During the 1960s, the Department of Labor was scattered across Washington in about 20 different locations. Construction of a "New Department of Labor Building" began in the mid-1960s to consolidate offices. On October 18, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford visited the new site on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., joining Secretary Peter J. Brennan in laying the cornerstone.
Within four months, the first wave of employees began moving into the new building. In 2007, one of the ceremonial trowels used to lay the cornerstone was returned to the department by a thoughtful member of the public. He discovered it among boxes of tools inherited from a relative.
Chávez National Monument
President Obama on Monday designated the home of César Chávez as a national monument. "Our world is a better place because César Chávez decided to change it. Let us honor his memory, but most importantly, let us live up to his example," the president said during the dedication ceremony at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz in Keene, Calif. He called the story of the farm worker movement "a story of determined, fearless, hopeful people who have been willing to devote their lives to making the country a little more just and a little more fair." Chávez died in 1993, but La Paz continues to serve as the United Farm Workers of America headquarters. The president declared 105 acres of the property a national monument that will be managed by the National Park Service. In addition to an estimated 7,000 people in the audience, Secretary Solis was also on hand and spoke during the program. While serving in Congress, Solis introduced the legislation to make the land a national monument. "Today, La Paz is enshrined as a place where civil rights for millions of Latino families was born. And for generations to come, it will be a place of reflection, education and inspiration," Solis said.
Latinos in St. Louis welcomed Secretary Solis on Oct. 10 for a conversation on jobs, education and other issues. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis and the Latino Legacy Project hosted a room full of community leaders and entrepreneurs at the University of Missouri Saint Louis. Solis provided a briefing on the state of the economy, saying, "It's estimated that 21 of the 30 fastest-growing occupations will require a postsecondary certificate or degree. But right now, half of all unemployed adults lack any type of degree or certificate." Solis spoke about the importance of helping Latinos and others in Missouri receive job training, and discussed recently announced Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants going to a number of community colleges throughout the state. The following day, Solis visited Kansas City, Mo., for a similar conversation, this time hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. A group of about 100 Latino leaders met with Solis at Burns & McDonnell World Headquarters.
More than 100 members of the mining community gathered Oct. 10 in Charleston, W.Va., for the first meeting of a new $48 million mine safety and health research foundation. Funding for the research is part of a $209 million non-prosecution agreement between Alpha Natural Resources and the Department of Justice following the April 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. That agreement is the largest ever in a criminal investigation of workplace safety, and the foundation is believed to be the largest fund for mine safety and health research in history. Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, was among the keynote speakers. "I believe the foundation can be a catalyst to bring about safety and health improvements," said Main. "We are moving in the right direction, but I also know we all agree that more needs to be done." Other speakers included representatives from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the United Mine Workers of America and the National Mining Association. Panel discussions about specific mine safety, health and mine emergency issues followed the keynote addresses.
Following a visit to St. Louis Community College this week, Secretary Solis drove across town to visit the new, state-of-the-art, LEED-certified Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Training and Education Center. "The new training center is one of the most advanced green training centers in the country, and will lead to jobs that pay good wages, offer good benefits and help protect our environment," said Secretary Solis. The new center opened in the spring of 2012 to enhance the education and training of sheet metal apprentices and the continuing education of journeymen. The building is energy efficient and powered with the support of wind turbines, natural lighting, and a solar-paneled roof.
Florida's Homestead Job Corps Center students and staff were recently honored at an assembly for contributions to their community. The building and facilities maintenance students, led by Homestead Job Corps Instructor Michael Desmond, worked with community organizations to help restore the roof of the local Saint Matthew Mission Baptist Church. The center's security trade students and their instructor Reginald Davis were honored for volunteering at the Community Health of South Florida Senior Center.
The students helped with parking, security and provided customer service to the seniors during a luncheon. "The students really appreciated the opportunity to participate in community service projects and showcase their skills," said Lesly Diaz, business and community liaison at Homestead Job Corps Center. "The recognition they received goes a long way towards enhancing their self-esteem and helping our community as a whole."
