As David A. Morse tells it, the establishment of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs occurred in stealth, under cover of darkness. In 1977, in an oral history of the Truman administration, Morse told the story: "I was in my house on 16th Street in Washington and the phone rang at night and it was a fellow by the name of Sylvester, who was the chief of the bureau for the Newark Evening News of New Jersey, in Washington. He said, 'Dave, I just saw on the ticker that you've been appointed by the President of the United States to be the first Assistant Secretary of Labor for International Affairs. What have you got to say about it?' I said, 'Well, the first thing I've got to say about it is that this is the first I've heard about it.'" Raised in New Jersey, Morse graduated from Harvard Law School and served in a series of posts throughout World War II overseeing the Manpower Division of the Allied Military Government. He was serving as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board at the time, though he had been lobbying Secretary Lewis Schwellenbach for more engagement with labor movements abroad. After the immediate work of building a new agency (Morse recalls tracking down a single official named John Gambs, who worked for both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the
Women's Bureau and was the sole contact between the department and the International Labor Organization until that point), he set about coordinating the department's efforts to build up an international labor attaché program and support the economic development of Europe under the Marshall Plan. Upon leaving the department, Morse went on to become the director-general of the ILO, where he served from 1948-1970. In 1969, Morse accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the organization.
• A Good News Report, But We Can Do Better: The employment situation report for June, released on July 5, bodes well for continuing improvement in the labor market and better prospects for job seekers across the country. With 202,000 total private sector jobs added in June, and upward revisions of 70,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in the months of April and May, there have now been 40 consecutive months of private sector jobs growth. "But our economy still is not performing at its full potential, still not recovering with the speed and strength that working families need. There are steps we can take to encourage more vigorous economic growth," writes Acting Secretary Harris.
• Calling All Innovative Minds: Take the DOL Fair Labor Data Challenge: Laura Fortman, principal deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, introduces the DOL Fair Labor Data Challenge, which calls on developers to create a smartphone application that integrates the department's publicly available enforcement data with consumer ratings websites, geo-positioning Web tools and other relevant data sets. The goal of the challenge is to provide consumers with information about which businesses have treated their workers fairly and lawfully and empowers them to make informed choices about where to shop, eat or even vacation.
• Final 2012 Data Shows Lowest Mining Injury, Fatality Rates in US History: This week the Mine Safety and Health Administration released the final mining data for 2012, and it brings very welcome news: Last year's numbers represent the lowest death and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining. Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, parses the data and credits these improvements to the work and dedication of all in the mining community, including MSHA, mine operators, miners and their representatives.
Myth: Employers will stop offering health coverage to their workers under the Affordable Care Act.
Fact: Multiple independent analyses by organizations, including the RAND Corporation, Urban Institute and Mercer, have found that employers will continue to offer health coverage to their workers under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And there's real-life evidence to support this conclusion: When health reform was enacted in Massachusetts, the number of businesses offering insurance in the state actually increased.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration forged an alliance with the Shipyard Workers Union in San Diego on July 9. OSHA and the union agreed to work jointly to develop training and education programs for shipyard workers and agency personnel. The alliance will focus on emergency response, confined spaces on board ships, respirator use and toxic metals. Jay Vicory, director of OSHA's San Diego Area Office, signed the alliance at the union's office in San Diego, along with Robert Godinez, the union's president.
Kicking off the third day of Blind LGBT Pride International on July 8 in Columbus, Ohio, Kathy Martinez shared stories about her life as a woman who is blind, Latina and lesbian. She also described the work she oversees as assistant secretary of labor for Disability Employment Policy, which is aimed at advancing equal opportunity by developing and disseminating policies and practices that promote the employment of people with disabilities. "As people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community, it is critical we recognize that our communities share a common history of discrimination that continues to shape the challenges we face today," Martinez noted. "And when we make strides toward equality for any community, whether the disability community, the LGBT community, or any other historically marginalized population, it benefits all of us."
Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, applauded the efforts of business and government to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities during a DC Metro Business Leaders Network meeting on July 10. More than 30 corporate diversity leaders attended the meeting held at Lockheed Martin's Bethesda, Md., headquarters. Martinez and Nancy Hammer, senior government affairs policy counsel of the Society for Human Resource Management, shared examples of the work being done to promote disability diversity in the workplace. "We really appreciate the insight both the BLN and SHRM have provided to ODEP through the Campaign for Disability Employment, as well as our formal alliances with them," said Martinez.
In April, the White House challenged local elected officials and business and community leaders to help connect young people with summer and year-round job opportunities. To follow up on one such program's progress, Jay Williams, director of the Office of Recovery for Automotive Communities and Workers, visited the Young Adult Career Connections Center in Kansas City, Mo., on July 11. Jocelyn, a Bright Futures program participant working in the mayor's office, gave the program high marks. "I really feel like I'm being productive," she said. "I have a vision for what I want my life to be and this will help me achieve that." Later this summer, the White House will recognize individuals and organizations that have made the biggest impact preparing young people for the workforce at the Youth Jobs+ Champions of Change event.
