He started as a redcap porter, carrying baggage for train passengers in Chicago, and worked his way up to become assistant secretary of labor, leading the department's international affairs bureau. For George L-P (Leon-Paul) Weaver, a Pittsburgh native raised in Dayton, Ohio, that journey began with his membership in the United Transport Service Employees Union, and he soon became a leading figure in the civil rights and labor movements as executive secretary of the AFL-CIO's civil rights committee. Weaver served five presidents; as assistant secretary, he served under Secretary Willard Wirtz and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The latter, Weaver said, "has done more in the field of human rights than any president in our history." Major milestones of Weaver's leadership included establishing working protocols with the newly created Office of the U.S. Trade Representative under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962; formulating the concept of trade adjustment assistance for workers affected by global trade; and representing the United States in the Governing Body of the ILO, where he "carried the burden of the debate" on issues like the Vietnam War. He was chairman of the ILO's Governing Body in 1968-1969, a period for which the organization
was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Upon Weaver's passing in July 1995, Rep. William Clay of Missouri honored him in a statement to the House of Representatives, stating "the principles for which George Weaver dedicated his life an abiding respect for the dignity of workers and the worth of labor and an unshakable commitment to ending the scourge of segregation and racism both in his service to the labor movement and in his work in government, are the principles that have served to make this country what it is today."
Myth: I cannot file a complaint against my employer. I'm undocumented and don't speak English.
Not true: Workers are afforded wage protections that are enforced by the Wage and Hour Division regardless of immigration status. Anyone can call 1-866-4US-WAGE and request free, confidential help. Translation assistance is available in more than 170 languages.
• Apprenticeship: Pathway to Opportunity: Secretary Perez writes about the successes of the apprenticeship programs that he's seen firsthand after President Obama called for "more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life" in his State of the Union address.
• A Powerful Message for Youth With Disabilities: The Seattle Seahawks were victors in Super Bowl XLVIII with the help of a player whose achievements in the face of adversity inspire Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez.
Secretary Perez joined nationally syndicated radio talk show host Diane Rehm for an interview on Feb. 5. They discussed the Affordable Care Act, minimum wage, immigration reform and other issues important to workers and families.
In an address before more than 1,000 delegates at the United Auto Workers Community Action Program Conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 2, Secretary Perez discussed President Obama's agenda of opportunity for all. Praising the resilience and ingenuity of auto workers, Perez highlighted the importance of unions and collective bargaining to a vibrant middle class. He also evoked the historic ties between the civil rights and labor rights movements, praising UAW for being in the vanguard of both. Making the case for increasing the federal minimum wage, Perez brought the crowd to its feet, saying, "No one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty."
New Movie on Cesar Chavez
Secretary Perez was one of several speakers on Feb. 4 at a screening in the U.S. Capitol of a new movie about the life of United Farmworkers Union founder Cesar Chavez. Perez thanked the filmmakers for educating all of us about the extraordinary heroism of one of America's greatest humanitarians and civil rights leaders (for whom the Labor Department's auditorium is named). Invoking the leadership of Chavez, as well as leaders like Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, on immigration reform and other struggles for opportunity, Perez said: "This cause is really a marathon relay, where the baton is in our hands now, and it's our duty to carry it forward."
Partnerships between workforce investment boards and community colleges are vital to providing Americans with effective job-driven skills training, Acting Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Eric Seleznow said at a recent meeting in Florida. Seleznow addressed the annual American Association of Community Colleges Workforce Development Institute gathering in St. Petersburg. Speaking to about 700 community college presidents, Workforce Investment Board leaders and nonprofit executives, Seleznow said, "Strong relationships between WIBs and community colleges mean more opportunities for Americans to build their skills and fill the jobs employers have today." He also lifted up promising practices emerging from the initial three rounds of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training program in areas such as competency-based learning and accelerated remediation. A fourth round of funding will be announced in the coming months.
Positive portrayals of people with disabilities are lacking in visual entertainment and advertising. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez, highlighted that problem at a conference in New York City on Feb. 4. The gathering focused on the need for disability-inclusive advertising on large, small and personal screens. "Despite so many having the talent, people with disabilities are still underrepresented in the entertainment industry, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes," said Martinez. "But together we have the power to raise awareness and change minds, and to foster a more inclusive entertainment industry that will truly reflect the American scene." In the audience for Martinez's remarks were leaders from the advertising and entertainment industries, trade groups, and the marketing team responsible for producing an ad featuring deaf football star Derrick Coleman, a member of the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks.
