The recession of the mid-1970s brought a temporary end to the growth and economic expansion that had remained largely steady since the early post-World War II years. As President Jimmy Carter took the reins of the country in 1977, efforts to stimulate the economy and halt job losses would be foremost on his agenda, and the Labor Department would play a crucial role in achieving his priorities. For his labor secretary, Carter selected the distinguished labor economist Ray Marshall, a prolific thinker and writer of more than 30 books and monographs, including "Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations" and "Back to Shared Prosperity." His research often tackled the structural foundations of unemployment, particular among minority groups, and he made noteworthy contributions to the study of rural economies, international labor migration and apprenticeships. As secretary, Marshall oversaw significant investments in training and job opportunities under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act; each year during Carter's term in office, about 4 million economically disadvantaged persons received training and job opportunities
under CETA. Marshall also oversaw the establishment of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. After his term as labor secretary, Marshall taught at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1986 (along with a secretary-in-waiting, Robert Reich), Marshall helped found the influential Economic Policy Institute. Three years later, the LBJ School established the Ray Marshall Center, an institution at the forefront of research and analysis on human resource development issues ranging from early childhood education and care to postsecondary education and workforce development.
Myth: Saving for retirement is an end-of-career issue.
Not true: Retirement is an important issue for all workers, regardless of what stage they're at in their careers. The average American spends 20 years in retirement, but fewer than half have calculated how much money they'll need to support themselves. The Employee Benefits Security Administration has resources for workers of all ages to estimate retirement expenses and chart a course for their future and the earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow.
• Holiday Belt-Tightening for Minimum Wage Workers: "While many of us are fortunate to enjoy a Thanksgiving of abundance and relaxation, the holidays are too often a source of even greater economic anxiety than usual for those earning at or near the minimum wage," Secretary Perez writes in his latest post recounting his conversations with men and women struggling to provide for their families earning the minimum wage. In this holiday season, it is a matter of social justice and economic common sense, and Perez argues that minimum wage workers need and deserve a raise. "Feeding a table of 10 this Thanksgiving will cost $49 on average," Perez writes. "But it takes minimum wage workers nearly a full shift to earn that much (and many will have to work on Thanksgiving anyway). For them, putting any meal on the table, let alone a multi-course feast, is a penny-squeezing struggle."
• The Role of Disability in the 'Books that Shaped Work in America': As part of its centennial observance, the department launched its Books that Shaped Work in America last week, highlighting fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays and even children's books that capture the breadth and depth of American work. Here, Carl Fillichio, senior advisor for public affairs and communications and chair of the department's centennial, writes about the books that show how disability has played an important role in the American workplace and adds to America's rich tapestry of diversity.
• Offering Safety and Health Assistance to Tornado-Damaged Communities: Less than 24 hours after a rare November tornado caused extensive damage to communities in Illinois, staff from the Occupational Safety and Health's Peoria, Ill., area office (many of whom lived in the affected communities) deployed to provide assistance and information about the hazards that may appear in recovery efforts. Barry Salerno, the assistant area director for the office, identifies a number of these potential hazards and talks about OSHA's efforts to help protect workers and volunteers from injury during the recovery.
'To Kill a Mockingbird'
Repeatedly ranked as one of the most influential books in American literature (rated second only to the Bible in books most often cited as making a difference), Harper Lee's Pulitzer prize-winning "To Kill a Mockingbird" addresses the American South's history of racial inequality through the story of an African-American man falsely accused and convicted of rape and the attorney who proficiently and passionately defends him. According to Secretary Perez, who recommended it for inclusion in "Books that Shaped Work in America," "it has stirred countless men and women to pursue careers in law or civil rights. To this day, the character of Atticus Finch epitomizes honor and integrity. I give this book to my nieces and nephews on their 13th birthday. And it has become required reading in the Perez home."
As assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, Kathy Martinez has expressed her commitment to expanding the conversation about disability employment to include the important role high expectations play in helping young people with disabilities attain life and career goals. That's the guiding premise behind the "Because" public service announcement distributed through the Office of Disability Employment Policy's Campaign for Disability Employment earlier this year. Now a discussion guide to facilitate a conversation about the PSA among adults or youth is available. It's free and includes a DVD with the PSA.
Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi traveled to Manhattan and the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor relations on Nov. 21 to discuss the impact of the Affordable Care Act on employee benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Borzi was followed by private-sector panelists who presented their views on how the ACA impacts multi-employer plans. In her remarks, Borzi told the audience of employers, union representatives, lawyers and academics that the law may impact various types of plans and their participants in different ways, but that ultimately, everyone stands to benefit.
The Office of Management and Budget released the Fall 2013 Regulatory Agenda on Nov. 26. The agenda, divided by executive branch agency, outlines the regulatory actions each agency intends to pursue and the timelines associated with each action.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Data Users Advisory Committee met on Nov. 18 to discuss priorities, suggestions and advice with the BLS commissioner and staff. The agenda included sessions on how the Affordable Care Act might affect BLS collection of employee benefits data, and which BLS employment and price data might be of value to analysts seeking to understand the impact of the ACA on the U.S. economy. Other sessions covered how BLS should implement revisions and corrections in the most timely and transparent way, and how to best explain and present changes in program methodologies.
Brazilian Language Outreach
As part of an ongoing effort to reach out to Brazilian workers and employers in their native language, Jeff Erskine, area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Andover, Mass., recently was interviewed on WJDA-AM 1300. The Somerville, Mass., radio station reaches a Brazilian audience from Boston to South Florida. Senior Pasteur, Glauber Morare conducted the interview, and Natalicia Tracy, director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center in Massachusetts, translated. In the interview, Erskine discussed workers' safety and health rights in the workplace, the requirement that safety instructions and training be provided in a language that workers can understand, and the rights of temporary workers to have equal access to safety equipment, training and instruction. The interview was conducted as part of the Andover office's alliance with the Brazilian Immigrant Center, which began in 2006 and continues today.
Representatives from the Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration attended a meeting with the Asian Community Resource Center on Nov. 18 in Las Vegas to further ongoing outreach and promotion of education and assistance to the Asian community in Nevada. The division's district director Gaspar Montañez and OSHA's area director Joy Flack discussed strategies to spread awareness and understanding of federal laws. Topics included fair pay, workplace rights, and safety and health protections. ACRC's Director Frida Tju and Business Development Director Emily Higby expressed eagerness to strengthen the ongoing partnership with the department. The Asian community has experienced rapid growth in Las Vegas, particularly in the Filipino and Thai populations. ACRC provides a range of services to Asians in partnership with federal and state agencies and with community organizations on human, economic, health and wellness development. Montañez and Flack also attended an ACRC-hosted event on Nov. 20 in Las Vegas under the overall theme "Let's Bridge the Gap."
More than 120 families in Iowa benefited from a recent Thanksgiving food drive aided by students from the local Denison Job Corps Center. The drive was organized by the Crawford County Hunger Fighters and the Food Bank of Siouxland. Denison students helped unload and distribute the food to families at a local church in time for the holiday. Meanwhile, students at the Inland Empire Job Corps Center in
California recently volunteered with the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County Food Bank, which planned to provide 14,000 turkeys to low-income residents for Thanksgiving. Inland Empire students sorted the turkeys and helped the food bank prepare the items for delivery.
Assessing Data, Impacts
Commissioner of Labor Statistics Erica Groshen addressed 150 members of the Boston Economics Club at a luncheon meeting on Nov. 20, where she discussed how Bureau of Labor Statistics data interprets the economic recovery and how the partial government shutdown affected the agency's data collection and publication procedures. Groshen thanked all survey respondents for their public service in providing information to BLS, stressing that, "without your responses, we would not be able to provide the economic statistics so many users need to make informed decisions."