Job Corps is seeking new applicants ages 16 to 24 for its national career training and education program at 125 campuses across the country. Residential and nonresidential slots are available for the self-paced federal program. This is an ideal opportunity to gain education, career training, and employability skills for eligible low-income individuals who may be looking for a steppingstone to a community college or for those who need additional support to pursue a community college degree.
The department reported the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 360,000 for the week ending July 6, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average was 351,750, up 6,000 from the previous week's revised average.
Lowest Fatality, Injury Rates in US Mining History
The Mine Safety and Health Administration has released the final mining data for 2012, which include mine inspections, violations, number of mines and miners, and injury and fatality rates. Last year's numbers represent the overall lowest death and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining. Of the 36 miners who died on the job in 2012, five were contractors, representing the fewest number of contractor deaths since MSHA began collecting contractor data in 1983. "While more needs to be done to protect the nation's miners, we are moving mine safety in the right direction," said Joseph Main, the assistant secretary of labor who heads MSHA. "The actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining community were the key to the continuing improvements we saw in 2012." He added, "All miners deserve the safest possible working conditions."
During a meeting with acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris and other senior advisors on July 8, President Obama called on the federal government to build on the progress of the last four years and streamline Americans' ability to get the services they need. In his remarks, the president outlined his vision for a government that delivers the services citizens expect in smarter, faster and better ways; identifies new ways to increase efficiency and save money; and supports a growing economy and job creation by continuing to make government data more accessible. Using the response to Hurricane Sandy as an example, the president noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has registered 57 percent of applicants for assistance 304,000 people through Internet and smartphone apps. By scouring agencies' technology portfolios, the administration has identified more than $2.5 billion in cost reductions and has seen government data leveraged by the private sector to help the public find health care more effectively, save money on energy bills, and learn more about an employer's record when it comes to fair and safe workplaces. To help lead this effort, the administration recently welcomed a second class of Presidential Innovation Fellows 43 talented and motivated individuals chosen out of more than 2,000 applicants to work hand-in-hand with top government innovators and develop solutions that are delivering smart-government solutions to taxpayers at a lower cost.
The #VetsJobsChat on July 10 the department's third such online event assembled the broadest group of veterans' employment stakeholders yet. With a focus on employment resources for veterans with disabilities, several veterans service organizations, disability organizations, and branches of the armed services came together in one virtual "room" to answer questions about transitioning from military to civilian employment. Acting Secretary Harris manned the controls, delivering timely information on department programs and services. Experts from the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, Office of Disability Employment Policy, and Employment and Training Administration also were on hand to proffer advice. Hundreds of people participated in the hour-long conversation. Congressional representatives, employers and local organizations connected with veterans, providing immediate, actionable advice based on individual veterans' needs.
After more than 85,000 downloads, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Heat Safety Tool is still a life-saver! As part of a national outreach campaign to prevent heat illness among outdoor workers, the department developed a mobile application in 2011 to expand its outreach to the smartphone community. The campaign centers on three simple words: water, rest, shade. Now in its third consecutive year, the heat campaign continues to provide resources to spread awareness among employers and workers, including temporary workers not acclimated to high temperatures. Partnerships with the National Weather Service, meteorologists, and alliances with employers and organizations have been critical to saving lives and promoting others to join the campaign. Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor who heads OSHA, answers three questions about preparing workers for extreme heat.
Who is affected?Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those engaged in heavy work tasks or wearing bulky protective clothing and equipment. Workers not yet acclimatized to working in hot weather, particularly new workers, may be at greater risk of heat illness.
What is heat illness?The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially when coupled with high humidity, sweating may not be enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and, if not treated, can result in death.
How can heat illness be prevented?Remember three simple words: water, rest, shade. Employers should provide workers with water, rest and shade and educate them on how drinking water frequently, taking breaks and limiting time in the heat help prevent heat illness. Workers should also be trained to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, and employers should include prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Gradually engaging in heavy, physical labor helps workers build up tolerance to the heat,especially those who are new to working outdoors in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. Lastly, during the first week of work, employers should gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks. You should plan for an emergency and know what to do acting quickly can save lives!
Are you up for a challenge? The Wage and Hour Division is hosting an app contest that challenges innovative people to link social media platforms with the agency's enforcement data. The DOL Fair Labor Data Challenge calls for creating a smartphone app that integrates the department's publicly available enforcement data with consumer ratings websites, geo-positioning Web tools and other relevant data sets, such as those available from state health boards. By providing consumers with information about which businesses have treated their workers fairly and lawfully, the app will empower them to make informed choices about where to shop, eat or even vacation, and it will recognize those employers who are doing the right thing and playing by the rules. Submissions will be accepted through Oct. 11, and judges will announce a winner in early November.
Returning to work, fair and equitable benefits, and increased program effectiveness and integrity were among the reform elements highlighted in testimony on July 10 before the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protection. Gary Steinberg, acting director of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, presented a comprehensive proposal to the committee which would amend the Federal Employees' Compensation Act of 1916. For nearly 100 years, the FECA program has provided compensation benefits to federal employees who sustain an on-the-job injury or illness. Steinberg testified that the proposals to update FECA, which has not been amended in nearly 40 years, would "enhance OWCP's ability to help workers return to work, provide a more equitable array of benefits and modernize the program, while producing a 10-year savings of over $500 million." He also noted a 20 percent reduction in the average number of lost workdays over the past 10 years, and stressed the agency's commitment to continuous improvement in customer service, quality, internal and external communications, and timeliness of benefits and services for workers and their families.