Mine Safety Trainers
Each October, mine safety trainers from around the country gather at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, W.Va., to share training materials, experiences and best practices. Sponsored by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the 2012 Training Resources Applied to Mining – or TRAM – conference brought together 300 participants from government agencies, academia and the mining industry. The three-day conference featured more than 50 workshops with topics ranging from electrical safety to understanding unsafe behavior, crane rigging, guarding equipment and motivating workers. In addition, 26 vendors and exhibitors showcased innovative mine safety products, along with technology and training materials. "Education and training are key factors in ensuring compliance with the law," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for MSHA Joseph Main during his keynote address. "Miners, supervisors and operators must be educated and trained to know what the law requires, how to comply, and how to prevent injury, illness and deaths in the nation's mines."
'Steal This Code'
Reducing duplication and increasing efficiency were the goals of the department's first Developer Day held Oct. 11 at the Frances Perkins Building in Washington, D.C. "Steal this code" was the theme as application developers from across the department shared tips, tricks and code with their colleagues. In addition to the department's developers, Ben Balter of the General Services Administration discussed the value of sharing code between federal departments, something the department has already done by making the DOL.gov "Was this Page Helpful?" code and various software development kits available through a public code sharing website. Software development kits make it easy for developers to use the department's data to build their own Web or mobile applications.
Twenty-three mine rescue teams from five states participated this week in the 2012 Nationwide Mine Rescue Skills Championship at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, W.Va. Sponsored by the West Virginia Mine Rescue Alliance and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the competition focused on skills required for responding to an actual mine emergency. These skills components include firefighting, navigating a smoke-filled room, first aid, gas testing, and inspecting breathing apparatuses.
As part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Office of Disability Employment Policy has launched news tools and resources to emphasize this year's theme – "A Strong Workforce Is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?" Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez emphasized the importance of making individuals with disabilities meaningful participants in society and encouraged the nearly 1,000 disability researchers, service providers, self-advocates and federal, state and local government staff at the Southwest Conference on Disability in Albuquerque, N.M., to play a role in disability employment. "By working together, we can make inclusion not just a buzz word, but an ingrained culture," Martinez said.
Protecting airline ground support workers from injuries has been cleared for takeoff with the renewal by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of its Alliance with the Airline Ground Safety Panel. The panel is a joint industry and labor partnership consisting of 11 airline companies and three unions that employ and represent 350,000 workers, about 85 percent of the industry. "Our continued Alliance with the Airline Ground Safety Panel will focus on preventing worker injuries caused by slips, trips and falls and being struck by objects," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. The two-year agreement was announced Oct. 11.
The department reported the advance figures for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 339,000, a decrease of 30,000 from the previous week. The 4-week moving average was 364,000, a decrease of 11,500 from the previous week's revised average of 375,500.
In order to create an economy built to last, the Department of Labor joined other executive branch agencies this week in announcing that 10 public-private partnerships will receive $20 million to boost American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. The 10 partnerships were selected through the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a competitive multi-agency grant process announced in May to support initiatives that strengthen advanced manufacturing at the local level.
The 10 winning initiatives — based in Arizona, California, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington — are expected to train 1,000 workers and help nearly 650 companies spur job creation. "By partnering across the federal government, these grants will help us leverage resources and ensure that training programs for advanced manufacturing careers provide the skills, certifications and credentials that employers want to see from day one," Secretary Solis said. The announcement on Oct. 9 was made by the department's Employment and Training Administration, the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, the Small Business Administration, and the National Science Foundation.
"A well-trained workforce means higher productivity, higher quality, higher profits and higher growth. And that adds up to more good-paying jobs," Secretary Solis said Oct. 10 in St. Louis. Solis visited two schools that recently received Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training grants to promote training partnerships between the colleges and local employers. All industries rely on a skilled workforce, and community colleges play a crucial role in training students to meet local employer needs. On Oct. 10, Solis visited St. Louis Community College to tour the Emerson Center for Engineering and Manufacturing. The college is leading a 10-school consortium that received almost $15 million to provide trade-impacted and long-term unemployed workers with training and industry-recognized credentials in the advanced manufacturing field. Rep. Lacy Clay and several local employers joined Solis in front of 50 students, faculty, administrators and employee partners to discuss the importance of support for such training partnerships. On Oct. 11, Solis traveled to Kansas City Kansas Community College to tour its Technical Education Centers. The school recently received almost $3 million to help improve training for high-wage, high-skill occupations in industries such as construction; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and advanced manufacturing. "Today, we take a critical step to reassure folks that investing in their education is the best investment they can make," Solis said.
