The Labor Department's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy was established in 1963. It replaced a small research and development unit
that had carried out long-range research and evaluation studies since 1956. The first Assistant Secretary for Policy was Daniel Patrick
Moynihan, who served from 1963 to 1966 (a young Ralph Nader was a member of his
staff). In 1965, Moynihan directed the department's publication of a ground-breaking and highly controversial study called "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," which became known as the "Moynihan Report." He went on to serve in four presidential administrations (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford); as Ambassador to the United Nations and to India; and represented the State of New York in the U.S. Senate from 1976 to 2000.
The scorching summer this year has ravaged crops, famished livestock and, most importantly, put outdoor workers at an even greater risk of heat-related illnesses. Heat waves have wreaked havoc on pockets of America unaccustomed to extreme high temperatures. Workers across the country have taken advantage of the department's Heat Safety Tool, which recently reached 50,000 downloads since being launched as a mobile application for iPhone and Android. Part of the Occupational Safety Health Administration's nationwide outreach campaign to prevent heat illness and death, the app allows workers and employers to view the risk level based on the heat index in their area. The app also helps employers and workers by identifying the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and providing first-aid information. You can get the app in English and Spanish and on Blackberry platforms and have life-saving measures at your fingertips.
Job Corps centers around the country will mark the 48th anniversary of the program's inauguration with National Commencement Day on Aug. 24, Job Corps National Director Edna Primrose announced. "While Job Corps centers regularly conduct commencement exercises for our distinguished program graduates, we are marking the Job Corps program's anniversary with a collective recognition of our students' success," Primrose said in a memorandum to centers. Primrose said a video about the importance of Job Corps from Mark Shriver, son of Sargent Shriver, who helped found the Job Corps program in 1964, will be posted on the Job Corps website on August 24. The Job Corps is the nation's largest career technical training and education program for students ages 16 through 24. The program serves approximately 60,000 young people each year at 125 centers nationwide.
In the third of a series of webcasts that explore the connection between accessible technologies and the employment of people with disabilities, the Office of Disability Employment Policy hosted a panel discussion that included Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment; Jim Tobias, vice president of Inclusive Technologies; and Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google. The August 16 webcast focused on accessibility-related challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies, cloud computing and mobile applications in the workplace.
For colleges and universities across the country, the recent renaissance of American manufacturing has created new opportunities to help meet the growing workforce needs of modern manufacturers. Speaking at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Grant Resource Center meeting earlier this week, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates pointed to a number of ways the department is aligning funding to help higher education answer the call for sector-spanning manufacturing education, research, and innovation. Oates was joined on the panel by Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute (the nonprofit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers), to provide the hundred attendees and many more watching online with a briefing on the American manufacturing landscape and the work being done at the federal level to ensure employers have access to the skilled workers they need.
Portland Consulate Accord
An agreement of understanding was signed by the department's Wage and Hour Division and the Mexican Consulate in Portland on Aug. 22. The agreement will combine resources and coordinate efforts to inform employers about the laws enforced by the department and to educate Mexican nationals working in Oregon about their rights under these laws. Consul of Mexico Enrique A. Romero Cuevas and the division's Portland District Office Director Jeffrey J. Genkos discussed the challenges that the Mexican community faces regarding labor rights and agreed on developing training and educational programs. The Portland District Office will participate with the Mexican Consulate at their upcoming Labor Rights Week program.
Workplace safety was front and center at the 28th Annual National Conference of the Voluntary Protection Program Participant's Association. The association, meeting in Anaheim, Calif., on August 20, welcomed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jordan Barab as keynote speaker. Barab praised VPP worksites for their dedication to workplace safety, and the pride many companies take in their health and safety achievements. "It is chiefly because of the example you set for all American workplaces that the VPP can continue to rely on the full support of OSHA and the Department of Labor," he said. Barab also addressed reports from the Government Accountability Office and OSHA's VPP workgroup that recently released an assessment of VPP, recommending a number of changes to maintain the integrity of the program. Barab praised outgoing Executive Director Davis Layne and presented the VPPPA's 8th Annual Special Government Employee of the year award to
Jon Alexander, the contractor/guest safety lead for Monsanto World Headquarters in St. Louis.
