$6M in job training grants available to assist an estimated 2,000 veterans announced by US Labor Department

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez today announces a grant competition that will award an estimated 24 or more Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program grants totaling approximately $6 million to provide an estimated 2,000 veterans with occupational, classroom and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance, to help them succeed in the civilian labor market.

“Every day, our service members — and their families — make tremendous sacrifices for their country. Yet too many veterans are homeless,” said Secretary Perez. “The programs funded through this grant will work to help homeless veterans find good jobs and provide them with opportunities for a brighter future.” [CONTINUE READING]

Temporary workers face unnecessary, life-threatening hazards

By Dr. David Michaels, guest commentary
Bay Area Insider
November 16, 2013

David Eleidjian, a 26-year-old Marine and Iraq War veteran, was mixing industrial adhesive last April Henkel logoat his new job at the Henkel Corporation, a manufacturing plant in Bay Point. Eleidjian was a temporary worker, hired through a staffing agency. He was assigned to use a 55-gallon mixer instead of the manufacturer-recommended 300-gallon mixer.

He was instructed to scrape adhesive from the mixing equipment that was just 12 inches from an unguarded shaft spinning at up to 350 rotations per minute. The coveralls he had been provided were too big, and the sleeves hung loose on his arms.

When one of his sleeves caught on the exposed rotating shaft, he was pulled into the mixer and crushed. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died from his injuries.

Perhaps, Eleidjian thought he should overlook the signs of danger because he trusted that his supervisor would never assign him a life-threatening task.

This would have been a reasonable assumption for a Marine, who had learned to trust fellow Marines with his life.

Over the last year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has received far too many reports of temporary workers killed on the job. Some have even been in their first few days at work.

We have known for a century that new workers are at increased risk for occupational injury and fatality, and that higher risk is due to a lack of safety training and experience at that worksite.

Just a few decades ago, temporary work was relatively rare and concentrated in white-collar professions.

But in recent years their numbers have grown dramatically, and temporary workers are now commonplace in virtually every type of workplace.

According to the American Staffing Association, there are almost 3 million temporary workers in the nation’s workforce today — many doing highly hazardous construction and manufacturing work.

Securing temporary workers often lowers costs (the temporary workers are paid as much as 30 percent less than permanent workers) and increases flexibility by enabling host employers to increase their workforce without making a long-term hiring commitment.

As our economy picks up steam, these numbers are rising again, and more employers are filling jobs with temporary workers. As their numbers grow, I fear that too many more will be injured or killed.

Why is this happening? Many employers decide to forego important safety training for their temporary employees that would normally be given to permanent employees.

They bring in “temps” for a few days, weeks or even months, and the employer’s commitment to these workers’ safety mirrors that “temp” status.

The reason? Employers hire temps to save money. Safety training is a cost of doing business, so some employers just skip it or erroneously assume that the staffing agency has conducted the training — gambling not only with their own bottom lines, but with the lives of these men and women who want nothing but to do an honest day’s work and come home safely to their families at the end of the day.

So, as the number of temporary workers rises, is it inevitable that injuries and fatalities will rise as well? I refuse to accept that assumption.

We know why these workers are getting hurt and we know how to stop it. The Occupational Safety and Health Act is very clear.

Staffing agencies and their client employers who host temporary workers share the legal obligation to provide workplaces free of recognized hazards.

This includes providing required safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.

Cutting corners on safety can result in both terrible tragedy and stiff OSHA penalties. Following the investigation into David Eleidjian’s death, Cal/OSHA fined the employer $200,000. No penalty will bring Eleidjian back to his mother, his stepfather, or his 3-year-old daughter. But perhaps that penalty will cause other employers to think twice before they try to dodge safety laws.

OSHA has embarked on a national initiative to protect temporary workers in order to halt this rising toll of fatal injuries.

OSHA inspectors will determine, in every inspection, if every temporary worker on the site has received the safety training and protections required by law for the job. If they haven’t, we will hold their employers accountable.

