There is an old saying that anyone who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
The state of Arizona appears to be trying to change that perception. The state recently published five guides for employers – and others – who would prefer to represent themselves in workers comp hearings, appeals cases and the like.
Each separate guide focuses (more…)
Finding skilled workers for is every Arizona employer’s priority. The U.S. Department of Labor recently made it a top priority as well, with a $2 million grant to train workers in transportation, distribution and logistics – three industries that are growing in the state.
A national model for the development of a demand-driven workforce, the President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative, implements programs through partnerships with business, industry and educators. Officials at the U. S. Department of Labor strongly believe these partnerships help boost local economies, and help the country’s ability to compete in the world marketplace by providing Americans with work.
These grants focus on employers and provide funds to community college located near those employers in dire need of skilled workers. The funds are awarded to increase the community colleges’ capacity to train workers for these growing industries, both to fill the industry needs and to provide high-paying, career advancing jobs for America’s workers.
The Tucson agency will utilize the money to hire qualified faculty, set up training experiences like internships, and to upgrade equipment needed to aid in the training process. The colleges work closely with local industries to develop a training curriculum to meet that industry’s needs. The goal of the Grants is not only to provide skilled workers for these industries, but also to meet the needs of the employees with increased wages and increased options for advancement.
Employers receive many benefits from the programs beyond skilled workers. Companies that add the Workforce Investment System to their Human Resources department are eligible for incentives such as government training assistance and tax credits. Plus, with the local colleges training these workers, the industry has a built-in method for screening and referral of skilled applicants. The employer reduces recruiting costs as a result, and increases the quality of its workforce. These benefits allow the employer to bring the company into the 21st century, increase profits and become more competitive in the global market.
U.S Department of Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao made the following comment, “Community colleges are in a unique position to prepare local workers for careers in high-growth industries. The $125 million awarded today will expand enrollment in education and training programs and provide more workers with the skills they need to succeed.”
Community colleges and local agencies across the nation recently received $125 million in awards under the President’s Community Based Job Training Grants Initiative.
The grants were highly competitive. Over 341 applications were filed in a competition announced in August, 2007. The awards were given to the top 69 competitors to help community colleges and training facilities provide assistance for workers seeking jobs in high-growth industries.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, Brent R. Orrell stated, “Preparing local residents for careers in growing hometown industries is critical to improving the quality of life of thousands of Americans. These programs will provide participants not only with the skills needed to gain employment, but the change to enter into careers that offer opportunities for advancement.”
The Community-Based Job Training Grants program was established in 2005, awarding 72 grants. In 2006, the second round of grants totaled 70. The purpose of these grants is to boost the community colleges’ role in marketing the full potential of the U. S. workforce.
Certain industries are having trouble finding trained workers. Health care, construction, biotechnology and energy are examples of a few nationwide industries seeking skilled employees. Several regional employers require skilled workers, too, such as the movie industry in Culver City, California.
A tough new immigration law in Arizona went into effect on January 1, 2008. Under the new law, employers who hire illegal immigrants face tough penalties.
Under the new law, employers who knowingly or intentionally hire illegal immigrants face loss of their business license. The law requires that employers use the federal I-9 form, and retain copies of supporting documents. It also requires that every employer use the free E-verify system through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That system checks worker’s documents against Social Security and DMV records, to weed out forgeries.
While there is talk of pro-immigration groups filing a lawsuit to halt the implementation of the new Arizona immigration law, no such action has been filed. Employers are legally obligated to follow the law at this point.
Hiring undocumented immigrants has long been illegal. In 1982, the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act transferred the burden of enforcement onto employers. Under that law, every U.S. employer must check documents to prove that an applicant may legally work in this country. Employers are required to keep the supporting documents – the I-9 form – on file for 3 years after the worker is hired. When a worker is terminated within that period, the employer is required to keep the supporting documentation on file for one year after termination.
The Department of Homeland Security recently released a new I-9 form. Effective December 26, 2007, any employer who uses the old for can face fines. However, employers are not required to re-certify employees who used the old form in the past.