In Alabama, Ready and Able
Representatives of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs joined about 150 other participants at the "We are READI and ABLE
Are You?" conference in Birmingham, Ala., this week. Hosted by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services Resources for Employment
and Disability Information Network and the Alabama Business Leadership Employment Network, the event focused on bringing together all
levels of government, business leaders, worker advocacy groups and individual workers to develop strategies to promote employment for people
with disabilities. The conference featured Claudia Gordon, special assistant to OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu, and Marva James, southeast
deputy regional director, who discussed an agency proposal to help more qualified workers with disabilities find jobs with federal contractors.
Employers in attendance also learned how they can work with the ADRS to recruit and retain qualified workers with disabilities.
Gordon and James were joined by representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Alabama Industry Liaison Group.
Close to 100 key leaders from Georgia-based organizations that serve Latinos and people with disabilities gathered in Cartersville, Ga., this week to identify opportunities and pathways to careers for Hispanics with disabilities. Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, delivered the keynote address at Goodwill Industries International's "A Call to Think and Act: Empowering Georgia's Hispanic Population with Disability Services" forum. "Whether we are born with a disability, or if we acquire one, I want Latinos to know that we cannot sit on the sidelines," Martinez said. "As a community, we have so much to offer the workplace, and our work ethic is second to none."
Dallas Outreach Forum
About 150 employers, workers, unions and advocacy groups attended a free Department of Labor informational and outreach forum at the University of Texas at Dallas last week. The forum focused on wages, job safety and health, equal employment opportunity compliance and veterans' re-employment rights. Workshops at the forum on laws and regulations were designed to assist employers, community-based organizations and others, and regional administrators and program specialists were available to answer questions.
A Disability & Veteran Linkage Fair to assist federal contractors and to underscore the importance of veteran and disability recruitment was hosted by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' Birmingham District Office earlier this month. OFCCP Deputy Regional Director Marva James and representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs presented federal contractors, veterans and others with agency objectives and an overview of current programs and services. There were approximately 150 attendees for the fair, held at the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services in Huntsville.
Labor Rights Week A Commitment to Safety and Fairness
Making America's workplaces safe and fair for everyone is the hallmark of Labor Rights Week, a week-long observance being held Aug. 27-31 this year, to honor the contributions of all workers, regardless of language barriers or immigration status. In her Labor Rights Week video, Secretary Solis affirms the importance of safety and fairness. "We're committed to ensuring that workers are safe on the job and paid what they're owed by law. This means no one can be paid less than $7.25 an hour. It means overtime must be paid for each hour above 40 hours a week. And it means that employers must provide a safe workplace for everyone," Solis says. "If you're working in this country, you're guaranteed these rights. You're an important part of our labor force." The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, principally concerned with protecting workers from hazards on the job, and the Wage and Hour Division, focused on enforcing the minimum wage laws, overtime pay, child labor and the rights of migrant workers, are participating in Labor Rights Week events throughout the nation. The events, amplifying this year's theme of "Promoting Labor Rights Is Everyone's Responsibility," include joining with the consulates of Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and others in activities and events throughout the week.
RSVP today for the highly anticipated Labor Day 2012 Twitter chat with Secretary Solis. Want to learn how to apply your skills to a new career? Or maybe you're a veteran interested in job training or career transition assistance? Thursday, August 30 at 2p.m., you'll have a chance to ask questions and get answers from one of the nation's leading career advisors. Join the conversation by using the hashtag #LaborDay2012 or tweet questions in advance to @HildaSolisDOL. Please join us!
Employment opportunities are growing for young Americans, according to a recent analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. July is the peak employment month for youth as large numbers of students take on summer work and new graduates enter the job market. The BLS report showed that 19.5 million young people were employed in July 2012, up from 18.6 million a year ago. The youth unemployment rate showed a significant decline, falling to 17.1 percent , a percentage point from last year and down two points from 2010. Additionally, the share of young people employed in July 2012 climbed back up to 50.2 percent from its historic low last year. Altogether, these are positive signs for youth who were hit hard by the 2007 recession. With more than 300,000 commitments from employers to hire young people, the Obama administration's Summer Jobs+ initiative is also creating opportunities for young people to gain valuable job experience.
