement to aid in the enforcement of the Federal Railroad Safety Act's whistleblower provision has been signed between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration. The FRSA protects railroad employees from retaliation when they report safety violations or work-related personal injuries or illnesses. There has been a rise in whistleblower complaints in the railroad industry – OSHA received 900 between 2007 and 2009, of which 63 percent involved unlawful retaliations for reporting a work site injury. Training will be jointly developed for the enforcement staffs of FRA to help recognize worker complaints and to help OSHA recognize railroad safety violations revealed during whistleblower investigations.
A memorandum of agreement between Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, and Sharon Lewis, commissioner of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the Department of Health and Human Services, was recently signed. "This agreement is an opportunity for ODEP and AIDD to work together to further disability employment practices and support state efforts to transform public systems so that they reflect integrated employment as a priority outcome for citizens with significant disabilities," said Martinez.
More than 130 veterans, employers, and veterans' service organizations convened at Napa Valley College on July 11 for a conference and job fair co-sponsored by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The Workforce Solutions for Veterans event featured compliance assistance for employers, resume building and job search workshops for veterans, along with an employment resource fair. Speakers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Labor Department's Women's Bureau keynoted the event, which also included remarks by Napa's Mayor Jill Techel, a representative from Rep. Mike Thompson's office, OFCCP Pacific Regional Director William Smitherman, and Marine veteran and student Allahno Hughes.
When he arrived at the Mine Safety and Health Administration in 2009 as the agency's assistant secretary of labor, Joseph Main found the most commonly cited violations involved guarding of equipment and conveyer belts. A year later, MSHA published a compliance guide on conveyer belts, and today, citations and orders in this area are down 39 percent. Main noted the improvement in compliance in remarks on July 16 in Florence, Ky., to representatives of several Midwest state aggregate associations. Main outlined a number of important initiatives and reforms his agency has undertaken over the last two years and the stakeholder collaborations undertaken to advance the health and safety of miners.
More than 50 women leaders last week met with Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi for a roundtable discussion hosted by the City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women. Borzi discussed the challenges women face when saving for retirement and the need for greater transparency of fees and commissions associated with retirement investment products. Attendees included Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles for Neighborhood and Community Services Larry Frank and Robert Sainz of the City of Los Angeles Community Development Department.
The National Associations of Counties hosted Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates at their annual meeting in Pittsburgh last week. In her address, Oates discussed the department's continuing efforts to connect employers with community colleges and local workforce boards. She also spoke about the American Jobs Center re-branding effort and provided an update on the White House's Summer Jobs+ efforts. While she was in Pittsburgh, Oates participated in a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board. The roundtable brought together Pittsburgh area business, union and community leaders to discuss the city's emerging energy sector industry and efforts to train workers to meet the future demands of this industry.
Partnerships in Charlotte
Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris visited Charlotte, N.C., on July 18 to learn more about a partnership to foster workforce development programs and encourage insourcing of jobs to the United States. The efforts by Central Piedmont Community College "have resulted in one of the most comprehensive community college-employer partnerships in the nation," said Harris. CPCC received grants through the department's Community-Based Job Training Grant Program and its H-1B Technical Skills Training Program to support the college's workforce development programs. The department also recently provided a $5 million grant to fund the Regional Effort to Advance Charlotte Information Technology, or REACH IT, an initiative administered by CPCC that is designed to advance the skills of Charlotte-area IT workers.
"It is my hope that we can all open our minds and our workplaces to all employees, including those of us with disabilities. To that end, we must inspire broader collaboration between private industry, service providers, education, government and the community at-large — all in the name of progress," Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, said at the 2012 Employment Institute, held July 17 in Albany, N.Y. Martinez addressed ways that state workforce development systems can help people with disabilities achieve their career goals. In her remarks to an audience of about 200, Martinez focused on the Employment First concept, which holds that community-based, integrated employment should always be the first option for youth and adults with significant disabilities The event was sponsored by the Inclusive Workforce Stakeholder Group of the New York State Rehabilitation Association.
