Two recent conferences aimed to improve economic opportunity for workers. The Opportunity Conference in Washington, D.C., promoted opportunities for minority workers in the U.S. The 15th Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor in Port of Spain, in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, stressed how the U.S. Department of Labor is working to provide opportunities for American workers as well as those in nearby nations.
“Traditionally underserved communities are often unaware of the tremendous resources available within mainstream America to help them achieve their dreams,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao at a recent conference targeting economic development for minority workers.
“A goal of this conference is to bring everyone together to familiarize entrepreneurs, community organizers, and others with a wide variety of resources,” Chao added. She was speaking at the fifth annual Opportunity Conference, hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor to provide opportunities for members of minority communities.
“This administration recognizes the vital, job-creating role that small and medium-sized enterprises play in our growing economy — representing over 99 percent of employers and providing nearly 83 percent of all private payroll jobs,” Secretary Chao continued. “The Opportunity Conference includes workshops on venture capital for entrepreneurs, marketing and media strategies, and one of the department’s most significant regional grant programs, called Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development.”
The free, one-day business conference in Washington, D. C., included information on how African American, Hispanic and Asian Pacific American entrepreneurs, nonprofits and faith-based organizations can win highly competitive grants and contracts worth millions from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Topics covered at the conference included:
How entrepreneurs can locate and gain access to venture capital.
How to apply for government grants.
Partnership opportunities for faith-based and community organizations.
Entrepreneurial economic trends.
How entrepreneurial veterans can apply for loans.
Financial literacy for ethnic communities.
Marketing and media strategies for small enterprises and organizations.
A number of co-sponsors had exhibits at the conference, from the Association of Small
Business Development Centers and the League of United Latin American Citizens, to the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce.
Participating groups included the Chinese Benevolent Association; the Cuban American National Council, Minority Roundtable, the National Council of La Raza, and Top Ladies of Distinction Inc.
Meanwhile, in the Caribbean city of Port of Spain, Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Charlotte Ponticelli discussed how the U.S. Department of Labor is working in strategic partnerships with regional economies throughout the United States to ensure a competitive and adaptable workforce in the 21st century.
The theme for the conference was “Making Decent Work Central to Social and Economic Development.” Undersecretary Ponticelli joined officials of labor ministries from the 33 democratically elected governments in the western hemisphere to discuss strategies for increasing access to economic opportunities for the people of the Americas, with a focus on youth and women.
In her remarks to conference participants, Ponticelli discussed how the Labor Department’s Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development, or WIRED grants are addressing regional job growth in the U.S.
”WIRED creates a pro-growth environment in regional economies by providing seed funding to strategic partnerships that include leaders in workforce development, economic development, education, business and industry, philanthropic organizations and others across political boundaries, with a goal of driving talent development strategies in support of a unified regional economic vision,” Ponticelli said.
Ponticelli noted that all the conference participants were concerned with high unemployment numbers facing youth. In the United States, 21 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds nationwide, or 3.4 million youth, are out of school and do not have a diploma. The Department of Labor is addressing this issue through a federal interagency collaboration to support states and localities with a wide array of programs serving youth, including employment and training assistance. The existence of exploitive child labor, forced labor and human trafficking runs counter to these objectives and must also be addressed, Ponticelli said.
Employers and Employees alike are often interested to know what labor laws apply to them. The legal code of the District of Columbia contains a number of provisions that regulate work situations. Today I’ll give a few highlights of these laws.
Child Labor: The District of Columbia requires work permits for minors under 18 to be employed in any job that is not agricultural or housework-related in nature. The code of the District also regulates the hours of employment for workers under 18, and the types of jobs that minors of various ages may hold.
Family Leave and Medical Leave: If you work in the District of Columbia, you are covered by a Family Leave provision that is more generous than that of the Federal law. Under the District’s code, employees are entitled to 16 weeks of unpaid leave within a 24 month period for such situations as the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a family member with a serious illness. An unpaid medical leave of 16 weeks is also required to be available to employees who personally have a serious health condition. These regulations apply to any employers with 20 or more employees in the District.
Minimum Wage: In the District there is currently a minimum wage of $6.60 per hour. This will increase to $7 per hour after January 1st of 2007. If the national minimum wage should be increased, District residents may be in for an additional increase. Under the District code, if the Federal Minimum wage plus one dollar is greater than the set District wage, District employees would receive that higher wage instead.
Payment of Wages: Employers in the District of Columbia must pay their employees at least twice per month. An interval of not more than 10 working days are allowed to elapse between the end of the pay period covered and the next pay day. If there is a contract between an employer and a labor organization representing employees, or if by “custom or contract” an employer has always paid employees less frequently, then employees may be paid as infrequently as once per month.
The District of Columbia also has statutes applying to workers’ compensation, industrial safety, unemployment compensation, lie detector tests, occupational safety and health, the licensing of employment services, and more. For a complete listing of applicable District and Federal labor laws, please see the District of Columbia Complete Labor Law Poster.
The District of Columbia Labor Law Board is an essential governmental board that any of us that live within the state should know about. If you do not, you do not know what is happening within the state.
This board provides for quite a few very important services as well as provides information about how the state is doing employment wise. Some of the services that you will find that they offer range from such things as training and educational programs to help those that need it to find the job they want, help in providing veterans with the help they need and even youth service programs to get your teen into the work force safely.
Besides providing services like this to us, the District of Columbia Labor Law Board also provides a wealth of help in giving us an idea of what is happening within the state. For example, did you know that the unemployment rate dropped in June of 2006? The labor board tells us that within the last year; almost eight thousand new jobs were created in our area. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent in that time which is still almost a whole percentage above the rest of the country currently.
Those that work within the District of Columbia should know what is happening within the area. To learn that, contact the Department of Labor. You can find such things as career planning help, learn about the job market currently, find help in regards to workers protection and even get the questions that you have answered. The District of Columbia Labor Law Board provides all of this necessary information to us so that we can be educated about what is happening in the area that we live and work. It is important information that we should all know.