DOL in Action


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

Protecting Wages and Benefits

(left to right) Union members (two gentlemen in Orange shirts), Rep. Bobbi Scott, Secretary Perez and Rep. Takano. Union members, Rep. Bobby Scott, Secretary Perez and Rep. Takano.

Speaking on overtime: Joined by Reps. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Mark Takano of California, workers, union members and advocates, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez reaffirmed the importance of the department’s recent overtime rule at a news conference on June 9. The rule would expand overtime protection to more than 4 million workers. Other supporters at the news conference included CASA de Maryland Executive Director Gustavo Torres, National Employment Law Project Federal Advocacy Coordinate Jodi Conti, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein. In his remarks, Perez said the rule goes to the heart of what it means to be middle class – ensuring that middle-class jobs pay middle-class wages — and is central to the administration’s efforts to help working families.

Idaho Transportation Department Compliance Officer Russ Rivera (left) and WHD Senior Investigator Seward Dinsmore Jr. Idaho Transportation Dept. Compliance Officer Russ Rivera (left) and WHD Senior Investigator Seward Dinsmore Jr.

Constructing working relationships: Wage and Hour officials conducted a wide-reaching seminar devoted to educating the construction industry on compliance principles in Boise, Idaho, on June 6. The seminar, hosted by the Idaho Transportation Department, was live-streamed throughout the state, reaching nearly 150 participants, including contractors, union representatives, employer associations and government agencies. “I am pleased that we were able to provide the construction industry with live technical training concerning compliance requirements, particularly in government contracts,” said Thomas Silva, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Portland. “This would not have been possible without the valuable assistance from our state partner, ensuring that even those living in remote areas of Idaho could benefit from this critical information.”

Building Jobs

Administrator for the Office of Apprenticeship John Ladd speaks to business representatives. Administrator for the Office of Apprenticeship John Ladd speaks to business representatives.

Growing skills through apprenticeship: Making sure Americans have the right skills and training for 21st-century jobs is critical to growing the nation’s economy and rebuilding the middle class. On June 2, the Apprenticeship USA Advanced Manufacturing Accelerator was held at Harper College in Palatine, Ill., to discuss ways to expand the use of Registered Apprenticeship in developing a talent pipeline for industry. Speaking to more than 100 industry leaders, John Ladd, administrator for the Office of Apprenticeship, emphasized that the apprenticeship model allows businesses to customize their training for employees, resulting in a workforce that is fully proficient and trained to their specifications. “It also has a positive impact on your current workforce as they are rejuvenated by teaching and mentoring a new generation through the apprenticeship program,” Ladd said. Businesses that participate in the ApprenticeshipUSA Accelerators will leave the events with a road map for moving forward, and receive ongoing technical assistance to build and register their apprenticeship programs. The department announced another $10.4 million in State Accelerator Grants on June 2 to help states expand and expedite registered apprenticeship programs. For more information see our ApprenticeshipUSA fact sheet.

Building bridges to increase inclusion: How education, business and government can work together to bridge the opportunity gap was the topic on hand at the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity National Conference and Annual Meeting held June 8 in Tysons Corner, Va. The department was proud to participate in the event, with Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Chief of Staff Claudia Gordon providing opening remarks and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy serving on the event’s first plenary panel, during which she spoke about the important role disability plays in workplace diversity and inclusion. Founded in 1974, AAAED is an association of professionals managing affirmative action, equal opportunity, diversity and other human resource programs in higher education, private industry and government.

Improving Safety and Health

Workplace exams may thwart mining injuries, deaths: Michael Jay Nickels was driving a truck at a sand and gravel mine in Valley County, Neb., in March 2015, when the vehicle left an elevated roadway on an embankment and headed into a pond – leaving him injured seriously. Two days later, the 44-year-old haul driver succumbed to his injuries. Investigators with the Mine Safety and Health Administration later determined that the roadway had no barrier to stop the truck. If an examination had been conducted, the fatality likely might have been prevented. Effective working place examinations are a fundamental accident prevention tool that allows mine operators to find and fix adverse conditions and violations of safety and health standards before they cause injury or death to miners. On June 7, MSHA published a proposed rule to enhance the quality of workplace examinations in metal and nonmetal mines around the country.

International Scene

Secretary Tom Perez chats with USAID Administrator Gayle Smith. Secretary Perez with USAID Administrator Gayle Smith.