Chinese Delegation in Atlanta
Paulette Lewis, Women's Bureau regional administrator in Atlanta, hosted a Chinese delegation July 12 for a discussion of the agency's mission, protections for women and migrant workers, equal pay for women, reintegrating women veterans into the workforce, and other topics. The meeting was sponsored by the Georgia Council for International Visitors, which builds relationships between the state and leaders from around the world.
Chicago Retirement Forum
The department's Employee Benefits Security Administration will host a free retirement savings forum on July 28, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. CDT, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "What Every Woman Should Know About Retirement Savings and How to Make It Last" will feature panel discussions as well as remarks by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi, federal officials, consumer advocates and retirement experts.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance will host a two-day health benefits laws compliance seminar in Billings, Mont., for small and mid-size employers, third-party administrators and insurers on July 25 and 26. The seminar is designed to provide practical information, helpful tips and clarification regarding federal and state laws.
EBSA Health Benefits Laws Compliance Assistance Seminar
What do words like "insourcing" and "green jobs" actually look like? Ask the people of Western Michigan and they'll point you to the Falcon Waterfree Technologies plant in Wayland, where Secretary Solis saw firsthand how local employees are finishing the final assembly of waterless toilets and sending American-made products around the world. In a region filled with parts suppliers hit hard by the restructuring of the auto industry, Falcon's recent decision to insource their production line using local suppliers in the Grand Rapids area instead of Shanghai, China, is a sign of things to come. At the Wayland facility, state-of-the-art filtration cartridges manufactured locally by Reeves Plastic are installed into their product line. By using these cartridges instead of traditional flush plumbing, each unit is able to safely bring waste into the sewer system while saving more than 40,000 gallons of water per year. By committing to local suppliers, innovative companies like Falcon are not only reimagining their product lines, but also helping to reinvigorate American manufacturing. Also during her visit to Michigan, Solis met with community leaders at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan in Grand Rapids to talk about the important role Latinos are playing in our economic recovery. She also highlighted Labor Department resources available to help community members know their rights on the job and get the training they need to succeed in the workplace.
Digital Literacy, the Key to the Modern Job Search
According to recent studies, 66 million Americans lack digital literacy skills, yet more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies require online job applications. To help bridge this electronic gulf, a unique partnership was launched on July 16 to spread the word about the importance of digital literacy resources for persons looking for work. The Department of Labor and the Federal Communications Commission have teamed up with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the non-profit Connect2Compete to make computers, high-speed Internet access and digital literacy training more accessible for millions of Americans without home connectivity. Secretary Solis, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, IMLS Director Susan Hildreth, and Connect2Compete's Lee Davenport announced the partnership's kick off at the Arlington Employment Center in Northern Virginia. As part of the announcement, the nearly 3,000 federally funded American Job Centers, as well as libraries across the country, will serve as access points for information on digital literacy training and as discounted Internet service and low-cost laptops for families in free school lunch programs.
Workers in private-sector benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act can now sue to recover personal losses caused by mismanagement by a plan fiduciary. That's according to a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in McCravy v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., in which the department's Office of the Solicitor argued on behalf of workers having such a right. In the case, employee Debbie McCravy, who had paid premiums for years for a life insurance policy on her daughter through an ERISA-covered plan, sued to recover insurance proceeds she lost based on fiduciary misconduct by the insurance company that administered her plan. The court's ruling was a victory in the department's long-fought battle to obtain justice for workers who have been harmed as a result of wrongdoing by fiduciaries administering employee benefit plans.
