Labor Awards First Federal Apprenticeship Grants

On September 8, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced the department’s award of the American Apprenticeship Initiative grants. In making the announcement, Secretary Perez stressed that the American Apprenticeship Initiative is the department’s first direct investment in this on-the-job training model. [View Full Press Release]

According to Labor, annual federal funding for apprenticeships usually supports only the administrative and regulatory work of the registered apprenticeship system. Apprenticeship sponsors, such as employers, unions and joint committees, typically fund and provide the training. Looking to increase the prevalence of this form of job-linked learning, DOL officials hoped that the grant funding would become an incentive for employers, unions and other stakeholders to increase the number of apprenticeships.

When the Employment and Training Administration solicited applications for these grants back in December, the agency anticipated using $100 million from H-1B visa fees to fund about 25 awards ranging from $2.5 to $5 million. The announced awards totaled $175,799,846 to 46 grantees, 11 of which were made at the $5 million award ceiling. This was made possible because the agency received more H-1B visa fee revenue than anticipated. A list of grantees can be found here.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Meet the United States Department of Labor — Portia Wu

Portia Y. Wu was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training in April 2014. She now leads the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) in its mission to address our nation’s workforce needs through high-quality training and employment programs. Working with States and territories, municipalities, labor management organizations, employers, educational institutions, fellow Federal agencies, and other partners, ETA strives to assist workers in gaining the skills and credentials needed to enter good jobs in promising industries that offer opportunities for advancement. ETA also addresses the needs of workers and businesses through the Unemployment Insurance program, which provides critical support to millions of Americans as they search for work, and through the Office of Foreign Labor Certification programs.

Wu has worked in the public, non-profit, and private sectors on a wide variety of labor issues and policies including job training, wage standards, work and family policy, immigration, pensions and retirement, and worker safety. Most recently, she served at the White House Domestic Policy Council as Special Assistant to the President for Labor and Workforce policy. From 2003 to 2010, Wu held several positions, including Labor Policy Director and General Counsel, advising Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.

Wu is a graduate of Yale Law School and Yale College and holds a Master’s Degree from Cornell University. She is originally from Albany, New York and she and her family live in Washington D.C.

http://www.doleta.gov/etainfo/Portia_Wu.cfm

AFOP Signs on Lifeline Internet Access Support Letter to FCC

laptop-768694_1280For many years, the federal government has subsidized low-income people’s access to telephone service through the Lifeline program, offering phone companies a subsidy for providing free or lower-cost mobile or traditional phone service. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency with jurisdiction over the Lifeline program, is now considering whether the program should be modernized to include broadband Internet access.  Recognizing the importance of access to farmworkers, AFOP has signed a letter supporting its inclusion in the program.

According to the letter’s sponsor, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, broadband is as important today as electricity was during the last century, enabling people who use it to perform a full range of online activities, and giving more Americans access to digital education, health care, social services, and job opportunities.  Any national goals would be more easily and inexpensively achieved if millions of low-income people could effectively use broadband service, including accessing program information and performing a variety of functions through online portals instead of in-person visits or telephone calls.  Yet there continues to be a serious gap in broadband adoption among low-income communities and communities of color.  Without Internet access, students of color cannot do their homework, working single mothers cannot earn degrees online at night, and seniors and people with disabilities cannot utilize the most modern and accessible health care.  The list is endless.

Lifeline is the only federal program that addresses the cost of broadband.  Sponsors are asking anti-poverty and other organizations to sign on to the letter urging the FCC to take the necessary steps to modernize Lifeline within the year.

The deadline for electronic signatures is September 25.

To read the letter:  http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/telecom/Lifeline-Broad-Base-Letter-for-Circulation.pdf

To sign the letter:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Eow2m-6o8ni5fSyu72uvoPEIKaXS5592pkoixuLcJsg/viewform

Millennials Unemployment Down, But…

The advocacy group Young Invincibles is reporting that the unemployment rate for young adults ages 18 to 34 fell from 7.5 percent in July to 7.0 percent in August (seasonally adjusted), while the national unemployment rate also improved, from 5.3 percent in July to 5.1 percent in August.

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While it is encouraging to see this slight improvement for Millennials, racial disparities persist. Young black adults and young Hispanic adults saw little change and still disproportionately struggle to find work. The unemployment rate for each of these groups fell by only one-tenth of a percentage point. The unemployment rate for young black adults (not seasonally adjusted) fell from 13.9 percent in July to 13.8 percent in August, while the unemployment rate for young Hispanic adults (not seasonally adjusted) fell from 8.3 percent in July to 8.2 percent in August.

In comparison, the unemployment rate for young white adults (not seasonally adjusted) fell by nearly an entire percentage point, the greatest margin among all racial groups of young adults. The unemployment rate for young white adults fell from 6.6 percent in July to 5.7 percent in August.