$11 Million in Grants Awarded to Provide Job Training for Veterans
An estimated 5,500 veterans in 10 states will receive job training skills and development services under new Veterans' Workforce Investment Program grants awarded this week by the department. More than $11 million dollars was awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community organizations. "These grants will increase the skill sets of veterans and result in training and credentialing for jobs in high-demand industries," said Secretary Solis. The grants are part of efforts by the department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service to expand educational opportunities for veterans, support incentives for businesses to hire unemployed veterans, ensure priority "Gold Card" services for veterans through the American Job Center network, and help veterans match skills related to their military occupations with those required by civilian jobs.
$10 Million in Grant Funds Available to Combat Child Labor in Tanzania
Nearly 30 percent of Tanzanian children between the ages of 5 and 14 are in the workforce, including in agriculture and domestic service. The department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs issued a $10 million competitive solicitation Aug. 10 seeking qualified organizations for one or more cooperative agreements to combat child labor in Tanzania's agricultural production and domestic service sectors. The deadline for submitting applications is Oct. 9, 2012.
A new field office in Midland, Texas, has been opened by the Wage and Hour Division to help connect employees, employers, and others with the assistance needed to ensure compliance with federal wage and hour laws. The office is located at 602 North Baird St., Suite 126 (ZIP code 79701-4772). The Midland Field Office has oversight for agency enforcement throughout the Midland/Odessa area and is an extension of the division's Albuquerque, N.M., district office.
The odds of finding a job were stacked against her, Jennifer Lortie acknowledged. "I graduated from college during the recession, I had little experience and I used a wheelchair. I had a lot of strikes against me," she said. But with a desire to find employment helping others, the 28-year-old began her search by looking for support from federal programs. Lortie qualified for Social Security disability insurance and sought career assistance from an eastern Connecticut job center designated as a "Ticket to Work Employment Network." That led to job resume preparation and employment placement by a counselor whose program was funded through the Workforce Investment Act. Lortie now works 22 hours a week as an assistant technology specialist. Eventually, Lortie said, she hopes to go back to school for an advanced degree in social work.
Fire House Gets Rock-Solid Help From Shriver Job Corps
The cement apron behind the 43-year-old Leominster, Mass., fire house was deteriorating, keeping mechanics from servicing emergency equipment. Cement repair work would cost the budget-strapped fire department more than $5,000, so fire officials turned to the students of the nearby Shriver Job Corps Center for help. Once the old apron was torn up and taken away, the center's cement masonry instructor, Bill Shine, instructed students in pouring and curing a 1,000-square-foot cement slab, 8 inches thick, and reinforced with rebar and fiber meshing to hold 80,000 pounds of fire equipment. Students from cement, carpentry and painting classes also built firehouse benches. Shine said the project was "a valuable, real world training experience for young people trying to find their way in the world." Student Christopher Patrick said he was happy to be involved in the project and give back to the community.
Department Seeks $34 Million for Employee Retirement Plans
The department has sued to restore more than $34 million in assets to two retirement funds of Michigan-based vehicle parts manufacturer Metavation LLC. The suit is based on the results of an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration and alleges the company's chairman and the funds' service provider improperly used about $12.1 million from a plan with more than 300 participants and approximately $22.5 million from a plan with more than 1,000 participants. "Retirees who rely on pension plans should not have to worry about whether these funds are secure," said Secretary Solis. "That is why those who are entrusted with managing pension funds are held to the highest legal standards and will be held accountable by the Labor Department if they violate that trust."
In the Southeast, Raising Awareness About Fall Hazards
The Southeast regional offices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will increase enforcement efforts aimed at reducing an upward trend in construction-related fall fatalities. Falls are one of the four leading causes of employee fatalities in the Southeast. Beginning Aug. 20, OSHA is identifying sites throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi that may be exposing workers to fall hazards and conducting unannounced inspections at those sites. Additionally, all other hazards in plain sight will be addressed during the inspections. "OSHA's goal is to raise awareness about fall hazards and eliminate those conditions that lead to employee deaths," said Cindy Coe, the agency's regional administrator in Atlanta.
