• Taking Care of Our Caretakers: Originally published as an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times, this post from Secretary Perez and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan argues that the recent Supreme Court decision in Harris v. Quinn is damaging to the 2 million people who go to work caring for people in their homes people who deserve to be treated fairly, with all of the rights and protections in the workplace that Americans have come to expect.
• Giving Working Families a Voice: As New York Mets second basemen Daniel Murphy who famously chose to miss the first game of the season to be with his wife after she gave birth to their child prepared to play in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Secretary Perez introduced readers to more workers who have reaped the benefits of paid family leave policies.
• Coming to Work Fully: One key to getting the best from employees is workplace policies and practices that encourage people to bring their best selves to work, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez writes in this post about updates to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. It requires that federal contractors invite applicants and employees to self-identify as people with disabilities.
Building Bridges to Business
The National Organization on Disability is making the business case for why companies should hire and promote qualified workers with disabilities. Working with major corporations, NOD's "Bridges to Business" and "Disability Tracker" programs were designed with the department's new disability employment initiatives in mind. On July 14, NOD leaders including Board Chair Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, and President Carol Glazer briefed Secretary Perez and representatives from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the Office of Disability Employment Policy on their efforts. Acknowledging that true progress will require a cultural shift in workplaces, Ridge said, "We want to do this so well that we put ourselves out of business."
The Next Generation to Lead
At the annual Make Progress National Summit, an event for youth activists hosted by Generation Progress, the youth arm of the Center for American Progress, Secretary Perez spoke on July 16 about the challenges to equality and opportunity facing the nation in the 21st century. He encouraged attendees to get involved at the local, state and national levels to advocate for change. "We are trying to expand opportunity for people to get access to a fair wage, to get access to affordable health care, to get access to retirement security, to get access to a fair shake," Perez said. The secretary encouraged the young activists from around the country to be persistent and to be willing to take risks. "You can make a huge difference in your local community," he said. "You are the next generation to lead the movement for fairness and opportunity."
Roundtable on Veterans Hiring
Joining a group of federal officials, workforce representatives and private employers, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment and Training Teresa Gerton provided an overview of VETS' activities to the National Governors' Association in Memphis, Tenn. The roundtable was held by the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee at the NGA's annual meeting on July 12. Governors Terry Brandstad of Iowa, Jay Nixon of Missouri (the committee chair) and Brian Sandoval of Nevada asked questions and listened as participants discussed strategies for assisting veterans' transitions to civilian employment, including employer partnerships, certification and licensing portability, priority of service at American Jobs Centers, and training for in-demand occupations. Gerton spoke about the $1 billion in job-driven training grants that the department has funded in 2014, and urged governors to take advantage of these programs in their states.
More than 1,000 disability advocates, educators, policymakers and people who are blind and visually impaired gathered in Las Vegas for the American Council of the Blind's 53rd annual conference. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez spoke about taking pride in diversity on two occasions at the Women's Concerns Breakfast on July 11 and at one of the organization's largest special interest affiliates, Blind LGBT Pride International, on July 14. At the BPI workshop Martinez recounted recent efforts to advance workplace inclusion for the disability and LGBT communities and lessons each can learn from the other's progress in recent years. "At the Labor Department, we believe in equal opportunity. We believe that a strong workforce is a diverse workforce," she said. "When we make strides toward equality for any community, whether the disability community, the LGBT community, or another historically marginalized population, it benefits all of us."
Representatives of the Wage and Hour Division participated in the Comunidad Alerta, a Spanish-language live talk show at Radio Bilingüe National Latino Public Radio Network in Salinas, Calif., on July 14. An estimated 500,000 listeners in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas were informed during the show about the H-2A and H-2B visa programs, how to file a complaint and about the Employment Education and Outreach worker assistance program. The division's regional director of Public Relations Priscilla Garcia and Sacramento's Community Outreach and Resource Planning Specialist Teresa Ruiz answered questions from callers on basic labor rights and protections.