Here are more details on how different populations of young people fared in August 2015:

  • The unemployment rate for black/African American young adults ages 18 to 34 is 13.8 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 13.9 percent in July.
  • The unemployment rate for Hispanic/Latino young adults ages 18 to 34 is 8.2 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 8.3 percent in July.
  • The unemployment rate for Asian-Pacific Islander young adults ages 18 to 34 is 4.6 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 5.2 percent in July.
  • The unemployment rate for white young adults ages 18 to 34 is 5.7 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in August, down from 6.6 percent in July.

Read the full Young Invincibles article…

Success Story: Nilsa Rodriguez

A former Proteus client, Nilsa Rodriguez, is having great success with her new business: “Fiesta Super Movil” or “Party on Wheels”. The event planning and recreation business started with the assistance of Proteus partner, the Nebraska Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP) Program. Anna Santos, case manager in Columbus, Nebraska, tells this story:

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Nilsa lives in Schuyler and spent many years working as a seasonal farmworker for Monsanto. She had dreams for herself that started with becoming a Proteus client. Nilsa began taking English as a second language (ESL) classes and was conversant enough to move onto the next step. She explored occupations and was thinking about becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA), but eventually she realized that she was an entrepreneur at heart.

As her case manager, I helped Nilsa make the connection with the REAP Program. REAP provides the business education and financing needed by budding business people. It is a “mini-incubator of rural entrepreneurs.”

After completing her REAP classes, Nilsa was able to take her idea of becoming a party planner and turn it into a real business. Armed with a business plan, insurance knowledge, accounting and tax systems information, and a support system to be there for questions going forward, Nilsa was ready!

With a grant from REAP, Nilsa was able to purchase bouncy houses, tables and chairs. She was also able to put a building on her property to store supplies and decorations. She even purchased a trailer so that she could move her equipment from place to place. Currently “Fiesta Super Movil” – “Party on Wheels” is doing well enough that Nilsa can support her family, including a new baby born in 2015.

With the services provided by Proteus and REAP, Nilsa no longer has to spend her time laboring in the cornfields of Nebraska. She has the flexibility to be at home with her children while she operates a successful business in her community. And because of her determination to become bi-lingual with the help of Proteus and her ESL classes, Nilsa is not limited to doing business only with Spanish-speaking customers!

– See more at: http://www.proteusinc.net/2015/09/september-2015-newsletter/#party

Washington Update – September

With summer ending and Congress back in session, lawmakers only have a handful of legislative days to avert a potential government shutdown. It’s unlikely that a shutdown will be allowed to happen, but it is possible. More likely, Congress and the president will agree on a series of short-term funding measures that maintain current spending levels and a continuing resolution (or “CR”) that could last through the end of President Obama‘s term in office. Republicans in Congress are divided, however, over how to defund Planned Parenthood after videos were made public apparently showing potentially criminal behavior. Some Republicans lawmakers want to force a showdown with the Democrats and the White House over this issue.

A grand budget compromise is highly unlikely, although pressure is mounting on all sides to break the Budget Control Act spending caps put in place a few years ago. According to Washington insiders, we can expect the status quo to prevail this year and next for the following four reasons:

  • Congressional Republicans want to keep a lid on federal spending. Although congressional defense hawks, like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona), are screaming about the damage the caps are doing to national defense, most Republicans are content to keep downward pressure on the discretionary budget. The caps, and the deficit reduction they generate, is probably Republican lawmakers’ most notable achievement. To change course now would be very risky for the entire Republican conference, whose base expects them to limit federal spending.
  • Neither the president nor congressional leaders have the power to push through an agreement. Gone, seemingly, is the ability to keep their rank-and-file in line. This is occurring in both parties, but perhaps most openly in the House of Representatives, where certain Republican members are considering actions to force House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from his role atop leadership. No matter who the leader is these days, the followers are not following. This is not the kind of atmosphere in which budget agreements are made.
  • Greater federal spending might come at too great a political cost for the Obama Administration. Yes, Democrats want to increase federal spending, but legislation providing those funds would likely come with policy riders on issues such as Planned Parenthood, immigration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. President Obama may decide that he is unwilling to cut deals on these issues to get more dollars.
  • Lastly, whether we like it or not, we are heading into what is known in Washington, D.C. as the silly season: a presidential election year. Presidential election politics are already affecting congressional debate and actions (or lack thereof). With media attention already fixed on the many candidates for the highest office, little focus is trained on the need to fund the government. Unfortunately, budget agreements usually do not happen in a vacuum, nor are they generally crafted without a spotlight on the budgeteers. In this election season, that sort of undivided attention does not appear to be very likely. Nor does any new budget agreement.

Still we hope. As this is being written, Congress has just eight business days to get something done. And that does not take into account the day-long recess in observance of Yom Kippur. Unless congressional leaders move decisively and soon, we could be looking at a repeat of the October 2013 shutdown. Let’s hope not.