Among its continuing community service efforts, the International Association of Workforce Professionals spearheads "Treats-4-Troops," collecting surplus Halloween candy from Department of Labor employees. Volunteers stuff holiday stockings with sweets and send them to U.S troops serving in Afghanistan, Kuwait and South Korea.
Weekly UI Claims
The department reported that the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 316,000 for the week ending Nov. 23, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average was 331,750, down 7,500 from the previous week's revised average.
"Nobody who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty," U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez told National Public Radio host Michel Martin during an interview on Nov. 26 about the administration's push to raise the federal minimum wage. During the program, "Tell Me More," Perez said that an increase in the minimum wage would benefit millions of workers across the country and their families. The economy would benefit, too, he told Martin. "It's a smart way to grow the economy because, when people have more money in their pockets, they spend it," Perez explained. "They're not stashing it in offshore bank accounts. They're pumping it right back into the economy, and that's good for growth."
Engaging Experts on the Challenge of Long-term Unemployment
Long-term unemployment, exacerbated by the 2007-2009 recession, is one of the country's biggest problems and an issue with which the department continues to grapple. On Nov. 21, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez invited 14 of the nation's leading philanthropic organizations to department headquarters in Washington to hear their strategies on addressing long-term unemployment and other workforce system reforms. Among those that participated in the meeting included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Chase Foundation, AARP Foundation, Ford Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. Representatives discussed issues ranging from the best ways to address chronic unemployment to tackling multiple barriers to employment and the need to develop career pathways for low-income, low-skill workers. Perez was joined by senior members of his team, including Eric Seleznow, acting assistant secretary for employment and training; chief economist Jenny Hunt; and Demetra Nightingale, chief evaluation officer, among others.
New Hampshire Manufacturer Receives Manslaughter Sentence
On Nov. 27, in Coös County Court in New Hampshire, Craig Sanborn was sentenced to five to 10 years on two counts of manslaughter, to be served consecutively, for a total of 10 to 20 years, and assessed fines of $10,000 in connection with the May 2010 deaths of two employees in an explosion at the Black Mag LLC plant in Colebrook, N.H. OSHA subsequently issued 16 willful and more than 30 serious safety violation citations, along with a $1.2 million penalty, to Black Mag, a gunpowder substitute manufacturer. The citations and penalties were affirmed in an agreement that compelled Sanborn to surrender his ATF explosives manufacturing license and barred him from ever again employing workers in any explosives-related business enterprise. Sanborn, the company's president, managing member and primary owner, was convicted on Oct. 23. In a statement, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said that the conviction and sentencing "should drive home to employers this message: Worker safety can never be sacrificed for the benefit of production, and workers' lives are not and must never be considered part of the cost of doing business. We categorically reject the false choice between profits and safety."
Secretary Perez stopped by the National Mall on Nov. 21 to show his support for "Fast for Families," a grassroots effort aimed at bringing attention to immigration reform. The fasting participants, including Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union, shared personal immigrant stories and stories of families who have been torn apart. One participant told Perez, "This is a way to pay back my parents' sacrifices... the only way I can look into my parents' and community's eyes and tell them I did everything I could to pass comprehensive immigration reform." Perez shared his own family's story as a child of immigrants and talked about how his parents taught him and his four siblings "to work hard, to aim high and to makes sure the ladder is down for others." Medina described his decision to fast "not out of anger or despair, but out of faith, hope and love." Three days later, Perez returned with his two daughters, so that they could see first-hand the passion and resilience of those who were fasting. Vice President Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Director of Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz were among others who stopped by to show their support.
Holiday season is upon us, and shoppers are expected to flood retail stores this weekend. Nestled between the traditional big shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday, a national effort launched in 2010 to support the small businesses that anchor local communities. Creating two out of every three new jobs, small businesses are the backbone of the nation's economy. Often they are owned by neighbors, sponsor local children's sports teams and support community events. Shopping small businesses means putting money directly back into the community. Small Business Saturday is Nov. 30.