In the first six months of 2012, 19 of the nation's miners died in work-related accidents, the Mine Safety and Health Administration reported in its midyear summary, released on July 19. Among 10 coal mining deaths, three resulted from slips or falls, two from rib falls and one each from the following categories: exploding vessels under pressure, drowning, handling materials, machinery and electrical. Five of these fatalities – three involving mine supervisors – occurred on five consecutive weekends. Among nine metal and nonmetal mining deaths, four were attributed to powered haulage incidents, two were the result of a falling face/rib/highwall, and one each was linked to an accident involving machinery, falling material and a person falling. MSHA has taken a number of actions to identify mines with health and safety problems, and has initiated several outreach and enforcement initiatives, including "Rules to Live By," a fatality prevention program highlighting the safety and health standards most frequently cited during fatal accident investigations.
Grant Opportunity to Manage Youth Disability Center
The department has announced the availability of a $1.1 million grant to fund a cooperative agreement to manage and operate the National Technical Assistance and Demonstration Center on Preparing Youth With Disabilities for Employment. The center will continue building upon the previous technical assistance efforts of the department's Office of Disability Employment Policy. Grant applications will be accepted until August 17.
$6 Million in Grant Funds Available to Combat Child Labor in Liberia
The Bureau of International Labor Affairs issued a $6 million competitive grant solicitation that seeks qualified organizations to implement projects combating child labor in Liberia. Applicants should focus on children who are engaged in or at risk of being involved in various forms of child labor in rubber-producing areas of the country. The deadline for submitting applications is Sept. 4, 2012.
Eric Biel, acting associate deputy undersecretary of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, testified before the House of Representatives' Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on July 19 about the bureau's activities to address labor rights concerns in Bangladesh. ILAB's most important responsibility, he said, is "engaging directly with the people in Bangladesh who are in the forefront of efforts to improve the protection of worker rights." Biel discussed engagement with Bangladesh on compliance with internationally recognized workers' rights, and with workers' groups, buyers and factories on freedom of association, unsafe working conditions and other labor concerns. ILAB has reported on child and forced labor in Bangladesh and advancing labor rights in the country directly and in cooperation with others, including the State Department, civil society groups and business.
"Governments are complicated. Benefits are complicated," the Social Driver website blog observes. Fortunately, the blog adds, "benefits.gov is not complicated." Social Driver recognized the website as one of the five best government websites "that just work." Benefits.gov provides access to important information about government benefits and allows the public to search assistance programs that fit their needs. The website is the product of a collaborative partnership of 17 federal agencies, with the Labor Department as the managing partner. This year, Benefits.gov is celebrating its tenth anniversary.
Before an audience of mine operators, mining industry officials and labor representatives at the Mine Safety and Health Administration headquarters in Arlington, Va., last week, MSHA officials discussed recent accomplishments in mine emergency response, the future organization of mine rescue skills development and mine rescue training contests, and findings from a recent review of the first phase of the "Rules to Live By" initiative.
With an assist from the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, law enforcement officer Brian Benvie received a promotion, retroactive seniority and back pay through his claims filed under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act. Benvie, an Army reservist who has served deployments in Kosovo, Iraq and Kuwait, first missed taking promotional exams for sergeant and lieutenant at the Brockton, Mass., police force due to active military duty. When he eventually took the exam, he found others were promoted ahead of him even though he scored better. Compounding the situation, his time in grade for promotions was miscalculated. Benvie filed complaints under USERRA and received swift help from VETS staff in the national office and the regional office in Atlanta. "They were a big help because they took my case," Benvie said. VETS eventually referred the case to the Department of Justice, which reached a settlement with the City of Brockton that included more than $32,000 in back pay. Benvie said the positive outcomes on promotion, seniority and pay through USERRA "will have ramifications for the rest of my life."
Troubled Teen Gets Second Chance
Incarcerated at a young age for felony crimes, Solomon Williams spent a majority of his youth in and out of the juvenile justice system. The last time he was released, he knew he had a decision to make. Williams enrolled in intensive career training and GED classes through STRIVE International, which receives grants from the Pathways Out of Poverty and Reintegration of Ex-Offenders in High Poverty/High Crime Communities programs. "Once my mindset changed, my actions changed and my results changed," Williams said. After completing the STRIVE program and earning his GED, Williams landed a job as a retail associate at a Baltimore clothing store and is scheduled to begin Baltimore City Community College this fall. He credits the STRIVE program for his success. "It gave me a different outlook on life. I can see beyond the limits I had set for myself. STRIVE broke through those barriers and showed me there's so much more."