For companies like Empire Aerospace in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, access to a skilled workforce is a crucial part of their ability to grow and meet industry demand. Thankfully, Coeur d'Alene is also home to North Idaho College, which recently received a nearly $3 million grant to create an Aerospace Center of Excellence in Aviation Maintenance and Advanced Manufacturing. The new program will provide accelerated training programs leading to certifications in airframe mechanics and aviation maintenance skills. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates visited the college on Oct. 4 to learn more about the training program, but also had a chance to tour Empire Aerospace's new 50,000-square-foot facility and to see what program participants can look forward to in these in-demand careers. The following day, Oates traveled to Montana where she talked with staff and job seekers at the Montana Department of Labor and Industry's job service center in Missoula – one of nearly 3,000 federally funded American Job Centers across the country. From there she made the short trip north to Kalispell, home of Flathead Valley Community College. The college recently received a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant for nearly $3 million to prepare workers for advanced manufacturing jobs by accelerating the pace of learning; providing comprehensive support services; improving the alignment of training and workforce demands; and strengthening the pathway for low-skilled workers into post-secondary education.
In trips to Chicago and Green Bay, Wis., Oct. 5 and 10, Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris visited community colleges that are leading their states' efforts to develop innovative advanced manufacturing training programs with the support of funding through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College to Career Training initiative. In Chicago, Harris met with faculty and students at Harper College. The school is leading a statewide consortium that received nearly $13 million in grants to help expand the Earn and Learn Advanced Manufacturing Career Lattice Program, which will provide credits for prior learning and personalized performance evaluations to help create pathways to advanced manufacturing careers. Harris then traveled to Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to see firsthand how statewide educational systems; industry groups; workforce development boards, and more than 50 businesses are coming together to improve and expand adult educational training pathways for careers in advanced manufacturing. NWTC is leading a 16-school consortium that received nearly $15 million in grants for this effort.
Mine entrapments involving roof falls rarely have happy endings but, a 10-hour ordeal at an eastern Ohio coal mine has defied the odds. Two roof bolter operators working at the Hopedale Mine in Harrison County became trapped the morning of Oct. 10 when a portion of the mine roof collapsed around them. Officials from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the company worked quickly to develop a plan to safely extract the two men. For the next several hours, their efforts involved removing enough fallen material to create a safe passageway for the miners to be rescued. By 7:30 that evening, the two men were headed out of the mine. "History shows that roof falls are the number one killer of coal miners," said MSHA Administrator for Coal Kevin Stricklin. "It's not often we have the opportunity for a successful rescue. We're extremely grateful that these men were able to walk out safely and without injury."
Grants Target Worker Rights and Child Labor
Five separate grant solicitations were announced Oct. 10 by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs seeking eligible applicants for projects to strengthen worker rights and reduce child labor. In the area of worker rights, applicants are being sought under a $2.2 million grant solicitation to improve the capacity of worker organizations in Haiti and Peru to better protect the rights of vulnerable workers and a $1.5 million grant solicitation seeks to develop workers' rights centers in Colombia as part of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement. In the child labor area, two grant solicitations were announced to implement projects in Ecuador and Panama. The grants, totaling $10 million, seek applicants to provide assistance that strengthens policies and enforcement in combatting child labor in those countries as well as to provide education and livelihood services that reduce families' dependency on child laborers. Finally, a $5 million solicitation will fund a project to build the capacity of domestic workers organizations in South and Southeast Asia.
Philadelphia Administrator Honored for Citizen Warriors Support
Gregory L. Lefever, regional administrator with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management in Philadelphia, received the Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense agency. The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made by supervisors and executives to support National Guard and Reserve members through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families and granting leaves of absence as needed. Lefever was nominated by military veterans and reservists employed with OASAM in Philadelphia.
News You Can Use
California Resource Center for Former Nuclear Workers Moves
The California Resource Center for former nuclear workers and their eligible survivors seeking to file a claim for benefits under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act moved from Livermore to Dublin, Calif., on Oct. 9. As part of the department's Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation, there are 11 resource centers nationwide to assist claimants and help them complete necessary forms. In an effort to inform as many potential claimants as possible about eligibility for benefits, resource center staff has reached out to local unions, medical providers and workers at Department of Energy facilities, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. To date, the Labor Department has delivered more than $338.1 million in EEOICPA compensation and medical benefits to 3,196 eligible claimants living in California, and more than $8.5 billion nationwide.
