In 1961, President John F. Kennedy personally delivered a special message to Congress on urgent national needs. On his agenda: unemployment. The country had just come out of a recession and recovery was under way, but joblessness remained a serious challenge. Kennedy proposed the Manpower Development and Training Act, designed to help workers with obsolete skills receive training to get and keep jobs in new and emerging industries. Later that year, the department's Office of Automation and Manpower was created to analyze unemployment by industry and occupation and develop programs for dealing with the impact of automation. The following year, the scope was expanded and OAM became the Office of Manpower, Automation and Training, which eventually evolved into the Manpower Administration, led by an Assistant Secretary of Labor for Manpower. In 1975, the agency became the Employment and Training Administration.
At roundtable discussions with representatives of vulnerable communities in Seattle, New Orleans and San Francisco, Secretary Solis stressed the importance of job training and the challenge of ensuring that every person in every community has the opportunity to thrive. On Oct. 12 in Seattle at the YWCA Opportunity Place, Solis met with employment experts and with service providers who assist homeless women and other vulnerable groups. "Our streets, communities and country as a whole grows stronger when we all come together — employers, community groups, non-profits, labor unions, community colleges, everyone," Solis said. "Together, we are building capacity and developing job training programs tailored to the needs of the communities." The next roundtable was held at Xavier University in New Orleans on Oct. 17, where Solis met with community leaders, students and faculty. The final event took place the following day in San Francisco at the offices of Chinese for Affirmative Action, where Solis met with community and government leaders. We'll have a longer story and more pictures about that visit in next week's newsletter.
While in Seattle on Oct. 12, Secretary Solis, joined by Mayor Mike McGinn, toured the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center and met with members of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. Solis discussed the importance of education and training that leads to good jobs, and the secretary and mayor heard from attendees about the unique challenges facing Native Americans in the Seattle area. The foundation provides a variety of social, education and economic development opportunities and cultural activities for the Native American community and also includes a Native Workforce Investment Act program that provides employment and training resources in Seattle/King County. Two program participants, Velma Wyena and Mary Gladstone, spoke on how they achieved their goals in higher education with the help made possible by the Workforce Investment Act.
An alliance promoting the safety and health of construction and transportation workers, especially vulnerable and young workers, was renewed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Lamar Outdoor Advertising. Lamar operates more than 150 outdoor advertising companies and nearly 150,000 billboards nationally, and represents 3,000 workers and several unions. The alliance, a two-year agreement announced on Oct. 12, will develop an outdoor advertising safety and health training presentation for OSHA compliance officers and promote OSHA's National Emphasis Programs, among other agency activities. "OSHA and Lamar have collaborated in promoting nationwide awareness of heat illness prevention, struck-by hazards, work stand-downs and distracted driving," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. "Our renewed alliance will continue our commitment to provide training, educational and outreach tools that promote worker safety."
Public and private sector employers and employees are celebrating the third week of National Disability Employment Awareness Month with posters, mentoring, sign language classes and other events. Five Metro stations in the Washington, D.C., area are displaying the 2012 NDEAM poster inside the stations through a public service advertising agreement through the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The department's Office of Disability Employment Policy is working with agencies across the government to provide information and activities related to this year's NDEAM theme, "A Strong Workforce Is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?"
Emphasizing the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. automotive industry, Jay Williams delivered a keynote address to the 2012 Southern Automotive Conference on Oct. 12 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The director of the department's Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers addressed about 500 automotive executives -- including manufacturers, suppliers and service providers -- from the southeastern United States. Williams also joined Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and local elected officials in a roundtable discussion. "The Southern Automotive Conference is further confirmation of the rebound occurring in the American automotive manufacturing industry under this administration," Williams said. "The region continues to attract foreign and domestic investment … and is collaborating across state lines in more productive and innovative ways than ever before."
