Apprentices help in Superstorm Sandy rebuilding: The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in Long Island, New York, suffered flooding and was knocked out of service for 57 hours following Superstorm Sandy. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Rep. Kathleen Rice toured construction projects meant to protect the facility from future storm surges on Nov. 9. The rebuilding efforts employ more than 200 union laborers, including 23 apprentices. Perez met apprentices Taylor Furlong and Steve Brown, both of whom are excited about the job opportunities their apprenticeship program has opened up for them. On Nov. 1-7, the secretary celebrated the first-everNational Apprenticeship Week to highlight the importance apprenticeships play in providing Americans with new skills, higher wages, and a path to middle-class jobs.
Empowerment of tribal governments: An economy based on shared prosperity must create opportunity for Native American communities, Secretary Perez emphasized at theWhite House Tribal Nations Conference on Nov. 5. Speaking at an armchair discussion moderated by Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel, Perez expressed urgency about bringing down the double-digit Native American unemployment rate. “There is no better pathway out of poverty,” he said, “than the skills to compete for a good, middle-class job.” To that end, Perez highlighted training grants designed specifically to empower Native American tribes, as well as a new directive allowing tribal governments to compete more directly for department grant funding. He spoke of the inspiring, ambitious Native American young people he met during a recent trip to Wyoming, where he also opened a Job Corps center that will serve tribal youth. Other panelists in the armchair discussion included Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Beth Cobert.
Increasing effectiveness through inclusion: The value of disability inclusion from not only a programming but also employment perspective was one of the topics on the agenda at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly. More than 3,000 professionals and philanthropists convened in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8-10 for the meeting. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy participated on a panel, emphasizing how individual federations’ effort to increase workplace inclusion internally has a multiplying effect. “Federations are an integral part of the social fabric of their communities. As such, you have a strong influence on societal attitudes and norms,” she said. “By opening your doors to all qualified individuals, including people with disabilities, you send a powerful message to other organizations in your local Jewish communities.”
Partnership with Paraguay to combat child labor: A letter of agreement, signed on Nov. 6 by Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher P. Lu and Paraguay’s Minister of Labor Guillermo Sosa, affirms the shared commitment of the U.S. and Paraguayan governments to support a new, four-year project to combat child labor, and improve labor law enforcement and working conditions in Paraguay. “Paraguay Okakuaa,” which means Paraguay Progresses in the Guaraní language, will provide specialized training and support to the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security to strengthen the effectiveness of the labor inspectorate, improve the ministry’s data systems on labor law enforcement, and increase interagency collaboration on combating child labor. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs also announced a $6 million award to Partners of the Americas, a nonprofit organization, to implement this project. Approximately 1,650 children and 1,350 families are expected to benefit from the program.
Protecting Wages and Benefits
Home care rule implementation: Outreach continues to the department’s federal partners, states and a host of other stakeholders on implementation of the Home Care Final Rule. Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator Laura Fortman and Associate Deputy Solicitor Jennifer Brand discussed those efforts with state attorneys general and others gathered at the American Association of Public Welfare Attorneys in Seattle on Nov. 10. “We remain committed to promoting thoughtful implementation of the Home Care Final Rule in a manner that extends basic labor protections to home care workers, and ensures that Medicaid participants and their families continue to have access to the critical home and community-based services upon which they rely,” said Fortman. The new rule requires that most home care workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage and earn overtime pay.
Labor law training for Houston grocers: The Wage and Hour Division’s multi-year enforcement initiative in the grocery store industry has uncovered widespread minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act along with violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act. In April, approximately $1.3 million in back wages and damages were returned to 1,253 employees. To promote voluntary compliance, the Wage and Hour staff in the Greater Houston area is working closely with the Texas Retailers Association to reach its grocery industry membership through compliance assistance about these laws. To learn about this workshop to be held Nov. 17 and other upcoming Wage and Hour events, please visit the Department of Labor calendar.
Improving Safety and Health
New retaliation complaint procedures: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final ruleestablishing procedures and time frames for handling employee retaliation complaints under the National Transit Systems Security Act and the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which cover employees of public transportation agencies and railroad carriers, respectively. The final rule, effective Nov. 9, responds to public comments submitted on an interim rule by improving the ability of employees and employers to access information on active cases and to participate in the investigation. OSHA fact sheets for public transportation agency workers and railroad workersexplain who is covered under the acts, and they describe protected activity, types of retaliation and the complaint filing process.
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