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DOL in Action

The following is a roundup of the department’s recent activities. Read more in our newsletter.

Building Jobs

Representatives from the Labor Department and a delegation from the European Union meet at the Frances Perkins Building to discuss ways to reduce high rates of long-term unemployment. Representatives from the Labor Department and a delegation from the European Union meet at the Frances Perkins Building to discuss ways to reduce high rates of long-term unemployment.

Help for long-term unemployed in the U.S., Europe: Even with a strengthening global job market, there are still too many workers who suffer long-term unemployment. On May 11, Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu joined Marianne Thyssen, EU commissioner for employment, social affairs, skills and labor mobility, at department headquarters in Washington, D.C., to address high rates of long-term unemployment. “Today’s roundtable discussion is an opportunity for us to learn from each other about how best to help the long-term unemployed find high-quality jobs in a growing economy,” Lu said. “We look forward to learning from our EU colleagues and sharing our approaches.”  Joining in the discussion were representatives from the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Employment and Training Administration, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of the Chief Economist and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy.

Protecting Wages and Benefits

Building a working relationship in construction: Combating misclassification and prevailing wage violations in the construction industry are a significant focus for the Wage and Hour Division. Administrator David Weil discussed these topics in his remarks to the Associated General Contractors of America labor law symposium in Washington, D.C., on May 6. "It’s no secret that we face big problems in the construction industry," Weil said. "We’re serious about enforcement, and I want to make clear the importance of us working together to achieve some common goals: a level competitive playing field for employers; more productive, better-protected employees; and a stronger economy for all." In fiscal year 2015, division investigations recovered $74 million in back wages owed to more than 102,000 workers in low-wage industries such as construction.
Patrick Smith, an investigator with the Austin WHD District Office, provides an overview of the tip credit provision in the FLSA. Patrick Smith, an investigator with the Austin WHD District Office, provides an overview of the tip credit provision in the FLSA.

Avoiding pitfalls in the restaurant business: In Austin, the foodie capital of Texas, restaurant owners are learning how to make sure their employees are paid correctly and kept safe, thanks to the Wage and Hour Division and the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation. The two agencies hosted two seminars for employers in early May, covering everything from employer safety responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, to the basic minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Offering the session specifically to restaurant employers allows the agencies to focus on the most common industry pitfalls. The Texas Restaurant Association helped promote and boost attendance to the seminars. In response to the high violation rate in Austin between October 2014 and September 2015, the division launched a grass-roots enforcement and outreach mission to prevent restaurant wage violations. During that time, the district office concluded more than 60 cases in the restaurant industry, resulting in $600,000 in back wages owed to 1,400 employees.
Mobile centers serve agriculture industry in remote areas: Wage and Hour officials from San Francisco recently conducted several workshops in North Carolina on the topic of mobile processing centers for the certification of farm labor contractors. Before performing any contracting activity, contractors must register with the department and obtain a certificate of registration to ensure proper pay and safe housing and transportation for farmworkers. With nearly 1,500 registered so far this year, California’s Central Valley is home to the largest concentration of farm labor contractors in the country. For many living and working in hard-to-reach areas, however, getting certified isn’t easy. In California alone, mobile centers have successfully certified hundreds of applications. While in North Carolina, Adriana V. Iglesias, the division’s western deputy director of enforcement operations, discussed how to set up and operate effective mobile processing centers. “Mobile processing has allowed us for years to provide on-the-spot services in remote areas and we are glad to expand this knowledge elsewhere,” Iglesias said.

Veterans

Assistant Secretary of Labor for VETS Michael Michaud (left) congratulates Army veteran Steven Nelson on his business, Kitchen Sweets. Nelson received services from Milwaukee’s Center for Veterans Issues. Assistant Secretary of Labor for VETS Michael Michaud (left) congratulates Army veteran Steven Nelson on his business, Kitchen Sweets. Nelson received services from Milwaukee’s Center for Veterans Issues.

The key for successful veterans: Michael Michaud believes strongly that building better relationships is the key to improving job placement, training, housing and other issues facing America’s veterans. Traveling to Chicago and Milwaukee recently, the assistant secretary of labor for veterans’ employment and training met with veterans, employers and nonprofits, as well as federal, state and local government officials who serve former members of the armed forces. “We need to continue to build relationships with veterans and services agencies and improve the services we provide in our outreach to veterans,” Michaud said. “As unemployment rates drop, we want to continue to emphasize placing veterans and their spouses in career jobs and coordinating our efforts.” While in the Midwest, Michaud hosted listening roundtables with stakeholders, toured the Southeast Wisconsin Comprehensive Job Center and spoke at the 2nd Annual Muster at the Bunker in Chicago, where veterans collaborate on entrepreneurship. He also visited the Center for Veterans Issues in Milwaukee and National Able Network in Chicago, which are providing assistance to homeless and at-risk veterans through department-sponsored Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program grants.