Cement Industry Alliance
A safety alliance established between the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Portland Cement Association in 2008 was renewed this week in a signing ceremony at MSHA headquarters in Arlington, Va. Flanked by senior staff members of both organizations, Assistant Secretary of Labor Joseph Main and PCA President and CEO Brian A. McCarthy signed the agreement extending the alliance through December 2015. Both organizations have agreed to continue to work cooperatively to identify and evaluate cement industry-specific health and safety hazards; analyze accident and violation data; and develop and distribute information, training and educational tools. Calling it one of MSHA's more successful and productive alliances, Main thanked PCA for its members' commitment to safety and health, in particular an initiative involving the prevention of injuries from coal-fired ignitions during the cement-making process.
New 401(k) fee disclosures can empower workers saving for retirement to take control of their finances today as they save for a secure retirement tomorrow. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi discussed recent changes to health and 401(k) benefits at a California Coalition of Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors event earlier this month in San Diego. Borzi focused on the need to understand how excessive fees can cut into retirement savings, and how audience members could avoid them. Rules published by the department this summer are, for the first time, requiring employers to disclose fees to 401(k) plan participants.
Some of the world's most influential decision-makers on construction safety gathered for the triennial International Symposium of the Construction Section of the International Social Security Association. Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, was a plenary speaker at the 2012 event in Boston, on Oct.16. The two themes of the symposium acknowledge the persistent challenges facing the U.S., European countries and low wage countries: safety and health in the life-cycle of construction activity, and in worker training. Dr. Michaels focused on the benefits of incorporating safety — such as injury and illness prevention programs – into the construction process
Immigrants and the Economy
Immigrants have a significant, positive effect on the American economy, particularly in small businesses and self-employment, according to the department's chief economist, Dr. Adriana Kugler. She made those comments at a recent meeting with about 50 students, faculty, and staff from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Kugler was invited to discuss the impact of immigration on the American economy. Research published recently show that immigrants create patents at double the rate of native-born Americans, but that immigrants do not crowd out or off-set native employment
Dominican Safety Alliance
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration signed an alliance with the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 17. The alliance aims to provide Dominican and other Latino workers with information, guidance and access to resources to promote worker safety and health. MaryAnn Garrahan, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia, signed the memorandum at the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Washington, D.C., along with Ambassador Anibal de Castro.
Safety First in Jersey
Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration area offices in New Jersey joined more than 120 workers at the fourth annual safety day on Oct. 10 in Edison, N.J. Hosted by the Associated General Contractors of New Jersey, the Building Contractors Association of New Jersey and its labor partners, the event highlighted the most effective safety training initiatives being used at construction sites throughout New Jersey. The safety day included training on scaffold erection, fall protection, the avoidance of struck-by hazards and a special presentation on distracted driving
Weekly UI Claims
The department reported the advance figures for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 388,000 on Oct. 18, an increase of 46,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average was 365,500,up 750 from the previous week's revised average of 364,750.
Town hall meetings hosted by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs will be held in Pasco, Wash., on Oct. 23 to provide former Hanford Engineer Works employees with information about a new class of employees added to the Special Exposure Cohort of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.
OWCP DEEOIC Meetings to Assist Nuclear Weapons Workers
During the last 28 days, Secretary Solis has visited 16 community colleges in 13 states to highlight the important role these institutions are playing in reshaping America's job training programs to strengthening the nation's workforce. Solis wrapped up the whirlwind tour of Trade Adjustment Act Community College Career Training grant recipients on Oct. 18 at Berkeley City College outside San Francisco. During her keynote address to the Emerald Cities Collaborative Community College Initiative Launch, she reflected on her travels, saying, "It has been good for the soul. The innovation happening at these community colleges across the country right now is nothing short of amazing. I've never met a more determined, driven group of Americans than the students I've met over the last month."
That includes the students at Bellevue Community College outside Seattle during a visit on Oct. 12. There, Solis was joined by Sen. Patty Murray to get a firsthand look at state-of-the-art health informatics labs, which will be expanded thanks to a recent department grant, and to talk to students and faculty about the importance of training workers with the skills needed for in-demand careers. On Oct. 15, Solis joined local employers, faculty and students in a roundtable discussion at East Los Angeles College in California, which received nearly $3 million to help prepare workers and students for logistics jobs, and to strengthen and expand partnerships with local employers. Later that day, she toured the SouthWest Skill Center at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Ariz. EMCC is leading a five-school consortium that received nearly $13.5 million to train workers in the energy and mining industries. Solis was joined by Reps. Raul Grijalva and Ed Pastor, Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, and academic and business representatives. From there she traveled to Elaine P. Nunez Community College in Chalmette, La., on Oct. 17, to discuss the school's recent $2.7 million grant to enhance their business administration programs through an emphasis on entrepreneurship and small business management, as well as hotel, restaurant and tourism administration. After weeks of traveling, one thing is clear: community colleges and their students are busy reinventing themselves and reimagining the American workforce.
