On September 24, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a grant of more than $15 million to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Of the total grant, $7.9 million will be released initially. The balance will be released as the state demonstrates a continued need for disaster assistance.
“This $15.9 million National Emergency Grant will put several hundred Texans to work helping communities recover from Hurricane Ike damage,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “This grant will also fund humanitarian assistance such as food, clothing, shelter and other critical aid that Texans affected by the hurricane devastation are in need of.”
The grant, totaling $15,883,200 will be used to (more…)
Dolly, a category 2 hurricane, struck the Texas Gulf Coast on July 24, 2008. The storm left inches of rain in its wake. More than 175, 000 residents were still without power a day later, and damages were estimated at $750 million. Dolly also affected portions of Mexico and other Gulf Coast regions.
“This $7.4 million grant will provide Texans with temporary jobs assisting in disaster relief and clean-up efforts to help communities recover from Hurricane Dolly damage,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.
On July 24, (more…)
Community colleges in Texas and across the nation recently received $125 million in awards under the President’s Community Based Job Training Grants Initiative.
Navarro College in Corsicana received a grant of more than $2 million. The total grant of $2,397,624 will be used to train workers in the fast-growing energy industry. Navarro was recently named the fastest-growing community college in the nation. The funds will be used to launch a new Oil & Gas Production Technology program in Spring 2008.
Over 341 applications were filed in a competition announced in August, 2007 by the U.S. Department of Labor. 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.
Community colleges provide a local boost for training in areas where certain industries are seeking certain skill sets. The Community-Based Job Training Grants provide training for skilled workers to gain good jobs with career advancement. For example, several nuclear power plants in New Mexico need more skilled employees. A grant to train workers in the energy field could be awarded to a community college located near the plants.
“Community colleges are in a unique position to prepare local workers for careers in high-growth industries,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “The $125 million awarded today will expand enrollment in education and training programs and provide more workers with the skills they need to succeed.”
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.
Over the past few years, several factors have influenced the condition of the American workforce, including technology and innovation, aging of the workforce and globalization.
As a result, 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.
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 U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently filed suit against Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. in Dallas to recover about $3 million in back wages for more than 500 workers engaged in poultry processing. The complaint was filed with the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is the largest chicken processing company in the nation, operating 34 plants through out the country. The company acquired Gold Kist in late 2006, and now has consolidated annual net sales of $7.4 billion.
“Ensuring that low-wage workers are paid all the wages they have rightfully earned is a top priority of the Wage and Hour Division,” said Paul DeCamp, the agency’s administrator. “This legal action involves more than $3 million in back wages for more than 500 employees, and is intended to ensure that the company complies with federal overtime and recordkeeping laws in the future.”
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division launched the investigation after receiving a complaint. The suit alleges that Pilgrim’s Pride failed to pay overtime to employees since August 6, 2005.
Most of the overtime violations resulted because the company failed to pay the employees for time spent donning and removing protective clothing required for their jobs. During the investigation, despite prodding from the DOL, Pilgrim’s Pride made no attempt to comply with the recordkeeping and overtime provisions of the FLSA.
The Fair Labor Standard Act requires that most U.S. employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage, which is currently $5.85 per hour. The FLSA also mandates that employees must be paid 1.5 times their usual hourly rate for each hour over 40 in a single work week.
Many employers mistakenly believe that any worker paid by salary is exempt from overtime. The FLSA does provide a number of exemptions to the overtime law for bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales jobs. In general, employees must meet job duty and salary tests, to be exempt from overtime.
The U. S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division collected more than $171 in back wages for some 246,000 employees in 2006. Thos wages were a result of 31,987 “compliance actions” in 2006.
This is just the most recent in a wave of minimum wage violations since the federal rate was increased on July 24, 2007 to $5.85 per hour.
In August, five jointly-operated restaurants in Long Island, New York were ordered to pay almost $1 million to 191 low-wage workers. The employees had been forced to work long hours for wages less than the minimum wage, without overtime pay. The court ordered that if the employers did not pay up, their restaurants could be sold and the proceeds used to pay the employees.
In late July, the U.S. Department of Labor forced Desert Plastering, Inc., a Las Vegas Nevada firm, to pay nearly $1.2 million in back pay to 1060 employees. The feds found that Desert Plastering had not paid required overtime to lathers, finishers, plasterers and estimators who worked up to 58 hours per week.
In early July, the U.S. Department of Labor forced 107 subcontractors of KBR, Inc. of Virginia to pay some $1.5 million in back wages and benefits for up to 2,600 workers who participated in the Hurricane Katrina recovery project. The construction workers were involved in repairs to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport Mississippi or the Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. The U.S. Department of Labor is still searching for some of the workers involved in that case. Anyone who believes that they are owed back wages for these projects can contact the nearest U.S. Department of Labor office. The average payment per worker in that case was $616.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently presented awards to outstanding worker training programs throughout the country in five key areas. These categories include:
Helping young people who are out of school
Collaborating with industry to create a workforce investment program
Leveraging partnerships between employers, educators and economic development agencies
Creating a highly-trained 21st century workforce
Training workers with special needs
This year’s big winners include groups from Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin. Runners-up for the awards include agencies and companies from Michigan, Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, New York, Louisiana and Minnesota.
The Recognition of Excellence awards go to the top talent development programs nationwide. This week, Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco presented the awards during the Workforce Innovations Conference. Stover DeRocco heads the department’s division of Employment and Training. This is the fourth consecutive year the awards have been used to recognize outstanding training programs in state and local government, private business, education and economic development programs. Each award represents a collaboration between two or more of those key players.
“Our honorees have shown that they are innovative leaders in providing workers with the opportunities and tools to help them compete in today’s global economy,” said DeRocco. “Their outstanding work serves as a model for others to learn from and apply to their own regional economic and talent development strategies.”
The first category is “Educating America’s 21st Century Workforce”, recognizing the top program for providing innovative and effective strategies to prepare workers for jobs requiring better skills. The winner is the Alpena Community College of Alpena, Michigan. Honorable Mentions in this category include the Junior College District of Kansas City, Missouri and the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Beaverton, Oregon.
The award for “Building an Industry/Business-Driven Workforce Investment System” goes to the program that best responds to an industry need while preparing workers for continued job growth. This award goes to Capital Workforce Partners, of Hartford Connecticut. Honorable mentions in this category include the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth’s Bureau of Workforce Programs statewide. An Honorable Mention also went to the Gulf Coast Workforce Board: the WorkSource in the Gulf Coast Region of Texas.
The third category recognizes the value of collaborations between employers, educators and economic development leaders. The e3 Partnership award goes to Eastern Kentucky C.E. P. Inc. of Hazard, Kentucky. The runner up in this category is the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gulfport, Mississippi.
The fourth category is “Recognizing the Demographics of the Workforce”. This award highlights agencies or organizations that target workers with special needs. Winners in this category provide services to workers with limited English skills, to migrant farm workers, and those who are homeless as well as others. The top award in this category goes to Experience Works, Inc. of Arlington Virginia. Honorable mentions go to the Shoreline Community College in Shoreline Washington and the Center for Employment Opportunities in New York, N.Y.
The final category is “Serving Out-of-School Youth”. Winners in this category demonstrate innovative techniques in collaborating with educators, businesses, industry and other essential partners to train, educate and hire young people who are out of school. The award goes to Workforce Connections, Inc. of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Other notable programs in this category include the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the River Paris WIA Program in Convent, Louisiana.
All of the awards were presented at a gala ceremony during the Workforce Innovations Conference, an annual event that provides an opportunity for networking on workforce issues between stakeholders in the public and private sectors.