Turner Construction Co., Fluor Corp., Foster Wheeler USA Corp.'s Process and Industrial Division, and the Georgia Tech Research Institute's Occupational Safety and Health Program formed a partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to ensure the highest level of employee safety and health during the construction of the new Baxter International pharmaceutical plant in Social Circle, Georgia. The parties signed the partnership agreement July 15, at Baxter's project office. Through its Strategic Partnership Program, OSHA partners with employers, workers, professional and trade associations, labor organizations and other interested stakeholders to establish specific goals, strategies and performance measures to improve worker safety and health.
The Employment and Training Administration has announced the release of new data from the National Agricultural Worker Survey. The survey now includes data up to Sept. 30, 2012. The primary purposes of the NAWS are to monitor the terms and conditions of agricultural employment and assess the conditions of farm workers. The survey also generates information for various federal agencies that oversee farm worker programs. The NAWS is unique for its broad coverage of the characteristics of hired crop workers and their dependents and its nearly year-round interviewing schedule. With this set of updated data, the survey contains information from nearly 60,000 in-person interviews with hired crop farm workers.
Approximately 300 California farmworkers gathered in the Santa Maria High School in Santa Maria, Calif., to learn about their labor rights during an outreach event on July 12. Representatives of the Wage and Hour Division, the Mexican Consulate of Oxnard, California Rural Legal Assistance and California's Labor and Workforce Development Agency provided attendees with information on labor rights as temporary workers under the H-2A visa program. "Many H-2A employees are brought to the U.S with a limited understanding of their rights as part of America's workforce and so it's imperative to provide direct outreach to one of the most vulnerable group of workers that our agency protects," said Eduardo Huerta, assistant district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Los Angeles.
Students Focus on Equal Pay
The Women's Bureau hosted a group of high school students from the Young Women's Leadership Institute, a summer leadership program for high school girls at Barnard College, on July 9 at the bureau's New York regional office. The students, who are rising juniors and seniors, learned about the issue of equal pay, and how the wage gap will impact them as they enter the workforce. The students also learned about the work the government is doing to address the issue of unequal pay and fight pay discrimination.
A fall safety stand-down, prevention of heat-related illness and a construction incident prevention initiative were among the topics discussed at the Mid-Atlantic Construction Safety Council meeting on July 11. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Area Director Nick DeJesse and Compliance Assistance Specialist Jim Touey attended the meeting and presented awards to companies that participated in the fall safety stand-down campaign in June. Among the companies honored were Intech Construction, LF Driscoll, Skanska, Belcher Roofing, Grossi Steel, and Hunter/Roberts.
Weekly UI Claims
The department reported that the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial Unemployment Insurance claims was 302,000 for the week ending July 12, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised level. The four-week moving average was 309,000, down 3,000 from the previous week's revised average.
First-Ever American Apprenticeship Summit at the White House
Earlier this year, President Obama laid out a goal to double the number of apprenticeships in the United States over the next five years. As part of on-going efforts to achieve the goal, the White House hosted the first-ever American Apprenticeship Summit on July 14. The gathering culminated a series of six regional meetings hosted by the Department of Labor with business and labor leaders in the transportation, health care, construction, energy, information technology and manufacturing sectors to discuss how to expand apprenticeships. Many of the participants in these events attended the White House summit, which focused on several topics, such as increasing diversity among apprentices and aligning apprenticeships with a broad job-driven training strategy. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council, led a roundtable discussion with participants to review their recommendations. Ultimately, this information will be used to design the $100 million American Apprenticeship grant competition, expected to be announced this fall. "For apprenticeship to succeed, we need to start a movement," Secretary Perez said at the summit's conclusion. "That's how systems change. I see the beginnings of a movement in this room."
