AFOP Weighs in as Congress Works on Omnibus Appropriations Package

Now that the budget deal finalized late last month has given them revised spending totals for fiscal year 2016, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are quietly working towards finalizing an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016. To facilitate its adoption, the Senate last week approved the House-passed Military Construction/VA appropriations bill (MilCon/VA)(H. R. 2029) to serve as the legislative vehicle for a House-Senate conference on all twelve of the yearly appropriations bills, to be reported in one omnibus package and signed into law by December 11.

MilCon/VA is the first fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill that the Senate has been able to take to the floor. Prior to its passage, Democrats had successfully filibustered several earlier attempts to bring up appropriations bills because they were backing the White House’s strategy to force Republicans to negotiate on the overall spending caps under which they originally wrote this year’s spending bills. This strategy was successful, and the budget deal recently signed into law adds a total of $50 billion to those discretionary spending caps for fiscal year 2016: $25 billion each in the defense and non-defense categories.

The Appropriations chairmen have tentatively decided on how to divide up that $50 billion among subcommittees and have told their subcommittee chairmen to work towards those targets, although the final numbers will not be nailed down until later and will not be made public until the last minute. Some bills, like the Labor-HHS-Education bill that funds the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP), were originally given allocations so low that many seriously doubted the legislation could ever go to the floor at those amounts. Indeed, some experts are now saying that, because of those initial low spending levels, those bills are likely to get a greater share of the extra money.

To that end, the Coalition to Invest in America’s Workforce (CIAW), a group of collegial workforce system and anti-poverty organizations to which AFOP belongs, has written in recent days to Appropriations leaders in Congress to press for adequate funding. The November 13 CIAW calls for the following:

As you work to finalize allocations to annual appropriations bills under the revised budget caps, we urge you to ensure that the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations bill includes sufficient funding to support key workforce and education programs at FY 2016 authorized levels. Severe cuts to vital education and workforce programs over the past few years have hurt our nation’s workers and businesses and restoration of funding is necessary to sustain our economic competitiveness. Without meaningful investments in a skilled workforce, skill gaps will stifle job growth and slow our nation’s economic recovery.

Additionally, AFOP itself has directly contacted the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee to urge continued federal support for the National Farmworker Jobs Program, specifically:

To sustain this wise and safe investment in the needs of our nation’s businesses and workforce, it is essential that Congress preserve NFJP funding at fiscal year 2015 levels, as provided in the House Labor-Health and Human Services-Education spending bill. Doing so will allow agencies to continue using their special expertise to serve effectively and efficiently this exceptionally vulnerable farmworker population. Their success in this work is integral to the nation’s food chain, its industry, and, subsequently, its pursuit of job creation and economic stability.

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their versions of all twelve FY 2016 appropriations bills, but the House has only passed six: Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Energy and Water Development, Legislative Branch, Military Construction/VA, and Transportation-HUD. As for the other six bills, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) recently announced that the subcommittee chairmen in charge of each of those six bills would be holding closed-door listening sessions with all House members who wish to attend so that the chairmen can learn of planned amendments and the sentiment of rank-and-file lawmakers. The idea is to let the subcommittee chairmen know which provisions are most important to insist on (and which Senate provisions should be fought the hardest) in the upcoming House-Senate talks on those bills.

Meanwhile, the current continuing resolution (CR) expires December 11, which is the current deadline for action. A short-term CR or two may be necessary to finish up fiscal year 2016 appropriations, so we may not see things finalized here in Washington, D.C. until just lawmakers leave town for the holiday recess.


AFOP Wins OSHA Grant Renewal


AFOP has won renewal of its Susan B. Harwood grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). AFOP’s grant is one of $10.5 million in one-year federal safety and health training grants OSHA has made to 80 nonprofit organizations across the nation for education and training programs to help high-risk workers and their employers recognize serious workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures and understand their rights and responsibilities. View Full Press Release

The department’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program funds grants to nonprofit organizations, including community/faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, colleges and universities. Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries. AFOP will use this $165,000 to provide agricultural safety training and 15-hour train-the-trainer training to peer trainers in the agricultural industry. Target audience includes low-literacy and non-English speaking seasonal and migrant farmworkers and their employers. Training topics will include the heat stress, pesticide safety, and tractor safety. AFOP also plans to use existing training materials on heat stress and pesticide safety, and develop new materials for tractor safety. Training will be offered in Spanish.


AFOP Member PathStone Wins DOL “Training to Work” Grant

PathStone Wins DOL Grant to Improve Employment Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated Adults and Youth

DOL announced June 25 that it has awarded AFOP member PathStone-Pennsylvania a $1.3 million grant through its “Training to Work” program which assists men and women enrolled in state or local work release programs in gaining the job skills necessary for in-demand occupations as they reintegrate back into society. Training to Work incorporates the comprehensive career pathways model that align education and training services to enable workers to attain industry-recognized credentials and find jobs.

According to DOL, with access to good jobs and stable employment, adults and youth involved in criminal justice system are less likely to become repeat offenders, which strengthens local economies and boosts public safety. However, rehabilitation becomes more difficult when a criminal record impedes the search for employment. To overcome this dilemma, DOL is awarding a total of $59 million to non-profit organizations to develop or expand programs to improve the employment opportunities for adults and youth involved in the criminal justice system. The funds will support programs that offer a range of services that include case management, mentoring, education and training that leads to industry-recognized credentials.