The department wants workers to have the information they need to start saving for retirement and to be confident that they are saving enough. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Judy Mares made that point during a panel discussion on how to help more workers save for retirement. She talked about how benefits statements and lifetime income projections can encourage workers to save more by showing them what their retirement account is worth now, and what it will be worth in the future. And adding options, such as target date funds, Mares said, can make saving more appealing. The discussion, which included federal officials and retirement experts, was held during the American Retirement Initiative's Winter Summit on Feb. 4.
Dorothy Dougherty has been appointed the new deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. Dougherty brings more than 32 years of federal experience to the position, having served for 22 years in OSHA and several years in the Mine Safety and Health Administration as an industrial hygienist and coal mine inspector. Prior to becoming OSHA's deputy assistant secretary, Dougherty served as the director of the agency's Directorate of Standards and Guidance. Dougherty first joined OSHA as chief of the Compliance and Technical Guidance Division for the Office of Federal Agency Programs. She also served in other capacities, including deputy director of technical support and executive assistant for the OSHA assistant secretary of labor.
On-site Training in Arizona
Nearly 100 farm labor contractors' foremen, supervisors and managers attended a two-day training and registration fair in Yuma, Ariz., on Jan. 29 and 30. A team of Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act's certification experts and IT specialists received and processed applications required under MSPA. Workers with updated information on file also were able to renew their certificates on-site. At the events, officials from the Wage and Hour Division discussed compliance requirements under the H-2A program. It establishes a means for agricultural employers that anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature. In addition, most agricultural employers, agricultural associations and farm labor contractors are subject to MSPA, which protects migrant and seasonal workers by establishing employer standards related to wages, housing, transportation, and record-keeping.
Representatives from the Wage and Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission met recently in Los Angeles to discuss improving service to companies and workers. Attending the meeting on Jan. 29 were Priscilla Garcia, public relations director for the Wage and Hour Division's western region; Rosa Viramontes, regional director for the EEOC, and Jane Suhr, district director for OFCCP's Los Angeles district office. According to Garcia, better interagency communications around worker protections can help investigators identify violations and refer complaints to the agency with proper jurisdiction. In terms of outreach, Garcia said that the agencies can combine resources when targeting vulnerable worker populations, including working with the Mexican consulate, and better educate employers on compliance with wage laws and anti-discrimination requirements.
Did You Know?
It's been more than four years since working Americans at the bottom of the income ladder saw an increase in the federal minimum wage. In that time, the cost of living has risen significantly, making it much harder for low-wage workers to afford the basics like food, rent, child care and mass transit. Raising the wage from its current rate of $7.25 to $10.10 per hour would boost the annual income of minimum wage earners working full time by nearly $6,000. That's money that would be spent at businesses in their communities, which would help the economy.
The department reported that the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 331,000 for the week ending Feb. 1, a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average was 334,000, up 250 from the previous week's revised average.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage so that workers who put in an honest day's work get an honest day's pay. U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez took that call to action on the road and joined Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop for a meeting with low-wage workers on Feb. 3. The workers told of how they are currently struggling to make ends meet and how an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would benefit them and their families. One worker said, "I'm committed to my job, but I cannot survive these wages." Perez assured them that the president is committed to increasing the minimum wage. He said, "Persistent is what this president is and persistent is what we continue to be because we have heard from you." On Feb. 4, Perez hit the airwaves, appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to discuss the need for an increase in the minimum wage and the stories he heard from low-wage workers in New Jersey.
Companies Join Commitment to Aid Long-Term Unemployed
While hosting more than 150 corporate CEOs, workforce and labor leaders and others at the White House, President Obama announced a series of efforts to help Americans shed the stigma of long-term unemployment and get the training they need to find a good job. The president announced commitments from more than 300 private-sector companies to give long-term unemployed job candidates a fair shot. He also signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to act in the same spirit and not discriminate against candidates who are unemployed or facing financial difficulties. Unveiling a new Ready to Work Partnership grant competition from the department that will fund innovative, public-private re-employment and job training programs, the president stated that the goal of these efforts is "connecting more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs." Following the president's remarks on Jan. 31, Secretary Perez moderated a panel with formerly long-term unemployed workers who are now succeeding in good jobs thanks to local, department-funded workforce development programs.