On a Related Note: A Glimpse under The Capitol Dome

On the topic of impending budget battle, the entire 46-person-strong Senate Democratic caucus sent a letter earlier this summer to the Republican leadership asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) to schedule “immediate” budget negotiations “to avoid a manufactured crisis in the fall.” From the letter: “There are less than two months left in the fiscal year, and we are deeply concerned by the fact that negotiations to craft a bipartisan budget agreement have not yet begun. With the end of the fiscal year looming, we urge you to immediately schedule bipartisan budget negotiations so that we can work together over the coming weeks to avoid another manufactured crisis…. We are ready and willing to work with you to produce a fair and balanced Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Therefore, we respectfully request you schedule the first round of these important negotiations as soon as possible.”

In response, the majority leader’s spokesman blasted Democrats for holding spending bills up from floor consideration: “We wrote back to the staffers who sent the letter and got ‘out of office’ replies from both. But it’s important to note that Congress is already engaged in negotiations: Under new leadership, the Appropriations Committee for the first time in nine years passed all appropriations bills-most with Democrat support. But Democrats are refusing to allow a floor debate on the spending bills-going so far as to filibuster a pay raise for the troops.”

Children Essay & Art Contest Deadline Extended (8/21)

Announcement of 2015 ContestAFOP’s 2015 Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay & Art Contest deadline has been extended to August 21, 2015. This contest allows us to showcase the talent and powerful stories present among farmworker children. Click here to apply!

Students ages 10-18, from farmworker families, are eligible to participate and can win cash awards and a trip to Las Vegas to show their work at the AFOP National Conference.

Meet the United States Department of Labor

Administrator, Wage and Hour Division
Dr. David Weil

David Weil (2)Prior to this appointment, Dr. Weil served as professor of economics and the Peter and Deborah Wexler Professor of Management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. He also served as co-director of the Transparency Policy Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He has written five books, three regarding labor market policy including the recently published The Fissured Workplace. He has authored numerous articles and publications in a variety of economics, public policy, management, and industrial relations journals and books, as well as numerous publications in non-academic outlets.David Weil was sworn in as the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division on May 5, 2014. Dr. Weil is an internationally recognized expert in public and labor market policy; regulatory performance; industrial and labor relations; transparency policy; and supply-chain restructuring and its effects.

“Working together, through a combination of education and enforcement, we can affect change to benefit everyone in this industry — from the workers in the fields to the growers and contractors who employ them.”

No stranger to the Department’s mission or its work, Dr. Weil has served as an adviser to the Wage and Hour Division, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Department of Labor, as well as to a number of other government agencies. He also has served as mediator and adviser in a range of labor union and labor/management settings across the globe. In addition to his work for the Department, his research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, among others.

Agricultural Outreach

In fiscal year 2014, the Wage and Hour Division investigations in the agriculture industry yielded violations 80 percent of the time and collected more than $4.5 million in back wages for workers. Enforcement alone, though, is not enough to improve labor law compliance and conditions for workers — direct outreach to industry employers is needed. Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil did just that when he met with the National Council of Agricultural Employers at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Weil told the gathering of growers, contractors, attorneys and others that, by collaborating to address common labor violations, a fair and level playing field is possible. “Working together, through a combination of education and enforcement, we can affect change to benefit everyone in this industry — from the workers in the fields to the growers and contractors who employ them,” he said.

Source: United States Department of Labor

For the First Time in Years, Congressional Committees Approve NFJP Funding Bill

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The House Appropriations Committee recently approved its version of the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations bill that includes level funding for the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) at $82 million.  That is the same amount as in fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2014 before that.  In these difficult budgetary times, AFOP is pleased we have been able to hold our own.  We have been able to because we have worked hard to make certain that lawmakers understand clearly the great need for this life-changing program and the tremendous success our members have in providing its services.  As Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) said during his panel’s consideration of the bill, “If you break even in this bill, you’re a winner.”  Meanwhile, in the Senate, the committee-approved bill proposes an $8.9 million cut in the program, nearly an 11-percent reduction, about twice the amount cut by sequestration in fiscal year 2013.

In recent years, congressional appropriators have had trouble moving this measure through the regular legislative process because of controversial policy riders and disagreements over funding levels.  Despite this year’s impressive progress, though, lawmakers once again face an uncertain future in advancing this measure, as well as the other yearly appropriations bills.  The problem is the 2011 Budget Control Act, the law that brought spending caps and sequestration.  In approving its budget plan this year, Congress held non-defense discretionary spending to the Act’s caps, but provided cap relief for defense funding.  Congressional Democrats and the White House took exception to that, and Senate Democrats are now blocking consideration of the appropriations bills until their Republican colleagues agree to a budget compromise increasing funds for their discretionary priorities.  Should the Democrats persist in their blocking effort, and should the Republicans refuse to negotiate a deal, the specter of a government shutdown this fall rises.  While there appears little appetite for such a scenario, it is notable that both sides of the aisle have made comments recently seeking to assign the blame to the other party should a shutdown occur.

AFOP to Congress: Prohibit Child Labor on U.S. Tobacco Farms

April 16, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced legislation to protect child workers from the dangers of exposure to tobacco plants, which can include acute nicotine poisoning and other long term health effects. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) supports the proposed legislation, and calls on Congress to swiftly pass the bills.

AFOP’s media release can be read below.

Cicilline and Durbin