Civil Rights Act at 50: Timeless Challenges and Emerging Challenges
At a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Secretary Perez spoke about "timeless challenges" and "emerging challenges," noting that we have made great progress but still have a lot of work to do to advance civil rights and opportunity for all. He also spoke about the unbreakable connection between civil rights and labor rights. "The labor movement and the civil rights movement were one and the same," he said. "The March on Washington was a march for jobs and a march for justice. One of the best things we can do is empower our communities economically." The event, hosted on July 15, by the Department of Justice, was held at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
America Succeeds When Unions Succeed
Appearing in Chicago before more than 4,000 delegates at the 41st international convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Secretary Perez delivered an impassioned keynote speech celebrating the indispensable role that collective bargaining rights and the labor movement play in creating broad-based prosperity. "The direct relationship between the health of the middle class and the health of the labor movement is not speculation," Perez said. "It is historical fact." The secretary highlighted President Obama's opportunity agenda, making the case for an increase in the federal minimum wage, changes to the nation's overtime rules and reform of the nation's broken immigration system. He congratulated AFSCME for their recent successful organizing drive, singling out the importance of union representation for home health care workers and criticizing the Supreme Court's recent Harris v. Quinn decision, which will make it harder for home health aides to have a voice at work.
The Honors Program in the Office of the Solicitor is recruiting "best of the best" law students for the fall of 2015. The Honors Program provides challenging professional opportunities for outstanding law school graduates with a passion for public service. "The Solicitor of Labor's Honors Program is a truly exceptional opportunity for the very best of the best," said Secretary Perez. "You can put your skills to work quickly and make a huge difference." Honors Program attorneys work at the department's headquarters in Washington, D.C., or in a regional office, gaining exposure to a broad range of substantive legal work in one of the government's preeminent legal offices. Applicants must graduate from law school in spring or summer of 2015 or finish a fellowship or judicial clerkship in time to start the Honors Program in September 2015. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Oct. 10, 2014.
A minimum wage "Day of Action" is being held by the department on July 24 to call attention to the fifth anniversary of the federal minimum wage's last increase. At 10:10 a.m. EDT, the department is asking people to tweet their support for rewarding hard work by increasing the minimum wage. Use the hashtags #1010now and #5Reasons to highlight "5 reasons to raise the wage to $10.10 now." Graphics to include with tweets can be downloaded from our Day of Action website. Help make this day a success!
Grantees Gear Up to Boost Career-Readiness of Students
In April, the department awarded 24 grants totaling $107 million to high schools through the Youth CareerConnect competitive grant program as part of the effort to strengthen the college- and career-readiness of America's high school students. Those grantees were invited to the Frances Perkins Building on July 16 for a two-day grantee orientation meeting. Approximately 100 grantee representatives learned valuable information through a series of presentations and panel discussions on topics ranging from the importance of developing effective partnerships with employers and the workforce system, proper financial management, and performance reporting requirements. Deputy Secretary Christopher Lu was joined by Jim Shelton, deputy secretary at the Department of Education, and Gerri Fiala, deputy assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, in opening the session and sharing their vision for how the departments are working to transform education and workforce training to improve pathways for students to achieve career goals.
DOL Working for You
Federal, State Officials Team Up to Recover Back Wages for Cook
When Enrique Pineda, a Southern California cook, went five months without a paycheck, he turned to the Employment Education and Outreach partnership for help. EMPLEO, which provides outreach and assistance to Hispanic workers, connected Pineda with the Wage and Hour Division. Although federal law had no jurisdiction in the case, the division worked with the state to explore alternatives. "We could have simply said, 'Sorry, the law doesn't apply, you're on your own,' and stop. We didn't," said Francisco Ocampo, the division investigator who oversaw the case. Ultimately, they learned that the employer was also a dentist. Since California law allows the suspension of a medical professional's license for violating state laws and regulations, the threat of losing his license prompted the employer to cooperate. As a result of the investigation, Pineda received $11,000 in back wages. "There is a lot of injustice, and if it weren't for the Wage and Hour Division, I would have never been paid," said Pineda. "People need to know that they have rights."
Veterans Program Helps Put Family 'Back on Our Feet'
Sandy Long served in the U.S. Navy as a mechanic maintaining F-18 fighter jets on the U.S.S. Independence, and when he left the Navy he held a series of customer service jobs. But one day Long found himself unemployed, and he sought out the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which is partially managed by the department. Long enrolled in technician training, yet still faced the challenge of finding work to feed his family. Disabled Veteran Outreach Program case manager Dan Ledgett in the Employment Security Department for the state of Washington came to his assistance. Career counseling by Ledgett, an Army veteran, included revamping Long's resume and targeting his job searches. This led to Long being hired as a maintenance worker at an RV park. That job, Long said, put his family "back on our feet." Ledgett said he helped Long realize "he is a valuable asset" whose skills and experience will lead him to success.