$900,000 in Grants Awarded to Help Homeless Veterans
Advocates for Human Potential Inc. in Sudbury, Mass., and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, D.C., each will receive $450,000 in funding to serve homeless veterans through the department's Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. These funds are intended to improve the delivery of services provided under existing HVRP grants, including grants that serve homeless female veterans and homeless veterans with families. "For our returning service members to experience homelessness or difficulty finding a civilian job is unacceptable," said Secretary Perez, adding, "We must fulfill our commitment to these brave men and women."
Washington State Awarded Grant for Short Time Compensation
More businesses in Washington State will have the tools to better weather economic hardships and avoid laying off workers thanks to a $2.1 million grant from the department. The funding, awarded on Feb. 6, will help Washington enhance and promote the state's short time compensation program, a layoff prevention program also known as work-sharing. Short time compensation allows employers to temporarily reduce work hours for a group of employees as an alternative to layoffs during tough economic times. Affected workers will have a portion of their lost wages supplemented by a percentage of their available unemployment compensation benefits. This program allows employees to retain their jobs and benefits while companies maintain their skilled workforce. Federal financial incentives are available to states interested in developing or expanding a short time compensation program.
The National Advisory Committee for Labor Provisions of U. S. Free Trade Agreements met at the department on Feb. 5 to hear updates and provide feedback on improving international labor standards under these agreements. NAC members launched a discussion on how government, labor, business and academics could improve information sharing on different means for monitoring labor rights protection in FTA countries both by governments and in business supply chains. Bureau of International Labor Affairs staff briefed NAC members and took questions concerning recent developments under the FTA Labor Chapters, such as the September 2013 release of the department's public report on the submission related to the Dominican Republic sugar sector, the recent Labor Affairs Council meeting in Panama, and Secretary Perez's recent meeting in Honduras with labor, business and government officials. The NAC includes four representatives from the business sector, four from labor, and four from the general public. It provides advice on how to better implement the labor provisions of FTAs and process submissions received under these agreements.
Did you know that the health-care sector and social assistance sector (which includes child and youth services and community services) are projected to account for almost one-third of the total increase in employment over the next 10 years? Or that, of the 30 occupations projected to have the largest percentage increase in employment between 2012 and 2022, 14 are related to health care and five are related to construction? Kristina Bartsch, chief of the Division of Occupational Employment Projections at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, discussed industries and occupations projected to gain and lose jobs between 2012 and 2022, and the education needed for those jobs, on C-SPAN's "America by the Numbers" on Jan. 31.
It was the first virtual "employee town hall" held by the department a live-streaming broadcast focused on the front-line employees in the field. Most of the department's employees work in offices throughout the nation, and Secretary Perez wants to ensure they are included in the conversation on next steps and goals of the department. Denny DeMay, president of the National Council of Field Labor Locals, and Laura Rolo, president of the National Union of Labor Investigators, participated in the conversation, along with Secretary Perez and Deputy Chief of Staff Seema Nanda. Carl Fillichio, from the department's public affairs office, served as moderator. The session covered a range of topics of concern to the department's workforce, including how to address expansion of training opportunities, strengthening telework options, and fostering increased innovation and creativity across the department.
Advancing the Mission, the High-Tech Way
Dawn Leaf, the department's deputy chief information officer, has been selected by an independent panel of judges to the 2014 Federal 100 in recognition of the difference she has made in the way information technology is used to advance agency missions. The announcement was made by Federal Computer Week magazine on Feb. 4, and Leaf will be honored along with the other 99 winners on March 20. Leaf, who joined the department in 2012, is widely recognized for her expertise in advanced technology and large-scale distributed systems development and engineering. She has served in high-ranking technology positions in the government, including at the Department of Commerce, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The 2014 FCW winners are from private-sector technology companies and a number of federal agencies, including the departments of Commerce, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security.
DOL Working for You
American Job Center Helps Entrepreneur Grow
For almost 16 years, Melissa Warner has been an entrepreneurial Renaissance woman, transforming her company THINKPLANET from an engineering business into a manufacturer of organic skincare products. As a small business owner, Warner had to take on many roles. But as her business grew, and as she moved from California to Oregon, she turned to help from WorkSource Oregon part of the federally funded American Job Center network to navigate the state and federal programs available to help match her with qualified local job candidates. "I was hampered from growing my company because I was playing all the parts. Now I'm able to concentrate on bringing in revenue, and I am proud to offer as many local jobs as my growth allows," said Warner. She is in the process of hiring two candidates and plans to hire more to meet her company's growing needs. WorkSource Oregon "did a great job of identifying people and I encourage other businesses to use the program," she said.