DOL in Action
Railroad Companies Cited for Retaliation Against Workers
Two railroad companies have been ordered by the department to pay three workers a total of $650,729 in back wages and damages for retaliating against them for reporting workplace injuries and safety concerns. The orders resulted from investigations conducted by the Chicago office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA determined that Illinois Central Railroad violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against two employees in separate incidents for reporting workplace injuries at the Markham Railroad Yard in Markham, Ill. In the third incident, OSHA determined that Chicago Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad violated the FRSA by terminating a conductor for raising concerns about workplace safety in June 2009 near Fort Wayne, Ind.
Half-Million Dollars Restored to Worker Retirement Plans
In a lawsuit filed by the department that followed an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration, a federal judge has ordered the president of Columbus-based Clark Graphics, Mary Clark, to restore $505,551.46 to the company's two employee retirement plans. Additionally, Marcia Dowdell, the president of Pension Retirement Planning who served as administrator for the plans, has been ordered to restore funds to both plans. The department's suit alleged insufficient oversight and mishandling of plan assets resulting in multiple violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The suit alleged that Clark Graphics' owners failed in their fiduciary responsibilities as plan trustees by neglecting to monitor the actions of the plans' administrator.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has entered into a consent decree with Leprino Foods Inc. to resolve charges of systemic hiring discrimination at the company's facility in Lemoore West, Calif. The decree settles OFCCP allegations that Leprino's use of a pre-employment test, called WorkKeys, to select hires for on-call laborer positions resulted in discrimination against African-American job applicants and applicants of Asian and Hispanic descent. Under the terms of the consent decree, Leprino will pay $550,000 in back wages, interest and benefits to 253 minority workers who were rejected for on-call laborer positions between January 2005 and October 2006. The company has also agreed to discontinue use of the test and hire at least 13 of the original class members.
Baristas Coffee to Pay $75,000 in Back Wages and Damages
Seattle-area Baristas Coffee Co. will pay 45 current and former employees $50,000 in back wages plus $25,000 in liquidated damages. A consent judgment and order, filed by the Regional Office of the Solicitor, resolves a lawsuit filed last September following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division's Seattle District Office. Employees at espresso stands sometimes were paid with checks that were not signed or had insufficient funds, resulting in employees being paid less than the federal minimum wage. In addition, employees were not paid proper overtime wages. The employer must also pay a $10,000 civil penalty.
Quail Producer/Distributor Cited for Serious Violations
Quail International Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 23 safety and health violations following a January inspection at the company's Greensboro, Ga., plant. The quail producer is facing $92,115 in proposed penalties for several violations, including struck-by and electrical hazards, failure to create specific steps to ensure processing equipment would not start up while being cleaned, protect workers from hand injuries and exposing employees to noise levels that exceed OSHA standards. "Employees have a right to expect a safe and healthy working environment, and OSHA will not allow employers to fail in their duty to protect workers," said William Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office.
Cleaning Service in Texas Pays $53,000 in Back Wages to Janitors
Espitia Cleaning Inc. in Arlington, Texas, has paid $53,095 in back wages to 130 current and former janitors following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime and record-keeping provisions. The investigation by the division's Dallas District Office discovered that the company paid janitors "straight time" for all hours worked. Espitia Cleaning provides cleaning services to Albertsons Grocery Stores. "Janitorial workers are among the lowest paid employees in the nation, and this employer profited by failing to pay overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a week," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest.