Under the existing federal laws, employers face fines of up to $200,000 for knowingly hiring illegal aliens. Employers are required to examine the supporting documents for the I-9. However, a loophole in the federal law permits employers to not make copies of the supporting documents for the I-9. This makes it possible for a supervisor or manager to hire a friend, without supporting documents.
While the federal law levies hefty fines against offenders, a new Arizona law would shut down the business forever, if illegal aliens are hired.
By contrast, a controversial law in Illinois would make it easier for employers to hire undocumented workers. In that case, the Department of Homeland Security is suing the state, to prevent implementation of the new law.
The new Arizona law takes the penalties for hiring illegal aliens even further. Under the Employer-sanctions law, businesses that hire an illegal alien will face a 10-day suspension of their business license. A second violation will result in a permanent suspension of the business license.
According to some sources, the Arizona law was already resulting in “self deportations” before it went into effect. According to prominent members of the Arizona immigrant community, number of illegal immigrants had already left the state before the law went into effect. The tough new law, combined with an economic slow-down, makes it almost impossible for undocumented workers to find jobs. Proponents of the law say that’s exactly its purpose.
“The broke the law,” says State Representative Russell Pearce of Mesa. “They’re criminals.” Pearce sponsored the employer sanctions law specifically to drive illegal immigrants out of the state. He is using the issue as a platform to launch an exploratory campaign for the U.S. Senate.
The Employer Sanctions law was approved by voters to reduce economic opportunities for undocumented workers. Supports hope it will decrease the flow of illegal immigrants into Arizona, reportedly the busiest crossing point along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Some authorities point out that the law may have adverse effects even on Hispanic immigrants who can legally work in the U.S. “Workers are being fired, of course,” says Nancy-Jo Merritt, an immigration lawyer. “Nobody wants to find out later on that they’ve got somebody working for them who’s not here legally.”
This puts Arizona employers in a tough position, legally. It’s against the law to discriminate against an applicant simply because he or she is from Mexico, speaks with an accent or is Hispanic. That’s because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national ancestry, as well as religion and sex. However, employers who hire illegal immigrants face the risk of losing their business.
The exodus of undocumented workers is positive, according to Rep. Pearce. “Americans will be much better off.” He contends. “it’s attrition by enforcement. As you make this an unfriendly state for lawbreakers, I’m hoping they will pick up and leave.” Pearce believes that there will be less crime, lower taxes, less congestion, smaller classrooms and shorter lines in emergency rooms due to the law.
On Friday, October 26, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano announced that rural communities in Arizona will receive $546,713 in funding to help pay for tourism-related development projects to increase employment in those industries. The funding from the Rural Tourism Development Grant Program through the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) will provide money for 15 different tourism entities across the state, including two tribal organizations.
The funds will also be used to market 15 rural Arizona tourist sites, to increase the economic impact of this industry.
“Tourism is one of Arizona’s main economic drivers, pumping nearly $51 million into our economy every day,” Governor Napolitano said. “These grants will help rural communities renovate their tourist attractions and bring more visitors to the state, which is an economic benefit to all Arizonans. “
The grants from the fiscal year 2008 will be awarded to cities, towns, chambers of commerce, tribal communities, and convention and visitors’ bureaus. Entities that receive grant funds are encouraged to combine these awards with private and other grant monies to enhance tourism development in their
communities. The grant program is administered and managed through AOT, and provides funding to support marketing efforts as well as renovation and construction projects directly related to tourism in rural Arizona.
The recipients of the grants are: the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, the City of Bisbee, the Town of Clarkdale and Clarkdale Heritage Center, the Cosanti Foundation at Arcosanti, the Friends of Madera Canyon, the Heber-Overgaard Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Ecotourism (Yavapai County), the City of Nogales, the Oatman Goldroad Chamber of Commerce, the Phippen Museum (Yavapai County), the Town of Quartzsite, the Bylas District of the San
Carlos Apache Tribe, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, the City of Winslow, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
This grant is just the latest to benefit American workers. A number of recent grants have been made on the federal level. The U.S. Secretary of Labor has the discretionary power to award the National Emergency Grant or NEG. The NEG is temporary, designed to help at both the state and local level during “significant dislocation events.” That usually means a layoff or plant closing on a scale that is beyond the capacity of the state to help. When 50 or more workers are hit by a single or multiple company layoff, NEG grants may help out. The grant also assists when a region is hit industry-wide with layoffs, or when small towns and rural communities are hurt badly by layoffs, even if they involve fewer than 50 workers.