$1.5M in Funding for Recovery Efforts After Storm in Arkansas
In response to a severe winter storm in Arkansas on Dec. 5 and 6, 2013, the department has announced a National Emergency Grant of up to $1,520,243 to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts. The funds, awarded to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, will be used to create temporary jobs to facilitate the recovery efforts. "Severe winter storms have inflicted significant damage across Arkansas," said Secretary Perez. "Today's federal grant will assist with the important work ahead to help those communities recover from the widespread damage caused by these violent storms." Of the total funding amount, $506,748 will be released initially. The grant will provide aid to affected communities in North Central, Northwest and Western Arkansas.
The department has obtained consent judgments against Robert La Courciere and Pamela Babbish, former trustees of the Lexington, Ky.-based Fourslides Inc. pension plan. These judgments follow the recovery of $490,594 owed to the plan. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, alleged that La Courciere, Babbish, George Hofmeister and Fourslides engaged in a series of prohibited transactions involving the Fourslides pension plan, beginning in March 2006. La Courciere and Babbish also were alleged to have caused the transfer of plan assets to Fourslides and the payment of excessive fees to service providers, while La Courciere also entered into a prohibited loan of nearly half the plan's assets to a party-in-interest. These consent judgments permanently bar La Courciere and Babbish from serving as fiduciaries to any plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and enjoin them from violating ERISA. Judgments against the remaining defendants are being sought by the department in ongoing litigation.
Kansas Workers Exposed to Flammable Chemicals, Inspection Finds
Innovia Films Inc. has been issued 19 safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Tecumseh, Kan., plant, which produces films used in packaging, was cited for exposing workers to flammable chemicals. OSHA has proposed penalties of $112,500. The inspection began last July under OSHA's Process Safety Management Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program. The inspection found employees were exposed to health and safety hazards because the company lacked an appropriate process safety management program. Innovia Films Inc. employs approximately 185 workers at its Tecumseh plant and 1,350 worldwide.
Employee Denied Leave to Care for Ill Relative Will Receive Lost Wages
Under terms of a settlement agreement, DNA Diagnostics Center Inc. has agreed to pay $25,000 in lost wages and liquidated damages to an employee of the Fairfield, Ohio-based company to resolve a lawsuit filed by the department for unlawfully denying leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The company subsequently fired the employee for exercising her rights under the FMLA to care for her seriously ill 12-year-old niece, for whom the employee was standing "in loco parentis," or in the place of a parent. Under terms of the settlement agreement, the company will expunge the employee's record of any disciplinary references.
Pennsylvania Pasta Manufacturer Faces Penalties for Hazards
Philadelphia Macaroni was issued 13 safety and health violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following an inspection initiated under the agency's Site-Specific Targeting Program. The investigation found five repeat and eight serious violations at the pasta manufacturer's Warminster, Pa., facility. The company faces $75,483 in penalties for violations involving electrical hazards, a deficient emergency eyewash system, deficiencies in the company's program for controlling hazardous energy, and use of an improperly configured guard designed to protect workers from lacerations while working with a band saw.
Wisconsin Workers Hit by Layoffs to Receive Re-employment Services
Approximately 310 workers from nine companies in the Milwaukee area will have access to re-employment services because of a $1.5 million National Emergency Grant awarded by the department on Feb. 6. The grant, awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, will help affected workers get back on their feet by providing them with services such as career counseling, job search assistance, training and supportive services, such as child care and transportation. Workers whose layoffs were the result of foreign trade also may be eligible for services through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. An initial amount of $850,680 will be released, with the remaining funding available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.
$250,000 Recovered for Student Workers With Disabilities
The City of Providence, R.I., the Providence School Board and the Harold A. Birch Vocational Center and School signed a settlement agreement to pay $250,859 in back wages to 60 student workers with disabilities following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. The investigation found violations of the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. As part of the settlement agreement, the department retroactively revoked the certificate that allowed the school to pay the workers less than the current federal minimum wage for the work performed. Section 14(c) of the FLSA allows employers, after receiving a certificate of authorization from the division, to pay less than the federal minimum wage to workers with disabilities when their disabilities impair their productive capacities for the work being performed. Rather than calculate and pay wages commensurate with workers' individual levels of productivity, as required under the terms of a certificate, the employer in this case paid workers flat rates of $1- $2.01 per day, without regard to the number of hours they had worked or to how much they had produced.