Employees, job seekers, employers, policymakers and researchers now have access to a new online resource that provides a unique approach to workplace flexibility. This week, the Office of Disability Employment Policy launched the Workplace Flexibility Toolkit. Workplace flexibility policies and practices typically focus on when and where work is done. The toolkit adds a new dimension — an emphasis on flexibility around job tasks and what work is done. Funded by ODEP in partnership with the department's Women's Bureau, the toolkit makes more than 170 resources easily accessible, particularly for workers and job seekers with complex employment situations, such as parents with young children, single parents, family caregivers, mature workers, at-risk youth, ex-offenders, individuals with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, and people with HIV/AIDS. Visitors may access case studies, fact and tip sheets, issue briefs, reports, articles, websites with additional information, and a list of frequently asked questions.
The Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, known as the ERISA Advisory Council, will meet later this month to complete recommendations to the secretary on several employee benefits issues. The meeting, taking place at department headquarters on Oct. 30 and 31, is open to the public.
Even while he was working long hours as a grocery stock clerk, Richard James was determined to find a rewarding career in the electrical trades where he could "work with my hands," just as an uncle had done. James found his opportunity through the Building Futures Pre-Apprenticeship Program funded through the department's Green Jobs Innovation Fund. The six-week building trades course work James received included orientation to green jobs technology, blueprint reading, construction math, flagging, wiring, and introduction to tools and materials. He also received job readiness training that included test preparation and interview training techniques. James passed his tests, received his certifications, and became a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. James now works full time as an electrician, with a bright future ahead of him.
Job Corps Start Leads Vet to Career in Medicine
Dr. Mary Ann Gamble's remarkable journey as a renaissance woman began when she saw a television commercial promoting the virtues of Job Corps. Because college was too expensive and she "needed to get real job skills," Gamble enrolled in the Gary Job Corps Center in Texas, where she learned to be an electrician and joined in community building projects. She later followed in her parents' footsteps by enlisting in the Air Force, where she became a linguist in Korean. A bachelor's degree in microbiology at Southern Illinois University and four years of medical school at the University of Texas followed. She now practices family medicine in Texas. Gamble said some of her drive to succeed comes from her mother, a high school dropout and migrant farm worker who had a successful military career, and from her own varied life experiences, which allows her to have something in common with everyone she meets.
Gamble said Job Corps gives students "a little extra time to grow up, get stability in their lives, and walk out with job skills and common sense."
DOL in Action
Workers on Minnesota City Projects Receiving $430,000 in Back Wages
Two Minnesota construction companies will repay $430,000 in back wages to 59 employees performing drywall hanging and finishing work on the Uptown at City Walk housing project in Woodbury and the City Hall/Library and Senior Center construction project in St. Michael. This action follows an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that found subcontractors on the projects violated provisions of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts as well as the Copeland Act. Stonebridge Construction has paid a total of $370,000 due to 37 employees on the Uptown at City Walk housing project, even though the wage underpayments resulted from the practices of Beck Drywall and Complete Wall Systems. Beck Drywall agreed to pay $60,000 in base wage and fringe benefits to 22 workers on the city of St. Michael 2010 municipal project.
Serious Violations Found After Death of New York Construction Worker
Yonkers Contracting Co. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an employee of subcontractor J&E Industries of Belle Harbor, N.Y., was fatally struck by a crane boom at a Manhattan construction site. The agency found 10 serious violations of workplace safety in connection with the April 3 death of the worker on the No. 7 subway extension project. The inspection found that Yonkers Contracting had not conducted required inspections of wire ropes used to hoist materials, including the boom hoist that collapsed and killed the worker. Inspections by the employer are required before each work shift to identify and correct defects in ropes.
Systemic Labor Violations at 21 Day Care Centers in 8 States
Denver-based child care provider Crème de la Crème has paid $41,440 in back wages to 354 current and former child care workers following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. Overtime and record-keeping violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act were found at 21 day care centers in Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio and Illinois. The employer failed to pay employees for time spent at mandatory training courses and for work performed prior to or beyond scheduled shift periods. The investigations were conducted under a multiyear enforcement initiative focused on the child care industry in Colorado, in which widespread noncompliance with the FLSA has been found.