Improving Safety and Health

New mural at the Compliance Safety Center in Balch Springs, Texas. New mural at the Compliance Safety Center in Balch Springs, Texas.

Mural builds bridges to new safety culture: A mural on display at the Compliance Safety Center in Balch Springs, Texas, aims to remind new generations of workers about the importance of safety when confronted by some common construction hazards. Designed by Carlos Cazares for the Hispanic Contractors Association de Tejas and the Compacion Foundation, the artwork represents a multi-culture workforce and the Construction Industry Focus Four Hazards, a training program that puts emphasis on the leading causes of fatalities in the construction industry. “The mural was created for all the everyday construction workers and those who visit the training center,” said Javier Arias, HCAT chairman. “Let it be a reminder of the new safety culture we are striving for in the construction industry with the overall goal and HCAT’s mission to, ‘Save One Life.’”

International Scene

WHD Administrator Dr. David Weil (left) and ASP Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Sharon Block take note of what Thorben Albrecht, permanent state secretary, Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Inclusion for Germany (right foreground) is saying. WHD Administrator Dr. David Weil (left) and ASP Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Sharon Block take note of what Thorben Albrecht, permanent state secretary, Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Inclusion for Germany (right foreground) is saying.

Idea exchange with German ministry: Department officials hosted a German delegation on May 10 to exchange ideas and best practices for tackling labor violations and stagnating salaries arising from the fissured workplace and an absence of worker voice. Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil, Chief Economist Heidi Shierholz and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Sharon Block met with Thorben Albrecht, the permanent state secretary for the German federal ministry of labor, social affairs, and inclusion. According to Block, both countries can find solutions to current and future workplace challenges that are good for businesses, workers, families and communities, but it requires that everyone have a seat at the table, starting with workers. “We know that a key ingredient of successful, nimble businesses is ensuring that workers have a voice,” she said. “Expanding and adapting avenues for worker voice will only become more important as the pace of change in the workplace accelerates.”

In Other News...

Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick T. Harker and BLS Commissioner Erica Groshen. Patrick T. Harker and Erica Groshen.

Philadelphia data conference: More than 50 people attended a conference for data users in Philadelphia on May 11 to learn more about the economic information produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Gathering at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, BLS Commissioner Erica L. Groshen and Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick T. Harker provided opening remarks, while the bureau's program specialists discussed the Consumer and Producer Price Indexes.  BLS economists also were on hand to discuss other BLS data products.  
Former Teamsters member sentenced for extortion, mail fraud and theft: A former member of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 82 in Boston was recently sentenced to one year and one day of confinement as well as a year of probation in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. James “Jimmy the Bull” Deamicis was also ordered to pay $42,091 in restitution and a $700 special assessment and forfeiture.  In November 2015, Deamicis was found guilty of three counts of extortion and subsequently pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud and one count of theft of government funds. A joint department investigation by the Office of Labor-Management Standards, Office of Inspector General and the Employee Benefits Security Administration found that, starting in 2007, Deamicis and others extorted various entities in Boston including hotels, event planners, catering companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, music entertainment companies and nonprofit organizations. None had collective bargaining agreements with Local 82. Deamicis also threatened to picket and disrupt a business if it did not give in to his demand to hire and pay him and fellow union members for unwanted and unnecessary jobs. Furthermore, Deamicis received over $40,000 in unemployment insurance benefits that he was not entitled to because he was employed at the time.
Court orders D.C. union to rerun election: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently granted the department’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit against Local 1700 of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit, which sought to void the union’s January 2014 mail ballot election for president and alternate delegates, was filed after an Office of Labor-Management Standards investigation determined that the union denied members in good standing their right to vote when it failed to re-mail ballot packages that had been returned as undeliverable even though corrected forwarding addresses for the members were available.  The court also approved a stipulation and order of settlement that provides for the department to supervise the next regular election of Local 1700 officers on or before Dec. 30. Editor’s Note: Find previous posts in this series here.

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