Workforce Innovation Takes to the International Stage
After a trip to the Inter-American Conference of Ministries of Labor in Medellín, Colombia, Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris made his next stop in Mexico City, where he attended an International Forum on Employment and Social Security Public Policy, hosted by the Secretaria del Trabajo y Previsión Social de Mexico. The forum was attended by labor ministers and deputy ministers from more than 20 countries and the European Commission, along with leaders from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Labor Organization. At the forum's labor innovation panel, Harris spoke about the importance of innovation in the workforce development system as an effective driver for growth and a necessity in a modern, developed economy. "In a global economy, corporations increasingly look to the availability of skilled labor or at least, an infrastructure that can produce a pipeline of skilled workers when making decisions about where to site new factories and other facilities," Harris said in his remarks. "President Obama has made innovative programs to create these pipelines one of the key elements of his economic agenda." He also shared the successes of programs like the department's Trade Adjustment and Community College Career Training grants and Workforce Innovation Fund, which emphasize partnerships with employers to identify the skills their businesses demand.
OSHA's Dr. Michaels Receives Prestigious Award in Finland
Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, is home to the Finnish Institute for Occupational Health, where Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels headlined the 2013 Occupational Health Research Day on Nov. 22. Michaels received the Jorma Rantanen award, an international honor given each year to a distinguished occupational health and safety research scientist or professional. During his address, Michaels stressed the importance of scientific integrity in the regulatory process. While in Helsinki, Michaels met with the European Chemicals Agency, an organization that helps companies comply with legislation, advances the safe use of chemicals, and provides information across Europe.
News You Can Use
Guide to Holiday Hiring and Working
This time of year, temporary and part-time employment spikes as retailers and other establishments hire extra workers to accommodate the seasonal increase in business. For some workers, it's a time to earn a little extra cash or even get a foot in the door to land a permanent job. Workers not familiar with this sort of employment, and employers, who are unaccustomed to hiring part-time and/or seasonal employees, may not be aware of all the rules that apply. To help guide workers and employers through this busy season, the Wage and Hour Division developed a fact sheet that addresses some of the most frequently asked questions.
Benefits.gov Wins Outstanding Mobile Website Award
Benefits.gov recently was awarded the Web Marketing Association's Outstanding Mobile Website Award. The award recognizes the team's efforts in rolling out the program's mobile roadmap and implementing the responsive design technology. The WMA sponsors annual website award competitions that name the best websites in 96 industries while setting the standard of excellence for website development. Benefits.gov increases public access to government benefit program information and is the product of a collaborative partnership of 17 federal agencies, with the Department of Labor in the role of managing partner. In 2012, Benefits.gov was named one of the Best 5 Government Websites by SocialDriver.
FedMentor of the Year
The department's Chief Innovation Officer, Xavier Hughes, was awarded FedScoop's 2013 FedMentor of the Year award. Every year, the organization recognizes the achievements of the federal IT community's best and brightest minds and innovators. This year, hundreds of individuals and programs were nominated, and more than 20,000 votes were cast. "These individuals are all making extraordinary contributions to our community and country," said FedScoop CEO Goldy Kamali. "The FedScoop 50 is an opportunity to recognize and give thanks to the top leaders in government and industry who are working tirelessly to make big things happen."
DOL Working for You
Air Force Veteran's Career Takes Off
Air Force veteran William Castro's career soared after he met Disabled Veteran Outreach Program specialist John Borelli at a Campbell, Calif., American Job Center. Castro's resume showed he was an avionics expert with experience and skills to maintain complicated airplane machinery. Borelli, who served as a Marine in Vietnam, had just learned about the Audi "Veterans to Technicians" nationwide hiring program.
Under the program, Audi hires veterans who have aviation, electronics and hydraulic systems experience to service its sophisticated automobile systems. Borelli called Castro "the right guy, in the right place, with the right skills," and he set up an interview with Audi. Castro, who was hired as an Audi technician, said he went from fixing "the coolest airplanes to the coolest cars."