At the same time, we are reaching out to labor staffing agencies, explaining how these firms must insist that their employees are not put at risk of injury or death while working at a client employer’s worksite.

And finally, we are making sure that every worker in the country understands that they have the right to safe workplaces, and all workers, including temporary workers, have the right to contact OSHA, if they face workplace hazards.

We’re not going to wait for another worker to be killed.

No worker’s first day on the job should be their last day of their life.

Dr. David Michaels is assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
[To read the original Op-Ed click on this link]

OSHA Protects Your Right to Speak Up at Work

by Dr. David Michaels on March 5, 2014

osha_enforcement1 (3)

Protecting whistleblowers is a big job. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been tasked by Congress to enforce the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes. These laws protect workers in many industries across the nation who are brave enough to speak up when they see hazards, fraud or something that could endanger the public. Since 2009, the number of new whistleblower cases filed per year has grown by 37 percent. The president’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 provides needed resources for this growing workload.

One focus in the whistleblower program is making sure employees don’t get fired or retaliated against for reporting injuries. Recently, the Department of Labor filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against AT&T on behalf of 13 injured workers who were suspended without pay for allegedly violating a corporate safety standard. But an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration uncovered a different story. Prompted by complaints from several employees, our investigation found that the company was punishing workers for reporting injuries – which is against the law. [Continue Reading this article]

Rasmussen Retires; not sure he’s ready

chris 2 picnicAfter working as a Business Rep for the members of Local 1584 for almost 14 years, and a machinist at Amot Controls for 27 years before that, Chris Rasmussen retired as of January 31, 2014. “I may be retiring, but I will definitely stay active with Local 1584 doing legislative and organizing work,” he says. Rasmussen adds that after being very active with the union for almost 30 years—before becoming a rep, he was Amot’s chief shop steward for more than 15 years— it’s hard to think about moving on. “I’ve definitely got second thoughts, but it’s a done deal now.”

WChris March (2)hen asked what was best about being a Rep, Rasmussen had several answers. “From servicing the membership to making sure that the employers followed the contract, and being in negotiations to make the contract better, I really enjoyed it all. I liked helping people and making sure that they knew the union was there to step up to help them out.”Chris retires

Rasmussen says he was lucky to have been trained by the best—Herman Howell and Jesse Baptista. “I’ll miss the daily routine, but I plan to remain busy with the union,” Rasmussen says. “I just have to say, ‘Thank god for the pension’” he adds proudly.
[Originally Printed in the Sparkplug, Feb-March 2014]

Sherrod Brown Introduces ‘Wear American Act’

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Soon, government-issued uniforms for federal workers may no longer don clothing tags imprinted with the words “Made in China.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has introduced a bill that would require the federal government to only buy apparel that is 100 percent made in America.

Brown says the Wear American Act is imperative for a number of reasons. First, shifting production back to the U.S. would boost manufacturing and prevent the nation’s trade deficit from expanding.

Second, it’s an economic stimulus. The federal government currently spends approximately $1.5 billion a year on federal employee uniforms made overseas.

It’s also about worker rights and safety, says the Senator, who explains that the bill allows for waivers in such cases where the items cannot be domestically-sourced, but the government will only be allowed to do business with contractors in compliance with labor, safety and child labor laws.

“It’s bad enough it’s not made by American workers,” said Brown. “It’s five times worse if it’s made by workers who often are children and not treated well. That’s shameful, and that’s the first thing we fix.”

Under current law, 51 percent of federal workers’ apparel must come from U.S. manufacturers. There has been serious concern by the labor movement about the failure and the lack of oversight of the federal government in reaching that benchmark.