Grants Helping Prepare Workers for Advanced Manufacturing
The funding provided through the department's Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College to Career Training initiative fosters partnerships that prepare workers for the future and that strengthen local communities. Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris visited Wilson Tool in White Bear Lake, Minn., last week to tour the company's tooling and machining shop and meet with students and workers who are benefiting from job training grants. Wilson Tool is participating in the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Re-Training program, headed by Central Lakes College, to help prepare workers in advanced manufacturing competencies. Central Lakes is leading a statewide consortium that received more than $13 million in grants through TAACCCT. The funding will be used to bring together nationally recognized leaders to develop, improve and expand training pathways for trade-impacted workers, the long-term unemployed and veterans that lead to careers in advanced manufacturing.
Mining Fatality, Injury Rates at Historic Lows in 2011
Mining fatality and injury rates fell to an all-time low in 2011, according to data recently released from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. MSHA also has released a summary of 11 mining deaths that occurred nationwide in the third quarter of 2012. Of the six coal mining deaths, one miner was killed as a result of a machinery accident; two miners were fatally injured as a result of fall of rib, roof, face or back accidents; and three miners were killed in powered haulage accidents. Of the five metal/nonmetal mining deaths, two miners died as a result of falls, one miner died in a machinery accident, one miner lost his life due to falling material, and one miner was killed in a powered haulage accident. In spite of 2011's historic lows, Joseph Main, the assistant secretary of labor who heads MSHA, urged the mining industry to do more. "Fatalities can be prevented through effective safety and health management programs in the workplace," he said. "Pre-shift and on-shift examinations can identify and eliminate hazards that kill and injure miners. And providing effective and appropriate training will ensure that miners recognize and understand hazards and how to control or eliminate them."
The Department of Labor is challenging developers, students and anyone else with a little tech savvy and creativity to enter the Workplace Safety and Health Challenge. Contestants are being asked to design tools that demonstrate the importance of recognizing and preventing workplace hazards by helping young people understand their rights in the workplace. The deadline is Nov. 30. "New technologies have the promise of making our safety and health resources even more accessible for workers and employers," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Successful proposals could take many different forms, such as interactive and informative games, a smart phone app, social or professional networks, or data visualization."
Since 1999, Disability Mentoring Day has paired students with disabilities and workplace mentors to promote career development. On Oct. 17, the Office of Disability Employment Policy worked with the American Association of People with Disabilities to pair 15 local students with mentors throughout the national office. Students in the department's Project SEARCH, a work experience program for students with disabilities, also attended the day's events. All the mentees received one-on-one mentoring, viewed ODEP videos on essential workplace soft skills, and participated in a discussion about potential career challenges and pathways. "We all got to the jobs we're in because someone believed in us," said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, during her welcome to the students. "Having a mentor is often the first step to getting meaningful work, so it's important that young people with disabilities, like all young people, have the chance to explore their career interests by job-shadowing and talking with people already working in those fields."
Statistics show that coal mine explosions occur most often during the colder months of the year, when dramatic drops in barometric pressure can cause potentially explosive methane to migrate from inactive parts of an underground coal mine into travelways and work areas. This week, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has launched its annual "Winter Alert" campaign to remind miners and mine operators about the potential hazards they may face. In underground coal mines, mine operators need to ensure there is adequate ventilation, apply liberal amounts of rock dust, conduct frequent and thorough examinations and gas checks, and be familiar with emergency evacuation procedures. Colder weather produces other potential hazards, such as limited visibility, icy haulage roads and walkways, and the freezing and thawing of highwalls at surface mines, which can make them unstable. During inspections, MSHA inspectors will distribute posters, hardhat stickers and pocket cards with the "Prevention is the Key to a Safe Workplace" theme to miners and mine operators throughout the coal industry.
