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DOL in Action

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

Protecting Wages and Benefits

Secretary Thomas E. Perez speaks at US SIF. Secretary Perez speaks at US SIF.

Doing well and doing good with impact investing: “Impact investing is the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do, and it's consistent with your fiduciary duty.” This was Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez addressing the May 24 US Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment conference in Washington, D.C. The conference was focused on the role that impact investing plays in creating a balanced and inclusive economy that gives everyone a chance to succeed. Perez stressed that one of the most important ways to address the unfinished business of shared prosperity is to ensure we encourage the flow of capital to promising investment opportunities that have a social impact. In October 2015, the department issued guidance that confirmed that retirement plan fiduciaries may take social impact into account when investment options are otherwise equal. According to Perez, by clarifying our guidance we bring Employee Retirement Income Security Act investors together with economically targeted investments – allowing the capital to meet social opportunity.
20160526-WHDWebinarsWebinars on overtime rule: What to know more about the department’s final rule updating the overtime rules for white-collar salaried workers? The Wage and Hour Division is hosting webinars to answer your questions. Two general information sessions are being held in June, as are sessions for the nonprofit sector and state and local governments. Online registration for the free sessions is open now.  
The Sanchez family with Wage and Hour investigators Gerardo Huaracha and Katherine Walum. The Sanchez family with Wage and Hour investigators Gerardo Huaracha and Katherine Walum.

Finally receiving the fruits of their labor: Wage and Hour officials arrived at their area office in Kennewick, Washington, this week toting back wage checks for blueberry workers. They also lauded the results of their multi-year initiative to ensure all agricultural workers in Washington state receive the wages they are legally due. Seattle District Director Jeanette Aranda presented thousands of dollars to the father, mother and four children of the Sanchez family following this year’s lawsuit that ordered Washington state blueberry growers to pay hundreds of workers $385,000 in back wages and damages. “We’re happy to finally receive our checks,” said patriarch Serafin Sanchez Cortes. “We had days where we had to skip breakfast or lunch when working all day in the fields because we were low on money.” Aranda also announced that her team had recovered $318,000 in back wages and damages for thousands of other agricultural workers in the state over the past two years.
WHD Deputy Administrator Laura Fortman (left) with disability advocate Liz Weintraub. Laura Fortman (left) and Liz Weintraub.

Q&A on home care guide: On a recent edition of Tuesdays With Liz: Disability Policy for All, Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator Laura Fortman answered questions about the agency’s new home care guide for consumers and their families. “The guide basically helps anybody who employs a home care worker figure out how to make sure that the person is being paid correctly,” Fortman told host and longtime disability advocate Liz Weintraub. The program is a production of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.   Prevailing wage training in North Carolina: Federal contractors, union officials and workers gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., for a comprehensive prevailing wage seminar. The Wage and Hour Division’s Raleigh District Office hosted the training sessions May 23-25. Session topics included: the Davis-Bacon Act, McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, compliance assistance, enforcement processes, and the process for appealing wage rates. A keynote address was provided by WHD Southeast Regional Administrator Wayne Kotowski to the more than 200 stakeholders.

Building Jobs

Valerie Davis, WB; Kelley Johnson, Office of Apprenticeship; Dolores Bischof, WB; DeBorah Whaley-Stephenson, 50+ Program Coordinator, Brookhaven College; Dawn Gomez, Career Services Coordinator, North Lake College; Grace Protos, regional administrator, WB. Valerie Davis, WB; Kelley Johnson, Office of Apprenticeship; Dolores Bischof, WB; DeBorah Whaley-Stephenson, 50+ Program Coordinator, Brookhaven College; Dawn Gomez, Career Services Coordinator, North Lake College; Grace Protos, regional administrator, WB.

Resources for older women workers: In order to address some of the workplace challenges faced by older women workers, the Women’s Bureau collaborated with Dallas County Community College District, the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, the Federal Trade Commission and several local service providers to present a series of conferences titled, “50+Women2Work: Ready, Set, Employed.” More than 100 women learned about free or low-cost training for in-demand jobs offered by the community colleges, apprenticeship opportunities, job search best practices, and the basics of starting their own business. The events, in recognition of Older Americans Month, were held May 13, 18 and 19, and took place at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas; North Lake College in Irving, Texas; and Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas; respectively.