A Subway franchisee in Sacramento, Calif., has agreed to pay $2,304 in lost wages to one employee and $10,343 in overtime back wages to this worker and four other employees following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division. Investigators found that Kamal Singh, owner of Kamlata Enterprises, Inc., initially agreed to pay the overtime due but then terminated the worker when he refused to give the money back. As part of the final agreement, the franchisee agreed to reinstate the employee. Subway's Franchise World Headquarters LLC has been an active and helpful participant in the case and has asked the Sacramento District office for assistance in conducting local training to assure full labor laws compliance by its franchisees.
Automotive Manufacturer, Temporary Staffing Agency Face Fines
HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc. and staffing agency Sizemore Inc. were cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 22 safety and health violations following an inspection last July at the automotive manufacturing facility in Thomson, Ga. HP Pelzer's citations included exposing workers to amputation and laceration hazards, skin burns and failing to develop and implement written lockout/tagout procedures. Sizemore was issued one serious health citation for not providing temporary workers with training regarding formaldehyde and its hazards. Sizemore's contract with HP Pelzer specifies that the staffing agency will provide workers with some of the training before their assignment. Proposed penalties total $207,100.
Texas Trailer Manufacturer Placed in Severe Violator Program
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited PJ Trailers Manufacturing Co. Inc. with eight safety and health violations, including five repeat, in a July 2013 follow-up inspection at the Sumner, Texas, facility. OSHA cited the company for failing to guard the point of operation on a press brake, close unused openings on electrical panel cabinets, ensure that flexible cords were connected to devices and fittings so tension was not transmitted to joints or terminal screws, ensure workers are not exposed to concentrations of iron oxide fumes in excess of 8 hours, and protect workers from exposure to airborne concentrations of particulates while working in the abrasive blasting and powder coating area. OSHA has placed PJ Trailers in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The company faces penalties totaling $187,000.
Connecticut Wire Manufacturer Cited for New and Recurring Hazards
New and recurring safety hazards at Radcliff Wire Inc. in Bristol, Conn., have resulted in $109,340 in Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines. An inspection by OSHA's Hartford Area Office found a cross-section of electrical, mechanical and chemical hazards which, when left uncorrected, expose employees to electric shock, arc flashes, fire, eye and crushing injuries. Several of the conditions were similar to those cited at the plant during a 2009 OSHA inspection.
Inspection Finds Lead Exposure at Cleveland Metal Company
Victory White Metal Co. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 12 safety and health violations at its Cleveland lead products manufacturing facility. Proposed penalties total $61,600. Five repeat violations included allowing workers to be exposed to lead above permissible levels and failing to use engineering controls to lower employee exposure to lead. Other violations involved lack of work rest and tongue guards on grinders and failing to have covers in place on electrical equipment. The same violations were cited in 2009 at this facility.
Florida Marine Company Cited After Worker Fatality
Lucas Marine Acquisition Co. LLC of Stuart, Fla., was cited for 22 safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following the drowning of an untrained worker. The employee died while diving during underwater construction activities for the City of Fort Pierce Marina storm protection project. Three willful, 12 serious and seven other-than-serious violations were found. They included the employer's failure to ensure workers performing underwater diving operations had adequate experience and training to perform the work safely; provide members of the dive team with CPR training; assess the hazards of underwater conditions; and inspect the air compressor, filters or regulators. The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Solvay Specialty Polymers for 12 violations, mainly for exposing workers to chemical hazards from solvents used at its Marietta, Ohio, plant. The inspection began following a referral from the National Response Center because of an incident involving a methyl chloride release at the plant on July 18, 2013. The plant produces polymer pellets used in the production of items such as plumbing, electrical connectors, medical devices and fuel filters. One repeat violation was cited for failing to follow recognized good engineering practices. OSHA proposed penalties of $77,000.
Workers at Texas Drilling Company Exposed to Numerous Hazards
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Gem Drilling Co. Inc. for 19 serious safety and health violations involving a variety of hazards at a Sagerton, Texas, worksite. OSHA's El Paso Area Office inspected the facility in November as part of the agency's Oil and Gas Regional Emphasis Program, which is designed to prevent fatalities and other catastrophic events at oil drilling and gas wells. The serious violations included failure to provide guardrails for workers on platforms 7 feet above the ground, maintain a derrick ladder in safe condition, properly guard machinery, and use electrical components in a manner that complies with safety requirements. Other serious violations included failure to ensure equipment is effectively grounded, properly maintain exposed electrical circuits, provide workers with toilet facilities, and maintain the workplace in a sanitary condition. The company faces a proposed penalty of $46,900.