Gravel Company Cited After Worker Fatally Engulfed in Storage Silo
Central Ready Mix LLC has been cited for 10 serious safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a 39-year-old plant operator was fatally engulfed in a fly-ash storage silo. The accident occurred in August at the Middletown, Ohio, gravel company. The worker entered the cone-bottom silo in an attempt to break up clumps of fly ash that had clogged the bottom discharge. After attempts to dislodge clumps with a metal bar and air hose failed, he climbed into the silo, without a harness and lanyard, and devoted several hours to breaking up the clumps before being engulfed.
New Jersey Pipe Producer Cited for Safety Violations
Plastic pipe manufacturer Endot Industries Inc. was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 18 health and safety violations found at the company's Rockaway, N.J., facility. OSHA's inspection began in July based on a referral and as part of the agency's Site-Specific Targeting Program, which directs enforcement resources to high-hazard workplaces with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses. Seventeen serious violations included the company's failure to train workers on propane and acetylene hazards, establish and implement a hearing conservation program for workers exposed to noise levels over 85 decibels, and properly guard manufacturing equipment. Proposed penalties total $51,800.
The former president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2094, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to stealing union funds, has been sentenced to six months of home confinement and three years of probation, and has been ordered to pay full restitution. Federck C. Petro was convicted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in February. A joint investigation by the Office of Labor-Management Standards and the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General found that, between February 2006 and July 2008, Petro wrote approximately 187 checks totaling approximately $112,477 from the union's bank account to himself.
West Virginia Coal Mine Deemed Chronic Violator
Coal River Mining LLC's Fork Creek No. 1 Mine in Lincoln County, W.Va., has been put on notice of a pattern of violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. In a letter presented to the mine operator on Nov. 26, MSHA noted that, through a recent audit of the mine's injury and employment data, Fork Creek No. 1 met the screening criteria. The audit revealed that the mine operator failed to report miner injuries equivalent to 239 days of lost time during the 12-month review period. A POV notice, one of the agency's toughest enforcement actions, is reserved for the mines that pose the greatest risk to the safety of miners. "While it took an MSHA audit to discover the extent of unreported injuries at the mine, Coal River was also aware of the compliance issues it was experiencing and did not take sufficient action to make necessary safety improvements," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.
Paramount Builders Inc. faces $107,910 in fines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations involving inadequate fall protection. OSHA cited the American Samoa employer with one willful, one repeat and six serious safety and health violations following a May inspection prompted after a worker suffered a fatal fall. Inspectors determined that Paramount Builders routinely neglected to ensure workers were anchored or tied off to body harnesses when operating on elevated structures 18 to 35 feet in height. Other violations included failure to maintain material safety data sheets and provide training and information on hazardous chemicals. The same violation was cited in 2009.
Hefty Fine for New York Maritime Contractor in Crane Collapse
A May 22 crane collapse at a Stamford, Conn., marina has resulted in $165,200 in fines for a Port Chester, N.Y., marine construction contractor. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Bridgeport Area Office cited the company for willful and serious crane safety violations after the barge-mounted crane's 80-foot boom fell over backward, bouncing off the stays of a sailboat and landing on top of a yacht. OSHA's inspection found that the crane lacked boom stops and a boom hoist limiting device, necessary safety devices that would have prevented the boom from falling backward. The crane had not been inspected by a competent person with the company who could have identified these and other hazards. OSHA issued citations related to the set up, operation and maintenance of the crane and barge, including failure to inspect the crane, the barge and crane's wire lifting ropes. The contractor also failed to reduce the crane's rated lifting capacity to account for operating on the barge, ensure that the barge was structurally sufficient, and erect control lines or railings to mark the crane's swing/crush zone.