Brown says under the bill, federal contractors will be required to disclose the locations of their factories and working conditions to the General Services Administration.
Source: Machinist News Network

Support New Rules to Help Make Union Elections Fair

Newly-proposed NLRB regulations would go a long way towards ensuring fair union elections for workers across the U.S. [ Article originally published by IMail ]

Thu. February 06, 2014

Classic UNION photo

The unfair, tedious and costly process for workers to exercise their right to organize could be getting some reprieve if recently-proposed labor regulations take effect.The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has put forth new rules that would allow unions to hold quicker elections by simplifying procedures and disallowing tactics that have permitted retailers like Wal-Mart and Target to postpone union elections and bully workers.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the rules “an important step in the right direction.”

“The current NLRB election process is riddled with delay and provides too many opportunities for employers to manipulate and drag out the process through costly and unnecessary litigation and deny workers a vote,” Trumka said.
The board approved similar rules two years ago, but corporate lawyers stymied the new regulations before they could help working Americans.The NLRB is accepting comments on the proposed rule changes until April 7, 2014.

Click here to tell the NLRB that you support new rules that help even the playing field with Corporate America and promote free, fair and open union elections.

Cal/OSHA Cites Henkel over $200,000 Following Death of Temporary Worker

N E W S   R E L E A S E
Date: September 10, 2013
Cal/OSHA cited Henkel Corporation $200,825 for multiple serious and willful violations following the April death of a 26 year old temporary worker who became entangled with the exposed rotating shaft of a mixer while mixing industrial adhesive. Cal/OSHA sanctioned the company for failing to identify and safeguard against the hazards of working near the mixer.
“This tragedy was completely preventable, and underscores what can go wrong when
employers do not take the necessary measures to correct workplace safety hazards,”
said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). Cal/OSHA
is a division within DIR.

Machinists Union Ratifies United Contract But Says US Airways Drags Its Feet

The International Association of Machinists is applauding a new deal covering 28,000 workers at United Airlines, but says it cannot seem to make any headway on two US Airways contracts.

The United deal runs through 2016 and covers fleet service workers, agents, and others. It provides wage boosts between 19% and 56% over the life of the contract, including immediate increases between 7% and 29%, the IAM said. With about 65% of eligible members voting, the contract won approval in excess of 70%, the union said.

Read the rest of the story.

Machinists Union Opposes Plan to Cut Pensions

Washington, D.C., October 29, 2013 — At a hearing today by the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voiced its strong opposition to any new federal legislation that would allow “deeply-troubled” multi-employer defined benefit pension plans to reduce benefits to current retirees, a practice that is not permitted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

“Raiding pension plans and robbing seniors of retirement benefits is not the way to solve any financial crisis, whether it’s in Detroit, state houses or the latest ‘solution’ to fix a small number of troubled multi-employer plans,” said IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger, who attended the hearing. “The proposals being considered by Congress ask our nation’s most vulnerable citizens to pay for a problem created by Wall Street, the very ones who have taken billions in taxpayer bailouts.”

The proposals to fix the few troubled multi-employer plans would allow trustees of troubled plans to reduce benefits to current retirees down to 110 percent of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation’s (PBGC) maximum of $1,072.50 per month, which would be about $1,180 per month. This could mean a substantial reduction in benefits for many retirees.

“This is just another way of weakening the defined benefit pension system that has served millions of Americans well and kept our nation’s seniors out of poverty,” said Buffenbarger. “It is unconscionable to force those who can least afford it to take such drastic cuts in benefits, benefits that they contributed to during their working careers.”

Congress is considering changes to weaken the nation’s multi-employer pension system at a time when the majority of Americans are too financially stressed to save for retirement. In a recent Wells Fargo study on middle class retirement, barely half of survey participants felt they would be able to save enough to actually retire. A stunning 37 percent said they would have to work until they were too ill or died.

More than 10 million U.S. workers are covered by multi-employer pension plans, including more than 80,000 covered by the fully-funded IAM National Pension Plan, which has over 1,750 contributing employers, $9.2 billion in assets and is the sixth largest multi-employer plan in the U.S.