Missouri will continue cleanup and recovery efforts related to flooding that affected northwestern Missouri in 2011under a $1,141,783 National Emergency Grant increment announced Aug. 17 by the department. Awarded to the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, the additional funding will make possible temporary employment for eligible dislocated workers in affected areas.
Rule to Protect Workers From Hoisting Equipment Hazards
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a direct final rule in the Aug. 17 Federal Register that applies the requirements of the 2010 cranes and derricks in construction standard to demolition work and underground construction. This will protect workers from hazards associated with hoisting equipment used during construction activities. The direct final rule will apply the same crane rules to underground construction and demolition that apply to other construction sectors, and will streamline OSHA's standards by eliminating the separate cranes and derricks standard currently used for underground and demolition work. The direct final rule also corrects errors introduced in the 2010 rulemaking to make it easier for workers and employers to understand and implement these standards. The rule will become effective Nov. 15, 2012, unless OSHA receives significant adverse comments by Sept. 17. In that event, the direct final rule will be withdrawn and the accompanying notice of proposed rulemaking published in the same Federal Register will go into effect, allowing OSHA to continue the rulemaking process by soliciting comments from the public.
Puerto Rico Restaurant Ordered to Pay $130,000 to 26 Workers
The department has obtained a summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico ordering a Guaynabo restaurant to pay $129,057 in unpaid minimum wages and $1,472 in unpaid overtime to 26 workers for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Investigators from the department's Wage and Hour Division found that Lorraine Enterprises, doing business as Piccolo e Posto, as well as owner Lorraine Lago and general manager Pedro Gonzalez, did not inform employees that tips would constitute parts of their wages, improperly deducted fees from tipped employees' paychecks, distributed some of the tips to ineligible employees and did not pay some employees proper overtime.
Massachusetts Company Faces Penalties After Worker Injured
Massachusetts-based Barletta Heavy Division Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged willful and serious violations of worker safety standards at a bridge replacement project in Amesbury, Mass. The company faces $91,000 in proposed penalties following a March incident in which one of its cranes struck an overhead power line, injuring a worker. OSHA's inspection found that Barletta had multiple incidents of striking power lines with equipment on the bridge project. Other violations included lack of work zone signage and failure to train employees.
Los Angeles Restaurant Chain to Pay Back Wages, Damages
The Los Angeles Mexican restaurant chain Señor Fish Inc. has agreed to pay $89,930 in back wages and damages to 74 current and former employees. An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division West Covina District Office found labor violations at five Los Angeles-area locations. The employer paid workers straight time for all hours worked and did not pay overtime for hours worked beyond 40 per week.
Two Companies Cited Following New Jersey Heat Fatality
Waste Management of Trenton, N.J., and Labor Ready Northeast Inc., of Ewing, N.J., were cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one serious violation each of OSHA's general duty clause following a heat-related fatality in June. A Labor Ready Northeast temporary employee collecting garbage for Waste Management died while on a trash collection route in Hopewell Borough. The violation involved the companies' failure to ensure that workers performing trash collection during elevated heat conditions consumed adequate amounts of fluids and that employees were trained on how to recognize and respond to the signs of heat stress. Each company faces a proposed fine of $7,000 the maximum penalty permitted for a serious violation.
American Postal Workers Union Local 211 in Marysville, Calif., has agreed to conduct a new election for the contested race of president under the supervision of the Office of Labor-Management Standards. The agreement follows an OLMS investigation that determined that the union failed to ensure adequate safeguards for a fair election. OLMS found that ballot secrecy was potentially compromised in the union's December 2011 election. The new election will occur on or before Sept. 12, 2012.
Massachusetts Employers Urged to Prevent Falls and Fall Hazards
After citing two employers whose employees were exposed to falls of up to 16 feet at a Haverhill, Mass., residential construction site, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling upon employers in northeastern Massachusetts to reduce fall hazards. OSHA is stressing the importance of advance planning for job safety and providing workers with proper equipment and training to recognize fall hazards. The employers at the Haverhill site failed to provide fall protection and adequate training, did not remove a damaged ladder from service and misused a ladder to support scaffolding. Proposed fines for both contactors total $67,860.