Improving worker voice abroad: Dozens of champions for worker rights and gender equality gathered on Capitol Hill for the launch of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Global Labor Program. Secretary of Labor Perez spoke at the June 7 launch of the program, which is awarded every five years by USAID and is the agency’s largest labor program. The program focuses on promoting worker rights through support to democratic worker organizations and complements international labor programs funded by ILAB. “My firm belief is that by improving worker voice in other countries, we are helping to defend it here,” said Perez.

Veterans

(left to right) Executive Director, Arlington Employment Center Howard Felstein takes Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Todd A. Weiler and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Mike Michaud on a tour of the Center. Executive Director, Arlington Employment Center Howard Felstein (left), Todd A. Weiler, and Mike Michaud.

One stop to help job-seeking veterans: At nearly 2,500 American Job Centers nationwide people receive help with job searches, find training, and answers to employment related questions. Last year, nearly one million veterans used this AJC network to match their skills to civilian careers, search for opportunities in their local area, and access other benefits available to them. On June 7, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Mike Michaud visited the Arlington Employment Center, an American Job Center in Arlington, Va., for a tour of the facility and roundtable discussion on veterans’ employment. Michaud joined Todd A. Weiler, assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, for the tour and discussion.

In Other News

Erica Groshen and Deborah Brown. Erica Groshen and Deborah Brown.

Data spotlight: More than 100 people attended a conference for data users in New York City on June 6 to learn more about the data produced by the Bureau of Labor StatisticsBLS Commissioner Erica L. Groshen and Boston Regional Commissioner Deborah A. Brown provided remarks at the event, held at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. BLS data was on display during the session as the bureau’s program specialists discussed prices and wages and labor market developments during two breakout sessions.

New election for AFGE local: American Federation of Government Employees Local 2595 in Yuma, Ariz., recently agreed to hold a new election, including new nominations, for all offices under supervision of the Office of Labor-Management Standards. An OLMS investigation of the contested November 2015 officer election concluded that the union failed to conduct the election in accordance with its constitution and bylaws, failed to provide proper notice of nominations, and denied members the right to vote by failing to update its membership list prior to mailing ballots. The new election will be held by Sept. 2.

Postal workers to hold supervised election: National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 496 in Richmond, Va., recently agreed to conduct a new election for the offices of president and vice president under supervision of the Office of Labor-Management Standards. An OLMS investigation of a contested December 2015 election concluded that the union committed the following election violations: 1) denied members the right to vote in that duplicate ballot requests were not honored; 2) failed to maintain adequate safeguards to ensure a fair election in that voted ballots were picked up at the post office on multiple occasions and maintained at a private residence; 3) denied a candidate the right to have an observer at the mailing of the ballots and during multiple visits to the post office to pick up returned ballots; and 4) failed to properly count the votes cast by members in that not all valid voted ballots were counted in the tally and ballots from eligible members were voided. The new election will be held by Aug. 12.

Editor’s Note: Find previous posts in this series here.


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Comments

Why are Federal contracting companies allowed to move the wages of their employees in to a "housing allowance" wage to avoid paying benefits on the true "take home" wages of their employees? The benefits rule of the SCA should apply to the social security wages indicated as earned on the W2 forms and taxed by the social security administrator as wages not what companies say are non-wages for benefits and wages for benefits. Federal government contracting companies (especially overseas) are avoiding the benefits requirements of the SCA by falsely classifying housing allowances as non wages when the employee is allowed to "keep the excess monies as wages" and the housing allowance is far in excess of the true amount being paid for housing at the overseas location (as much as three or four times the amount needed for housing). I work for a Federal government contractor that just moved another $15K of what is considered as "salary" by the company to what the company states is "housing allowance" wages that are now four times the amount that I need to pay for overseas housing and twice my salary which is now cut by $15K for benefits that are critical to my family (life insurance, disability, 401K etc.). The government contracting companies are doing this to lower their bids (I think this is an unfair biding process and not in the spirit of the law of the SCA). This is devastating to the benefits that employees working on government contractor should be receiving.

It is always important to us (Calvac Paving) to keep our employees safe when they are out doing their jobs. So improving safety and health is always a concern every week. We try our best to remind our employees of the do's and donts of the job. We also believe that us doing our job we create jobs for everyone involved. We do not have a apprentice program to say, but would be very interested in creating one within our company.

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