The following is a roundup of the department’s recent activities. Read more in our newsletter.
Protecting Wages and Benefits
Secretary Perez at CWA.
The power of ‘We’: Following his role in helping to broker an agreement between Verizon’s workers, unions and management, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez addressed the Communication Workers of America Legislative Conference on June 15 to celebrate the accomplishment and reflect on the value of collective bargaining. He recalled the 13-day process, with senior CWA leaders at the department headquarters, and praised the mutual commitment among the parties involved to build trust and help the 40,000 families affected by the strike. In closing, Perez reminded attendees of the progress made under the Obama administration, the undeniable unfinished business ahead, and their role in continuing our journey toward “a more perfect union.”
Leading on paid leave: Continuing its series of discussions on local responses to paid family leave, during the week of June 6 the Women’s Bureau hosted roundtables in New York, Washington state and New Jersey. At the June 8 roundtable in New York City, advocates, employers and state administrators discussed anticipated implementation challenges, strategies for maximizing take-up rates, and ways to make paid leave more accessible to workers providing eldercare. Seattle-based advocates, state legislators, union leaders and public health practitioners met on June 9 to discuss challenges to and strategies for financing and improving the 2007 law. On June 10, stakeholders gathered in New Brunswick, N.J, to discuss benchmarks for success, outreach and education strategies, and potential improvements to the paid leave program. More local paid leave discussions are planned in Hartford, Conn., Providence, R.I., New Castle, Del., and Pittsburgh, Pa., later this month.
First sex discrimination guideline updates in 40 years: The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has updated its sex discrimination regulations for federal contractors to reflect the current state of the law and the reality of a modern and diverse workforce. These updated rules on workplace sex discrimination will mean clarity for federal contractors and subcontractors and make explicit their obligations to provide equal opportunity for men and women applying for jobs with, or already working for, these employers. The new rule addresses a variety of sex-based barriers in the workplace, including pay discrimination; sexual harassment; pregnancy-related accommodations; family caregiving discrimination, and discrimination on the basis of gender identity or transgender status.
Improving Safety and Health
Bringing occupational safety and health surveillance into the 21st century: In an effort to develop a “smarter,” more cost-effective system of occupational injury and illness surveillance, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has launched a study of current methods and potential new approaches to surveillance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are funding the study. In a speech at the National Academies on June 15, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels focused on the central role of surveillance in preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. Michaels suggested several areas deserving of attention, including linking administrative and workers’ compensation data to injury and illness data currently collected by BLS and OSHA. He also underscored the importance of improving surveillance for occupational illness.
Panelists discuss approaches to tackling child labor in supply chains.
Working to end child labor: In recognition of World Day Against Child Labor, the department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs co-hosted an event with the Child Labor Coalition on June 14 in Washington, D.C., to discuss what businesses can do to eliminate child labor in supply chains. Panelists included officials from two companies – Coca-Cola and Divine Chocolate – as well as the nonprofit GoodWeave, each of which have developed innovative approaches to tackling child labor in supply chains. The panel also benefited from the perspectives of two leading civil society organizations, Human Rights Watch and the International Labor Rights forum, on effective strategies for addressing the problem. In his opening remarks, ILAB’s Associate Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Eric Biel said, “This, of course, is our hope: to get challenging issues out on the table and move forward together toward practical and sustainable solutions.”
Assistant Secretary Michaud testifies.
Focusing on veterans’ employment: The unemployment rate for veterans has fallen from 9.9 percent in January 2011 to 3.4 percent in May 2016, but as long as any single veteran is seeking meaningful civilian employment, there is still work to be done. On June 15, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Mike Michaud testified before the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity to discuss programs and strategies for veterans seeking jobs. Michaud highlighted the importance of the department’s Jobs for Veterans State Grants program, which provides funding for Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program specialists and Local Veterans’ Employment Representative staff, and VETERANS.GOV, a new website to help veterans and the employers who want to hire them.
In Other News
Department sues D.C.-area transit union: The department has sued Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority employees, in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Prince Georges County. The lawsuit seeks to nullify the union’s December 2015 election for all contested offices and all offices that should have been contested but for the alleged violations. The lawsuit asks the court to order a new election under the supervision of the Office of Labor-Management Standards. The department alleges that Local 689 failed to mail notice of the election to all members; denied eligible members the right to be nominated and run for office; failed to apply candidacy qualifications in a uniform manner; permitted ineligible members to vote; and failed to count ballots of eligible members.
Editor’s Note: Find previous posts in this series here.