David Weil (2)

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


Obama Administration Announces Aid for Drought-Stricken West

The Administration announced June 12 new actions and investments of more than $110 million to support workers, farmers and rural communities suffering from drought and to combat wildfires. The new funding announced builds on the more than $190 million that agencies across the federal government have invested to support drought-stricken communities so far this year. View White House Fact Sheet

According to federal officials, 35 percent of the West is facing severe to exceptional drought. In California, the mountain snowpack that supplies most of the water during the summer months is only a trace above zero. All over the West, continued drought is leading to job losses, particularly in the agricultural sector. In California alone, a recent University of California Davis study estimates 18,000 lost jobs because of drought. Officials say that these losses leave working families struggling to make ends meet.

To help assist them in this time of need, DOL announced that it will award as much as $18 million to the State of California to provide jobs for workers dislocated by the drought. Starting in July, this National Dislocated Worker Grant will employ up to 1,000 workers for up to 6 months with public and nonprofit agencies working to build drought resilience, reduce wildfire risk, and improve water efficiency. The grant, made possible by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, will focus on the areas facing the most severe impacts in California. Other states that have received a drought emergency declaration and can document drought-impacted job losses will have the option to apply for similar Dislocated Worker Grants. The program in California will also support youth in drought-impacted households as well as the long-term unemployed.


50 Years of Helping Farmworkers

50 Years of Helping Farmworkers

by Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration

October 16, 2014

For years, Julian performed the incredibly hard work of harvesting onions and vegetables at a farm in upstate New York, making only $8.50 an hour. As a seasonal farm worker, the pay was barely enough to take care of his family.  He wanted to make a change, learn some new skills and start a new career that would give him the resources to support his family.

Through a program supported by the U.S. Labor Department, Julian received guidance on starting a new career as a commercial truck drive and helped him enroll in a training program to help him get the necessary certifications to start his new job.

Julian successfully completed his training, passed his road test, and received his commercial driver license and today, Julian is successfully employed by a trucking company where he now makes $20.17 per hour with benefits.

Julian’s story is a reality because of a commitment made by 50 years ago President Lyndon B. Johnson to restoring our nation’s fundamental promise of equality and opportunity. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Economic Opportunity Act, signed on Aug. 20 of that year, were twin pillars of the “War on Poverty” –to extend the American Dream to those who had been unjustly excluded.

One of the key elements of the latter bill was the establishment of programs for migrant and seasonal farmworkers that would assist these workers and their families with services such as education, housing, and childcare.

Fifty years later, these Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs, now referred to as the National Farmworker Job Program, continues to counter the chronic unemployment and underemployment experienced by many working in agricultural labor.

NFJP services help farmworkers retain and stabilize their current agriculture jobs, as well as enable them to participate in training and enter new careers that offer higher wages and a more stable employment outlook.  Currently the department provides employment and training grants to 52 grantees in all states but Alaska and Washington DC.  The department also awards grants to various regions around the country to provide permanent and temporary housing assistance to farmworkers and their families.

Over the last half-century thousands of farmworkers like Julian have benefited from NFJP services. In 2012 over 21,000 MSFWs were served, and in the past 14 years nearly 220,000 individuals have received services.

Every day, the hard work of farmworkers across the country make it possible to put food on our tables and feed our families. The recently signed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 reauthorizes the NFJP and reconfirms the nation’s commitment to supporting farmworkers and their families.

The department is proud to continue the long tradition of serving farmworkers and their families through employment and training opportunities, services to youth, and housing assistance.

Portia Wu is the assistant secretary of labor for employment and training.

AFOP 2014 Conference

2014 National Conference registration now open

“NFJP at 50: Bringing Change and Securing Futures for America’s Farmworkers”

Please join AFOP this September 23-26, 2014 in sunny San Diego, California at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside for our annual National Conference.

This year’s conference will feature an exciting array of workshops, plenary speakers, the conclusion of 2013’s credentialing program with Mary Ann Lawrence, as well a brand new credentialing series from the AFOP Training Institute.

Breakout sessions will include topics related to Employment & Training, Management, Health & Safety, Immigration, and a special track for Agency Board Members.


Please register here to register for AFOP’s 2014 National Conference in beautiful sunny San Diego, California!

Room reservations can be made  If you want the negotiated room rate, you must make your reservations prior to August 25th. (Once that date has passed, you will be subject to the public room rate.)

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

Joint Ministerial Declaration

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez recently signed a joint ministerial declaration with Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare, Jesús Alfanso Navarrete Prida, designed to help improve the lives of migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MSFW) working hard to harvest the foods that we eat every day. AFOP thanks Secretary Perez for his continued commitment to farmworkers and applauds this important step in his goal of “helping ensure that all workers in the United States know their rights and that all employers know their responsibilities under the law.”

With its child labor campaign, Children in the Fields, and its Health and Safety Programs, AFOP strives for the same goals, working hard to improve the lives MSFWs across the United States. Through AFOP’s Health and Safety Program, our association members, in the previous five years, have educated over 200,000 farmworkers about how to better protect themselves on the job, and Children in the Fields works every day to educate families, growers, and policy makers about the plight of children employed in agriculture and the very real and pressing need to give them a chance to succeed.