Nebraska Meat Packing Facility Cited After Worker Fatality
Hastings Acquisition LLC, which operates as Nebraska Prime Group, a meatpacking facility in Hastings, Neb., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 11 safety violations. OSHA opened an inspection after a worker had become caught in a machine and was asphyxiated on Jan. 18. Two related willful violations involve improper machine guarding ‒ which exposes employees to amputation and strangulation hazards ‒ and not supplying sufficient number of lockout devices for all servicing and maintenance employees to secure the energy sources of mechanical equipment.
Texas Powerhouse Retail Services Pays $60,000 to 171 Employees
Powerhouse Retail Services LLC in Crowley, Texas, has paid $60,448 in minimum and overtime back wages to 171 current and former construction workers following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that discovered violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime pay and record-keeping provisions. The investigation found that the company wrongly had classified employees as exempt from overtime. The company provides specialized construction services to major U.S. businesses including Albertsons, J.C. Penney Co., Sherwin-Williams Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The company has agreed to fully comply with the FLSA in the future.
Raani Corp. Cited for Safety and Health Violations
The Raani Corp. in Bedford Park, Ill., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 14 safety and health violations, such as failing to protect workers from improperly guarded power saws and hazardous chemicals, among others. OSHA initiated a safety inspection on Feb. 14 and a health inspection on Feb. 24. Proposed penalties from both inspections total $60,300.
American Bronze Foundry Inc., owner Charles Wambold, co-owner Renee Wambold and manager Jennifer Schiffermiller are being sued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for allegedly firing an employee for raising health concerns about potential overexposures to lead at the Sanford, Fla., foundry. The lawsuit follows an OSHA investigation that found the termination of the employee violated the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act. The suit seeks to reinstate the employee and pay all back wages, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.
Air Carrier Ordered to Reinstate Pilot Who Raised Safety Concerns
Ameriflight, LLC, a Burbank, Calif.-based air carrier, and its subsidiary, Ameriflight, PR, Inc., has been ordered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reinstate and provide compensation to a Puerto Rico-based pilot who was discharged for raising safety concerns and for contacting the Federal Aviation Administration about those concerns. OSHA's investigation found that the pilot's activities were protected under law and that his termination was in retaliation for those activities.
Company Cited for Inadequate Workplace Violence Safeguards
South Park Inc., operating as Developmental Options, in Pocatello, Idaho, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with one serious violation for failing to provide employees with adequate safeguards against workplace violence. The employer was cited for exposing employees to repeated instances of violent behavior, aggressive physical contact and attacks by a patient in its residential habilitation program. The employer provides round-the-clock care for people with developmental disabilities.
Lawsuit Focuses on Compensation of Restaurant Staff
The department has filed a lawsuit against Oriental Eagle Inc., doing business as the China Star restaurant in Austin, Texas, and part owners Shu Han and Roger Wu, seeking back wages for employees. Investigators found that kitchen staff who worked between 58 hours and 65 hours per week were paid a flat salary in cash twice per month, without regard to how many hours they had worked. The suit seeks $107,214 for 23 current and former kitchen staff and servers.
Safety Violations at Demolition and Recycling Company
T. Fiore Demolition Inc. and T. Fiore Recycling Corp. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 11 serious safety violations at the company's Newark, N.J., facility. OSHA initiated an investigation of the demolition and concrete recycling company following the death of a worker who was crushed in a conveyor belt. The company had failed to install machine guarding prior to allowing the worker to operate alongside the conveyor system. The serious violations include trip and fall hazards, a lack of safe access to scaffolds, unguarded moving machine parts, and a lack of "lockout/tagout" training and procedures for machines' energy sources.
Workers at Manufacturing Plant Exposed to Hexavalent Chromium
Tenneco Automotive Operating Co. Inc. in Hartwell, Ga., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 16 safety and health violations including exposing workers to hexavalent chromium. Serious violations included failing to provide free medical surveillance for employees exhibiting symptoms related to hexavalent chromium and the lack of adequate rules regarding respirator usage. Proposed penalties total $79,300.