DOL in Action
Ohio Auto Fabric Manufacturer Fails to Abate Hazards
After providing false documentation and making false representations claiming that previously cited hazards related to hydraulic presses had been corrected, Formed Fiber Technologies LLC has been issued 14 safety citations, including willful and repeat citations, as well as a notice of failure to abate. Proposed fines total $816,500. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the company continued to expose employees to amputations and other hazards at the Sidney, Ohio, plant, which produces motor vehicle interior trimmings for automotive manufacturers, including Toyota and General Motors. "Formed Fiber Technologies apparently decided that production was more important than ensuring its workers' safety," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
Truck Driver Dies After Exposure to Ammonia Vapor Cloud
Following the death of a truck driver at Midwest Farmers Cooperative's grain handling facility in Tecumseh, Neb., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the company for 12 serious safety violations. The driver, who was not provided a respirator or personal protective clothing, was overcome by anhydrous ammonia vapors while transferring the liquid from a semitruck to bulk storage tanks on March 20. The worker later died at the hospital from complications related to the ammonia inhalation. Three other workers were injured. "Midwest Farmers Cooperative and other employers using this common farm fertilizer must recognize the hazards their employees face as they transport, store and transfer anhydrous ammonia," said Bonita Winingham, OSHA's area director in Omaha.
Reemployment Assistance Available for Laid-off Wisconsin Workers
The department is making $471,629 available to extend employment-related services to laid-off workers at the Oshkosh Defense facilities in Oshkosh, Wis. The funds are being awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to provide services such as training for occupations in high-demand fields, career counseling and job search assistance. "This federal grant will help these workers laid off from the manufacturing industry by providing the retraining and re-employment services that are so crucial to enable them to transition to other growing industries in Wisconsin," said Portia Wu, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training.
Workers 'Free Climb' 195-foot Tower Without Adequate Fall Protection
Two workers were observed free climbing, or climbing without safety lines, a 195-foot communications tower under construction in Coolville, Ohio. As a result, Morlan Enterprises has been cited for one willful and eight serious safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA has proposed penalties of $52,500. "Free climbing a communication tower is extremely dangerous, and it was this company's responsibility to ensure appropriate fall protection was provided and used," said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA's area director in Columbus.
Michigan Farmer Ordered to Pay Back Wages to 36 Migrant Workers
Darryl Howes, doing business as Darryl Howes Farms in Copemish, Mich., signed a consent judgment under which he has agreed to pay $11,253 in back wages to 36 migrant workers to resolve a lawsuit filed by the department. Howes has agreed to implement enhanced record-keeping procedures to ensure the business complies with the record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. A Wage and Hour Division's investigation found that Darryl Howes Farms misclassified its migrant agricultural workers as independent contractors rather than employees entitled to minimum wage and other protections of the FLSA and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
The department has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service on behalf of a maintenance employee at the St. Louis Network Distribution Center in Hazelwood, Mo. The postal employee reported unsafe working conditions and suffered reprisals, including false charges of making a terrorist threat. The lawsuit seeks exemplary damages to deter such conduct by the Postal Service in the future, compensatory damages for emotional distress, restoration of lost pay and benefits and compensation for attorney and other fees. The suit alleges the Postal Service violated the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Barge Builder Cited for Continuing to Expose Workers to Hazards
Sterling Shipyard LP was cited for 16 serious, repeat and failure-to-abate violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for continuing to expose workers to safety hazards, including dangerous machinery; high noise levels without appropriate hearing protection, and falls from heights above 6 feet. Proposed penalties total $305,100. OSHA had originally cited the Port Neches, Texas, barge builder in October 2013 for 13 serious safety and health violations with a fine of $62,550. A follow-up inspection in January 2014 showed that Sterling had not corrected several of the hazardous conditions previously cited.