Veterans

VETS Assistant Secretary for VETS Mike Michaud. Assistant Secretary Mike Michaud.

Testifying on veterans’ employment: The unemployment rate for veterans remains notably low (3.9 percent in April), but the department won’t rest as long as one veteran needs assistance finding meaningful civilian employment. On May 24, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Mike Michaud testified before the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs to discuss the department’s Jobs for Veterans State Grants, or JVSG, and how they would be impacted by pending legislation. Michaud, a former member of Congress, highlighted the importance of JVSG, which provides funding for Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program specialists and Local Veterans’ Employment Representative staff.
Teresa Gerton, deputy assistant Secretary, VETS. Teresa Gerton of VETS.

Helping veterans find good jobs: Teresa W. Gerton, deputy assistant secretary of labor, Veterans' Employment & Training Service, attended the Hiring Our Heroes job fair at Boston's Fenway Park May 24 to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. In one of the nation’s oldest ball parks, employers hosted the hiring fair with workshops focused on building a resume, networking opportunities and interviewing skills to help prepare job seekers. “Your prospects for success here today are high. I want you to approach this event from a mission-focused perspective. Remember, you are their future best employee. The Department of Labor is here to support employers and employees, and we wish you all great success,” said Gerton.

Improving Safety and Health

Expanding the safety initiative: Through its free onsite consultation programs, located in every state, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides vital help to small and medium-sized businesses in high-hazard industries. Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, spoke to the leaders of these programs at the On-site Consultation Training Conference in Kansas City, Mo., on May 18. He discussed the impact and progress that OSHA has made through inspections and free consultations, while stressing that there is more to be done to dramatically reduce the number of work injuries, illnesses and fatalities across the country. Michaels wrapped up the conference explaining how the state-based programs can participate in OSHA’s campaigns and programs to expand safety knowledge and further safer practices.
A conversation about protecting the nation’s workers:  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new programs and initiatives were topics of discussion during Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels’ guest interview on the “AIHce Morning Show” during the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition at the Baltimore Convention Center on May 24. Michaels participated in a panel discussion alongside National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Director John Howard and moderated by AIHA President Daniel H. Anna. At the Baltimore, Md., conference, Michaels spoke about OSHA’s recent improvements to worker protections, including the final rules to protect workers from exposure to respirable silica and improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses.

In Other News

Hawaii union business associate sentenced: Raymond Fujii, former executive director for the Hawaii Painting & Decorating Contractors Association, was recently sentenced to 42 months of imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $1,234,713 in restitution in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.  In January 2016, Fujii pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud for concealing his embezzlement of approximately $1,483,800 from the Hawaii Painters Trade Promotion & Charity Fund and the PDCA, and one count of filing a false tax return. A joint investigation conducted by the Office of Labor-Management Standards and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations found that from 1997 through 2014, Fujii used his position to embezzle money from the PDCA and the TP&C, a trust fund that promotes the local painting industry. Fujii admitted writing checks to a company that he owned, either forging or fraudulently obtaining the signatures of directors on the checks, and then depositing the money in his personal account. He did not report the stolen money on his federal or  Hawaii income tax returns, which resulted in significant tax losses to the federal and state governments. The TP&C is a CBA-negotiated fund that comes out of hourly wages of members of Painters District Council 50 in Honolulu. The fund is used to primarily fund the PDCA.
Deputy Secretary Lu (right) hosts an armchair discussion with former Secretary Norm Mineta. Deputy Secretary Lu (left) hosts an armchair discussion with Norm Mineta.

Celebrating AAPI heritage: May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To celebrate the accomplishments of AAPIs,  Norm Mineta, who served as secretary of two Cabinet departments, was welcomed to the Frances Perkins Building on May 23 for an armchair conversation with Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu. Mineta discussed his childhood experiences in an internment camp and his career in public service. Born of Japanese ancestry, Mineta was the first Asian American mayor of a major city, San Jose, a member of Congress for almost 20 years, and secretary of the Transportation and Commerce departments. Following the armchair conversation, Terry Shima, a veteran of the famed all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, spoke about the Japanese American experience in the 1940s. The event was sponsored by two of the department’s affinity groups, Asian Pacific American Council and the Military Veterans’ Alliance. Editor’s Note: Find previous posts in this series here.

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when will the VR&C program for disabled vets to obtain employment and training return