Could you do your job if it was not possible to view email, operate a mobile phone or read key documents? Without the ability to access tools and technologies to perform a job, productivity suffers. That was the center of discussion on Oct. 18 at a FedInsider panel, which featured Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy; David Capozzi, executive director, U.S. Access Board; Pat Sheehan, director, compliance division and section 508 coordinator, Department of Veterans Affairs; Andrew Kirkpatrick, group product manager, accessibility, Adobe Systems; Don Barrett, assistive technology specialist, and Holly Anderson, liaison for people with disabilities, Department of Education. "The ability to access basic workplace technology can make or break a person's chances of succeeding on the job – or for that matter, getting a job in the first place," Martinez said.
Seniors Program Helps West Virginian Find Employment
For years, Sally Adams Pullen was a jack of all trades at her electronics company, filling orders, assembling kits and even doing a little soldering. But her career was interrupted when she decided to move closer to and care for her ailing mother in West Virginia. When she resumed her search for employment, Adams Pullen turned to the local Experience Works Senior Community Service Employment Program, funded by the department, for help. There she received updated training on resume and job interview preparation. She also sharpened her computer office skills during community service assignments with the local Public Library, and the state's Family Circuit Court. The training paid off, and she transitioned into full-time employment as a receptionist for several judges at the court. The program "was like jumping on a trampoline and getting a big bounce" into a new career, the 71-year-old said.
Navy Seabee Trains Job Corps Students for Green Jobs Success
In his five years in the Navy Seabees, Michael Blair traveled the world helping to build military bases and airstrips, primarily as a welder. Now as an instructor at New York's Oneonta Job Corps Center, Blair is helping to build careers. Blair teaches his students about underground electrical distribution, which allows power to be delivered by transformers to buildings via buried cables and conduits. Blair said the electric utility industry needs skilled workers in this area as it moves away from overhead lines and more towards underground power distribution.
In his rigorous 14-week program, students are taught about electrical work while also learning proper trenching techniques, how to operate a backhoe and working safely in confined spaces. "I hammer the hard points into their heads so they are a step above the competition."
DOL in Action
Company Cited After Worker Killed in Crane Collapse
Lunda Construction Co. of Black River Falls, Wis., has been cited with three serious safety violations after a worker was struck by a section of the crane he was assembling and killed on April 20. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated an inspection in response to the incident, which occurred at a construction site near De Pere, Wis., The violations involve failing to train workers and provide written procedures on safe crane assembly, provide a competent person to supervise the assembly and disassembly of the crane, and follow the manufacturer's recommended procedures for assembly of the crane.
South Carolina Restaurants to Pay Nearly $486,000 in Back Wages
Pancho's Inc., doing business as Pancho's Mexican Restaurant I, II, III, and Papa's and Beer Mexican Restaurants in South Carolina have agreed to pay a total of $485,913 in back wages to 85 employees following a Wage and Hour Division investigation. At the restaurants, investigators found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions. The investigation determined tip-earning employees were made to rely primarily on tips for pay and earned wages below the FLSA required $2.13 per hour and other workers were paid a flat salary each month without satisfying minimum wage and overtime requirements for all hours worked.
Workers Exposed to Biological Hazards at Ohio Nursing Home
Atrium Centers LLC of Columbus, Ohio, which operates the Woodside Village Care Center in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, has been cited with four health violations for exposing workers to biological hazards at the nursing care facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an inspection under the agency's National Emphasis Program for Nursing and Residential Care Facilities. Proposed penalties total $89,000. One repeat violation involves failing to include in the facility's exposure control plan a list of tasks and procedures in which occupational exposure to biological hazards may occur.
Hazards Found at Work Site on Houston Freeway Bridge Overpass
Williams Brothers Construction Co. Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with one repeat and one serious violation at a work site on Loop 610 in Houston. OSHA's Houston North Area Office conducted an inspection Aug. 27 and found that workers were setting barrier copings at the edge of the highway bridge overpass without the protection of guardrails, a safety net or personal fall arrest system. Proposed penalties total $45,500.