Eight Companies Cited Following Fatality at Condo Construction Site
The Underwood Group Inc., along with seven subcontractors, was cited for safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to provide workers with required fall protection equipment. The citations were issued after a worker fell 29 feet to his death at a condominium construction site in Canyon Lake, Texas. OSHA cited The Underwood Group of Cornelia, Ga., MZ Flooring Partners in San Antonio, Texas, a painting contractor that employed the deceased worker, and six other subcontractors.
Safety Program Begins in High-Hazard Industries in North Dakota
Since January 2012, 34 North Dakota workers in the oil and gas and construction industries have died because of work-related injuries. During that period, their deaths accounted for 87 percent of all North Dakota fatalities investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Recently, OSHA launched an enforcement emphasis program to address continued concerns about worker safety in these North Dakota industries. "These industries are inherently dangerous, and workers are exposed to multiple hazards every day. Their safety must not be compromised because demand for production keeps increasing," said Eric Brooks, OSHA's area director in Bismarck.
Saipan-based R & M Reyes Inc., doing business as M.V. Reyes Catering, has agreed to pay $70,583 in back wages to 43 employees for violations of the minimum wage and overtime provisions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Wage and Hour Division investigators found the catering company, which provides food services to public and private schools in Saipan and Tinian, failed to document and pay the employees for all hours worked. "All hours actually worked must be properly recorded and paid in compliance with the FLSA, including work performed during lunch breaks as well as before and after the employees' scheduled shifts," said Terence Trotter, the division's district director in Hawaii.
Manufacturer Repeatedly Exposed Workers to Amputation Hazards
For the second time this year, Interlake Mecalux Inc. has been cited for exposing workers to amputation hazards by failing to have adequate guards on dangerous machinery. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found two repeat and two serious violations following a March inspection at the company's Pontiac, Ill., plant. In February, Interlake Mecalux, which manufactures storage and racking systems, was cited for exposing workers to amputation hazards at its Melrose Park, Ill., plant. OSHA proposed additional penalties of $47,520.
The American Federation of Government Employees and Local 3314 in Buffalo, N.Y., have agreed to conduct new nominations and a new election for the office of Local 3314 president under the supervision of the Office of Labor-Management Standards. A 2014 OLMS investigation disclosed that the local improperly applied a candidate eligibility requirement and denied a member the right to be a candidate for president. The new election is to be held by October 17.
At Ohio Plant, Workers Exposed to Excessive Noise
Miami Valley Polishing has been cited for continuing to expose workers to excessive noise levels at its Piqua, Ohio, metal polishing plant following a January inspection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration previously cited the company in 2013 for the same violation. OSHA has proposed fines of $50,820 for the two repeat and three serious violations cited. "Miami Valley Polishing continues to struggle with its responsibility to protect the health of its workers," said Bill Wilkerson, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati. "The company failed to establish required engineering controls for dust exposure and to provide hearing tests at least annually to evaluate occupational hearing loss."
Workers performing abrasive blasting during the renovation of an Easthampton, Mass., mill were overexposed to lead and silica and faced other health hazards due to their employer's failure to supply basic, legally required safeguards. Connecticut-based Maher Industries, doing business as A Fast Blast, was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 17 serious violations of workplace health standards and faces $47,600 in proposed fines. OSHA found that engineering or administrative controls to reduce the exposure levels were not in place or in use by the employer. Additional hazards were posed by respirator deficiencies and the lack of a shower facility and protective clothing and eye protection for exposed workers.
Workers Exposed to Dangerous Levels of Silica Dust at Ohio Foundry
Nine employees of Piqua Champion Foundry Inc. were exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust, respiratory hazards and unsafe work conditions while grinding castings and relining a furnace. Silica exposure can cause silicosis, an irreversible lung disease, and other serious health hazards. Following its January 2014 inspection, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the Ohio company for 20 including seven repeat and 13 serious safety violations carrying proposed penalties of $57,140.