Inspection Finds Safety Hazards at New York Food Processor
Delorio Foods Inc., a food processing company in Utica, N.Y., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 14 alleged serious violations at the company's Bleecker Street manufacturing facility. The company faces $54,900 in proposed penalties after an OSHA inspection found that working area floors were not kept free from slippery conditions and the exit route from a storage area was obstructed by a pallet of food and a trash can. OSHA inspectors also found that employees who were exposed to corrosive materials lacked adequate stations for flushing of the eyes and body if they came in contact with the materials.
Legal Action Underway to Protect Migrant Workers in Michigan
The department is taking legal action to protect migrant workers at three Michigan farm operations in Cass and Manistee counties following investigations conducted by its Wage and Hour Division. A civil contempt petition has been filed against Berrybrook Farms in Dowagiac alleging violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. Additionally, a separate complaint has been filed against D. Howes LLC, operating as Darryl Howes Farms and Howes Co., both in Copemish, alleging violations of the MSPA and the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage provisions. "Farm owners and operators who repeatedly fail to ensure that their camps meet the minimum standards for migrant worker housing established by law demonstrate a disregard for workers and their families," said Karen Chaikin, regional administrator of the department's Wage and Hour Division in the Midwest. "The violations allegedly committed by these companies are intolerable and inhumane."
Financial Services Company to Pay $1.2 Million to Pension Plans
An investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration has led to a financial services company agreeing to pay $1,265,608 million to 13 pension plans. USI Advisors Inc. has agreed to pay the plans to resolve alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. EBSA's investigation found that the Glastonbury, Conn.-based fiduciary investment adviser made investments in mutual funds on behalf of ERISA-covered defined benefit plan clients and received 12b-1 fees from those funds. A 12b-1 fee is paid by a mutual fund out of fund assets to cover certain expenses. USI Advisors failed to fully disclose the receipt of the 12b-1 fees and to use those fees for the benefit of the plans. The alleged violations in this case occurred between 2004 and 2010. USI Advisors is a wholly owned subsidiary of USI Consulting Group, a Goldman Sachs Capital Partners Co.
Houston Emergency Medical Service Companies Sued for Back Wages
Three emergency medical service companies in Houston have been sued by the department after an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The probe found the companies violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay 76 dispatchers, paramedics and administrative personnel $142,000 in minimum wage and overtime back wages. Some employees were misclassified as independent contractors, while others were paid "straight time" for all hours worked instead of receiving time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week, the investigation found.
Penalties Proposed for Pennsylvania Die Manufacturer
Danco Precision faces proposed penalties of $55,500 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety hazards at its manufacturing facility in Phoenixville, Pa. OSHA's investigation was initiated as part of the agency's Site-Specific Targeting Program for industries with high injury and illness rates. Investigators found 14 safety violations, including the company's failure to control potentially-hazardous energy, provide barriers to protect employees from falls, and execute a hazard communication plan that includes employee training.
Virginia Beach Company Faulted for 'Off the Clock' Hours
Sea-Thru Windows Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va., has agreed to pay $83,454 in back wages to 45 workers after the Wage and Hour Division found overtime and record-keeping violations. Employees were required to clean and detail vehicles "off the clock" before and after their shifts. Additionally, the company mishandled wages by paying overtime to workers who exceeded 80 hours in a two-week period, as opposed to compensating those who worked more than 40 hours in one workweek.
Safety Hazards at Georgia Recycler, Inspection Finds
World Recycling Inc. of Gainesville, Ga., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 24 safety and health violations. The recycler faces $74,400 in proposed penalties for violations involving failing to create a lockout/tagout program, a lack of proper equipment guarding and exposing workers to fall, struck-by, crushed-by and caught-in hazards. "This inspection found workers being exposed to a variety of hazards that can cause serious injury and possible death," said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office. "It is the employer's responsibility to eliminate hazards in order to establish a safe and healthy work environment."