Carneys Point Care Center was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace safety violations found at its nursing home in Carneys Point, N.J. OSHA initiated an inspection in May as part of the agency's national emphasis program for nursing and residential care facilities. Ten serious violations cited involved OSHA's general duty clause because workers in the laundry department were exposed to excessive levels of heat. Additional serious violations included the company's failure to ensure workers wear appropriate eye protection, develop a written hazard communication program and provide bloodborne pathogen training. One other-than-serious violation was issued because the employer failed to update its bloodborne pathogens program. Proposed penalties total $48,600.
Merchandise Printer Faulted for Excessive Heat Hazard
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Plan B Promotions for six serious and two other-than-serious violations at the merchandise printer's Lakewood, N.J., facility. Exposing workers in the facility's silk-screening department to excessive levels of heat was among the serious violations cited and involves OSHA's general duty clause. The additional serious violations include failure to keep exit routes free and unobstructed, properly store flammable liquids, and label hazardous chemicals. The other-than-serious violations were cited for failing to certify that a personal protective equipment assessment was performed, as well as to provide workers with Appendix D, which contains information on respirator use. The company faces a $18,200 fine.
After two improper elections, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, in San Jose, Calif., is now required to hold a third round of voting for its officers. An investigation by the Office of Labor-Management Standards found that the president of the international body of the UFCW acted improperly during the local's initial election in September 2012. Specifically, the investigation disclosed that the international's president used union resources to send a campaign letter to various UFCW officers soliciting contributions, and that the recipients' addresses had been improperly obtained. The local's second election last March was held without first conducting nominations, a violation of election rules under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. A new election under the supervision of OLMS will take place by June 30, 2014.
Massachusetts Manufacturer Penalized for Recurring Hazards
New and recurring hazards at a Marlborough, Mass., manufacturing plant has resulted in $82,080 in proposed fines for Boundary Fence and Railing Systems Inc. The Andover Area Office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an inspection in July in response to a complaint. OSHA found several hazards similar to those cited in earlier inspections, including obstructed exits and unguarded and ungrounded table saws. Additional hazards included exposure to high noise levels, unsecured storage of fencing materials, electrical hazards and chemical hazard communication deficiencies. The cited conditions exposed workers to struck-by and crushing injuries, electric shock, laceration hazards, becoming caught in operating machinery, hearing loss and exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Ohio Paper Mill Cited After Worker Fatally Injured
Cheney Pulp and Paper Co. has been cited for two safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a worker was fatally injured July 23 at the Franklin, Ohio, paper mill. While operating a forklift without the rollover protection structure, the worker was struck by an operating machine that he traveled beneath. As a result of the inspection, OSHA placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. One willful violation involved failure to have adequate machine guarding on the rotary digester, which would have prevented the worker from coming into contact with machinery operating parts.
Coastal Plating Co. was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 16 safety violations at its Corpus Christi, Texas, facility. In May, an employee learning how to operate a blast cabinet was struck by a gas compressor power cylinder when it exited a cabinet. The worker died from his injuries. Violations cited included failure to ensure workers are protected from being struck by unsecured equipment, inspect hooks used on overhead cranes, ensure the use of personal protective equipment when chromium electroplating work is being done, provide respiratory protection for workers overexposed to chromium, and provide emergency eyewash stations and showers. "It is the employer's responsibility to find and fix workplace safety violations and to ensure the safety of its workers. Coastal Plating Co. failed to do so and that cost a worker his life. OSHA will not tolerate such neglect," said Michael Rivera, OSHA's Corpus Christi area director.
Montana Auto Body Shop Faces Fines for Safety Violations
Rick's Auto Body of Missoula, Mont., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for nine serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. The employer faces $51,100 in proposed fines as a result of an OSHA Billings Area Office August inspection. The violations included improper storage of flammable and combustible materials, use of storage containers not approved for flammable goods and failure to store overhead materials securely. The auto body shop also was cited for failing to label emergency exits, ensure adequate controls for leakage or the escape of flammable materials, and ground electrical equipment around combustible materials.