Other grants also come to the aid of displaced workers:
Regional Innovation Grants, for partnerships between government or non-profit agencies and businesses.
Trade-WIA Dual Enrollment grants, for layoffs of 50 or more employees, when the Labor Department determines workers have been hit by federal trade policies.
Trade-health Coverage Infrastructure grants, helping workers who qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance or Trade Realignment Assistance to keep their health insurance.
The Labor Department urges communities to seek the grants early to make sure funds are available when they are needed.
In Missouri and Massachusetts, workers were targeted with two grants totaling more than $1.94 million. The grants are meant to supply job assistance to employees who lose their positions because of plant closings.
In Idaho, the DOL released a grant of more than $2 million. It will help some 400 employees laid off by Micron Technology of Boise. Of the total, $847,538 found its way immediately into the system.
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said the grant will provide them with career counseling, skills training, and other employment-seeking services “to help them find and succeed in new jobs.”
“America’s workforce is the envy of the world!” according to U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. In the 2007 Labor Day report, Chao points out that despite a recent economic downturn, unemployment remains relatively low and 8.3 million new jobs have been created since August 2003.
In the report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, Chao points out, however, that the nation faces a skills gap. “In a worldwide economy, the competitive strength of America’s workforce lies in its productivity, innovation, creativity and knowledge base. The majority of new jobs created over the next decade will require more skills, and higher education.” Chao adds that those jobs will pay higher wages, as well. “It’s important to ensure that workers are able to get the education and training they need to access these growing opportunities.”
The 55-page report, entitled “America’s Dynamic Workforce 2007”, outlines a number of trends in the workplace today. The report tries to put a positive spin on an employment picture that is less than rosy by carefully selecting the reported data.
The report’s contention that “the majority of employment growth over the past 6 years was in occupations with above-average compensation” invites comparisons to Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, where “all of the children are above average.”
In another example of sunny rhetoric on a partly-cloudy topic, the report presents a positive picture of rising unemployment rates. While the overall unemployment rate is about 1% higher than last year, the report points out only that the rate is still about 1% lower than throughout most of the 1990s.
While job growth in the first half of 2007 is disappointing, the report focuses on the good job growth rates in 2006 of 2.3 million jobs. It also mentions the total of 8.3 million jobs gained since August 2003, without point out that 5.5 million of those jobs were necessary just to recover from the recession of 2001. This is a clear case of picking and choosing your statistics to reflect the most positive information. What the report doesn’t mention is that job growth has slowed by 20% in the first half of 2007, to just 871,000 compared to 1.2 million in the same period of 2006. Instead, the report cheerily proclaims that by 2050, the workforce will increase by 43 million jobs, to 195 million.
The report points out that job growth has increased for 46 consecutive months through June 2007, although it fails to note that the job growth rate has slowed considerably in recent months. Instead, the report characterizes this as a “steady and sustainable economic path.”
The annual Labor Day report in past years has focused on performance in the preceding 12 months. However, with disappointing labor sector numbers, this report uses a different strategy. The report conceals disappointing trends in a number of areas by focusing on the period from 2001 to 2006, in several key areas. These include productivity and real compensation, which is up 7.2% over 5 years.
The U.S. leads the world in manufacturing, with 21% of goods world-wide produced. This compares favorably to other leading manufacturing countries, such as Japan with 13% of the world’s products, China with 12% and Germany with 8%.
The report focuses on the gross domestic product per hour in 2005, reporting that it is $48.30.
American workers are more highly trained than every before, with twice as many people aged 25 to 64 holding at least a bachelor’s degree as in 1970. Employment in positions associated with higher education of a bachelor’s degree or more increased 18.8% between 2001 and 2006.
Instead of focusing on rosy economic news, which is in short supply a the moment, the report stresses that the American workforce is aging, and is increasingly diverse. In an interesting sidelight, the report blames the slowing of job growth on the aging population, perhaps forgetting that most baby boomers are resigned to working until they die.