Veterans Group Honors Philadelphia Women's Bureau Administrator
Lucia Bruce, Women's Bureau regional administrator in Philadelphia, has received the 2013 "Leaders & Legends" Honor Award from the Women Veterans ROCK! Coalition. Bruce was honored for her notable community leadership and advocacy in support of women veterans and military families during the coalition's summer retreat on June 30. The retreat focused on leadership, workforce and entrepreneurial development for women veterans. "This honor is very special because it has given me the opportunity to support our women veterans who are trying to reintegrate back into the workforce," said Bruce. Women Veterans ROCK! is a grassroots coalition of women veterans and advocacy organizations commissioned by The Healthy Caregiver Foundation in Philadelphia.
DOL Working for You
Job Corps Plumbing Students 'Flush With Success'
When California's Bill Howe Plumbing, Inc. needs qualified workers, it often turns to the San Diego Job Corps Center for candidates. "Their students are better prepared for their work, and they come to us a step ahead of other candidates because of the training they have received," said Tina Howe, the company vice president. She said students are trained alongside seasoned plumbers, and the company has hired 10 Job Corps students over the years. Louis Zimmerman thought about joining the military but instead enrolled in the San Diego Job Corps.
He said he chose plumbing as a career choice because "it is a good trade that can take you anywhere." Zimmerman studied plumbing math and drawings, installing fixtures and faucets, and servicing sewer and sump pumps. When he graduated, Bill Howe Plumbing hired him as a plumbing drain technician.
DOL in Action
Amputation Leads to Proposed Fines at Georgia Glass Manufacturer
Ardagh Glass Inc., a manufacturer of glass and metal packaging for food and beverages, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with one willful and one serious safety violation. OSHA launched an investigation after a worker suffered a finger amputation and crushed hand while removing a glass mold from a bottle-shaping machine at the company's facility in Warner Robins, Ga. Violations include failure to develop or use lockout/tagout procedures and not ensuring workers operating equipment were protected from contact at the point of operation with moving parts and molten glass. "The employer was fully aware that workers reached in the machine while they serviced the glass molds, yet nothing was done to protect them from serious injury," said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office. The company faces proposed penalties of $77,000.
Metal Fabricator Exposed Workers to Crushing Hazards
G2K Corp., doing business as GBC Inc. in Lakewood, Colo., was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 13 safety violations. The violations follow a March incident in which a worker was seriously injured when an overhead crane dropped a load, pinning him to the ground and resulting in amputation at the knee. The citations included one willful and one repeat violation. The willful violation was for failing to use an approved lifting device to attach the load to the hook of the overhead crane. The repeat violation was for failing to guard a lathe and two milling machines. Penalties of $82,600 have been proposed.
Illinois Company Failed to Provide Fall Protection to Roofers
Elgin, Ill.,-based Site Maintenance Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with willful, repeat and serious safety violations for failing to provide roofers with fall protection at two job sites in Schaumburg. OSHA proposed penalties of $73,920. "Falls remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Not providing fall protection to workers assigned to work on steep-pitch roofs is inexcusable," said Diane Turek, area director for OSHA's Chicago North Office in Des Plaines.
Former Maryland Union Employee Sentenced to Prison
Cora Carper, a former clerical employee for the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers in Lanham, Md., recently was sentenced to 37 months in prison, three years of probation and ordered to pay restitution after pleading guilty to a half-million-dollar embezzlement scheme. An Office of Labor-Management Standards investigation found that, between June 2009 and February 2011, Carper cashed more than 300 checks from the union's political action fund, which she managed. Carper frequently falsified information on the checks and in the union's electronic ledger in order to conceal the embezzlement, which totaled $502,586. Carper pleaded guilty to her crime in April in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
Georgia Refurbisher Cited for Safety Violations
Supermarket Equipment Sales, a remanufacturer of supermarket and restaurant equipment, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 17 violations following an inspection at the company's facility in Rutledge, Ga. Violations include failing to develop specific lockout/tagout procedures, provide machine guarding, maintain a written hazard communication program and exposing workers to fire, explosion and fall hazards. "A wide range of safety and health hazards were identified that need to be eliminated from the workplace," said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office. "Implementing preventive programs and systems that ensure such hazards are identified and corrected as part of the day-to-day operations is critical." Penalties of $62,300 have been proposed.
Serious Safety Violations Found at Concrete Manufacturing Facility
Tileco Inc., a concrete products manufacturer in Kapolei, Hawaii, has been cited for 23 safety and health violations, 22 of which were deemed serious. The citations were issued following an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the agency's National Emphasis Program for amputations. Violations included failure to evaluate workplace hazards adequately, protect workers from amputation hazards associated with unguarded machinery and gears, protect workers from confined space hazards, and provide training on the use of powered industrial trucks. Tileco faces proposed fines of $50,400.