Fork Lift Manufacturer Cited for 25 Safety and Health Violations
Hoist Liftruck Mfg. Inc., in Bedford Park, Ill., has been cited with 25 safety and health violations, including four repeat violations. A safety inspection was opened in April and a health inspection was opened in May under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Site-Specific Targeting Program, which directs enforcement resources to workplaces with high injury and illness rates. Proposed fines total $82,170. The repeat violations involve failing to implement a hearing conservation program, provide welding curtains, and conduct fit testing and medical evaluations for workers required to wear respirators.
Spot Check of New Hampshire Site Turns Up Trenching Violations
Newport Construction of Nashua, N.H., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for repeat and serious safety violations at a Middlesex County, Mass., utility installation work site. Newport Construction faces $30,310 in proposed fines, chiefly for trenching hazards at the site, at the corner of Route 62 and Network Drive. Inspectors from OSHA's Andover Area Office were driving by the intersection en route to another work site when they observed employees working in what appeared to be an unprotected excavation. An inspection was opened on the spot and the trench, which was deeper than 5 feet, was found to lack both cave-in protection and a means for workers to swiftly and safely exit the trench in the event of a collapse or other emergency.
A multiagency investigation that included the department's Employee Benefits Security Administration has led to time behind bars for a former Tennessee financial advisor who stole from his investors, including employee benefit plans. Aaron Donald Vallett, former owner of A.D. Vallett & Co. LLC, was sentenced earlier this month to 120 months in prison, and ordered to pay $5.4 million in restitution after admitting to orchestrating a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme involving more than 30 victims, including several family members and friends. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee and investigated by EBSA, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the FBI and the Tennessee Securities Division.
Follow-up Inspection Reveals Repeat Violations at Wisconsin Plant
Stroh Precision Die Casting has been cited for nine safety, including five repeat, violations at the company's Mauston, Wis. facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an inspection in May as a follow-up to a 2011 inspection that resulted in citations for failing to provide appropriate protective equipment and train workers on hazardous chemicals. Proposed fines for the May inspection total $51,590. Specifically, the repeat violations are failing to provide appropriate hand protection, require workers to wear face protection, train workers on the use of personal protective equipment, properly label chemicals in the workplace and train workers on hazardous chemicals.
Federal Court Rules for OSHA in Whistleblower Case
A U.S. District Court judge in Florida has ruled in favor of the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration in a whistleblower case against LOTO Services LLC and owner Allan R. Lochhead. The department sued the defendants alleging that they unlawfully and intentionally fired an employee of Aquatech Technologies Inc. after raising concerns about rodent infestations at the company's Stuart, Fla., facility. LOTO Services owns Aquatech Technologies, which does business as Aquatech Canvas & Consignment. Judge K. Michael Moore permanently enjoined the defendants from violating the provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and ordered that the former employee be paid $34,186 in back wages, expenses and interest.
After Fire at Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Facility, Violations Found
Fontarome Chemical Inc. has been cited for 17 serious violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following a fire at the company's pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in St. Francis, Wis., on April 13. The fire occurred during the troubleshooting of an electrical component on the hot oil heater. OSHA initiated an inspection under its national emphasis program on process safety management for covered chemical facilities. Proposed fines total $51,800. Twelve violations cited relate to process safety management, including failing to address hazards related to potential engineering and administrative control failures and to respond to deficiencies found in compliance audits.
LH Musser & Sons Inc. in Clarksburg, Md., was cited for one serious violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's general duty clause following a heat-related fatality in June. OSHA initiated an inspection after an employee, who was performing paving operations in the parking lot of a church in the District of Columbia, was hospitalized and later died because of heat stress. The violation involved failing to provide a program addressing heat-related hazards in the workplace.
Unions in Nevada and Nebraska are being required to rerun elections under the supervision of the Office of Labor-Management Standards after investigations uncovered improprieties. In Las Vegas, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 631 has agreed to conduct a new officer election after an investigation found ineligible members voted in the union's mail ballot election last December. A new election must be held on or before Oct. 26. In Lincoln, Neb., members of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3928 will vote again for president, and its members who work at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will also cast votes for vice president. An OLMS investigation found multiple problems involving absentee ballots and inadequate notice to union members about the election. A new election must be held by Dec. 19.