Georgia Company Faulted Following Amputation of Worker's Fingers
Marglen Industries Inc. in Rome, Ga., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and one serious violation after a worker had four fingers amputated while servicing a dust collector's airlock system. The willful citation was issued for allowing employees to perform service and maintenance on the dust collector's airlock system without developing, documenting and using specific lockout/tagout procedures for de-energizing the system. The serious violation involves failing to train workers as required by the company's lockout/tagout program to ensure that they are able to recognize hazardous energy. Proposed penalties total $69,300.
Officers of the Service Employees International Union Local 2007 in Stanford, Calif., have agreed to conduct a supervised election following an Office of Labor-Management Standards investigation. An OLMS investigation determined that the local denied a member in good standing the right to run for office by using a candidacy requirement that required a member to be in continuous good standing for more than two years prior to nominations in the union's September 2011 election. New nominations and a new election will be held for the offices of president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, Stanford executive board delegates and University of Santa Clara executive board delegate. The new election will be conducted before March 1, 2013.
Whistleblower Case With Tennessee Trucking Company Settled
A Department of Labor administrative law judge has approved an Occupational Safety and Health Administration preliminary order and settlement terms of a whistleblower case with Mark Alvis Inc., of Brush Creek, Tenn., owner Mark Alvis and dispatcher Jack Taylor. The company terminated an employee who refused to operate a vehicle because he was ill, fatigued and did not have enough hours remaining to complete a delivery. OSHA determined the trucking company violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The settlement terms include reinstatement, a lump sum payment of $30,000 to the employee and assurances that no employee exercising rights protected by the law will be discharged or face any manner of discrimination.
Poultry Processor Found in Violation of Child Labor Protections
The House of Raeford Farms Inc., a poultry processor in Teachey, N.C., has been assessed $12,400 in penalties following an investigation that found minors performing hazardous duties prohibited by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Wage and Hour Division investigators found two 17-year-old youths were employed in the company's deboning department where they were required to operate an electric knife in violation of FLSA's Hazardous Occupation Order No. 10. Workers under the age of 18 are prohibited from operating or cleaning powered meat processing equipment, including meat slicers.
Firearms Maker Faces Penalties After Finger Amputation
Crosman Corp., a firearms manufacturer in Bloomfield, N.Y., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an employee's finger was amputated in March. The agency found 23 serious and repeat violations of workplace safety standards, and determined that the company failed to enforce proper lockout/tagout procedures to prevent worker injury during maintenance. The inspection found that Crosman did not meet OSHA's hazardous energy control requirements, such as shutting down and securing the power sources before maintenance of machines. Crosman faces $148,000 in penalties.
Back Wages Sought for Workers at 3 Ohio Restaurants
The department has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Dayton, Ohio, seeking to recover back wages and damages for workers at three El Rancho Grande restaurants in the state. An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division determined that the restaurants, as well as co-owners Francisco Magana and Juan Hernandez, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay workers proper minimum wage and overtime compensation. Investigators have determined that approximately $285,000 in back wages is owed to 171 workers at Gran Fiesta Inc. in Cincinnati, El Rancho Inc. in Sharonville, and WRGRM LCC in Dayton. All three restaurants do business as El Rancho Grande.
Texas Landscapers to Receive $107,000 in Back Wages
Turf Specialties Inc. in Midland, Texas, has agreed to pay $106,818 in back wages to 70 current and former landscape workers following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum and overtime provisions. Investigators from the division's Lubbock Area Office found that employees were paid a fixed, biweekly salary that in many workweeks amounted to less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Alabama Detention Center Wrongfully Terminated Employee
The Marengo County Detention Center in Linden, Ala., has paid $103,987 in back wages to 29 current and former employees following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The investigation determined the employer unlawfully terminated an employee while on approved medical leave. The employer claimed that the employee failed to submit the required documentation but the employer never informed the employee in writing of the obligation as required by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The employer paid the employee $11,726 in lost wages. The investigation also found the employer failed to pay proper overtime compensation to 28 correctional officers and deputies.