Today the United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule to rescind the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP), and will instead direct the department’s resources toward registered apprenticeships. The DOL issued this final rule after reviewing the IRAP as required by Executive Order 14016, in which President Biden directed federal agencies to consider rescinding “any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies” implemented by the previous president’s Executive Order 13801, which promoted IRAPs.

SMART issued the following statement in response:

“We commend the Department of Labor for following through on President Biden’s executive order and recognizing the IRAP initiative for what it was: a bad faith attempt by anti-union contractors and politicians to undermine high-quality union apprenticeship programs and replace them with a watered-down system of certifications. Our registered apprenticeships offer expert training, stellar worker protections and better pay and benefits for workers across the country – no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, creed or place of origin. By rescinding IRAPs and investing instead in registered apprenticeship programs, the Department of Labor has ruled in favor of workers and their ability to find good, union jobs and reliable pathways to the middle class.”   

The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 26, 2022 and will go into effect on November 25, 2022. Beginning on the effective date, DOL will no longer recognize Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) or IRAPs.

Will Griffin (second from left) with his family and Vice President Kamala Harris

On Tuesday, April 12, SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and others rallied at the SMART SM Local 19 (Philadelphia, Pa.) union hall to publicize an important Department of Labor (DOL) initiative.

On April 8, the DOL Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on workplace heat hazards, launching a targeted effort to protect workers from the threat of heat-related illness which, as a result of climate change, has increased in 18 of the last 19 summers. Workers suffer more than 3,500 injuries and/or illnesses related to heat each year, with low-wage workers and workers of color disproportionately impacted. With the implementation of the NEP — which is effective starting April 8 and will remain in effect for three years unless canceled or extended — the DOL aims to protect workers in more than 70 industries, including those that employ SMART workers. Learn more at OSHA.gov/heat.

GP Sellers addresses the crowd at the Local 19 union hall in Philadelphia.

Facts on the NEP from OSHA:

The NEP is a nationwide enforcement mechanism for OSHA to proactively inspect workplaces for heat-related hazards in general industry, maritime, construction or agriculture operation alleging hazardous exposures to heat (outdoors and/or indoors).

  • This means that OSHA can now launch heat-related inspections on high-risk worksites before workers suffer preventable injuries, illnesses or fatalities.

The NEP encourages employers to protect workers from heat hazards by providing employee access to water, rest, shade, adequate training, and implementing acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees.

  • The NEP contains both enforcement and outreach/ compliance assistance components.

The NEP establishes heat priority days when the heat index is expected to be 80°F or higher. On heat priority days:

  • OSHA will initiate compliance assistance in the targeted high-risk industries.
  • OSHA will also continue to inspect any alleged heat-related fatality/catastrophe, complaint or referral regardless of whether the worksite falls within a targeted industry of this NEP.

OSHA will conduct pre-planned inspections in targeted high-risk industries on any day that the National Weather Service has announced a heat warning or advisory for the local area.

OSHA also recognizes that many businesses want to do the right thing by developing heat illness prevention plans to keep their employees safe.

  • On heat priority days, OSHA field staff will engage in proactive outreach and technical/compliance assistance to help keep workers safe on the job.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaking at SM Local 19.

In addition to the NEP, Vice President Harris, Secretary Walsh and President Shuler reaffirmed the Biden administration’s support for organized labor and working people across the country. Following an introduction by Local 19 third-year apprentice Will Griffin, in which he spoke about his journey in the trade and the benefits he’s experienced since joining SMART, Vice President Harris discussed planned improvements to schools and other local infrastructure using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding — improvements to be completed by members of organized labor, including SMART. “It will put thousands of union workers … and, yes, sheet metal workers, to work across the country,” Harris said.

“[The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law] will put thousands of union workers … and, yes, sheet metal workers, to work across the country,” Harris said.

“President Joe Biden and I are determined to lead the most pro-union administration in America’s history,” she added. “Because you see, we are clear and we know, each and every day in ways big and small, unions change lives. Unions negotiate better wages and safer working conditions for millions of workers around our country.

I wanted to send out another update on what is going on at the agency. We have received inquiries regarding Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that was established under the CARES Act and whether railroaders may be eligible for benefits under that program if they are not eligible for Railroad Unemployment Insurance Benefits (RUIA) benefits. The Department of Labor (DoL) is responsible for giving guidance to the states regarding the PUA benefits, so we asked the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) General Counsel to reach out to the DoL. The RRB’s General Counsel has been advised by the DoL that nothing in the PUA provisions prohibit railroaders from being eligible for these benefits if they otherwise qualify. Similarly, the RRB’s General Counsel has found that there is nothing in the RUIA that prohibits railroaders from receiving PUA benefits if they are not receiving RUIA benefits. So as a result, I would recommend that if your members have been denied RUIA benefits, they check with their state unemployment services to see if they are eligible for PUA benefits. To find out the application process in each state, you can refer workers to the Unemployment Benefit Finder at the following website:
https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/UnemploymentBenefits/Find-Unemployment-Benefits.aspx.

RRB Labor Member John Bragg
We have also received questions about the $1,200 one-time economic relief payment. The Department of Treasury is responsible for making those payments, so unfortunately, we do not have information about the timing of those payments. Information about the economic relief payments can be found at the following link: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know
Though not related to COVID-19, I wanted to inform you of a new hire at the RRB. As you may remember from previous updates, the Board has been trying to hire a Chief Medical Officer. A new CMO, Dr. Elizabeth Bonson, has been hired and starts today. We hope that the CMO’s presence at the agency will help make the disability process more efficient.
Finally, as you know, the RRB is located in Chicago and this week, the governor of Illinois extended the stay-at-home order through May 30. I anticipate that the agency headquarters will continue to primarily work remotely. Regarding the field offices, although not all states have the same limitations as Illinois, at present it is my recommendation that it is in the best interests of agency personnel and the railroad population we serve to maintain the current work environment for all offices. Consequently, for the time being, field offices will remain closed to the public and staff will work remotely with periodic visits to the office for administrative tasks.
John Bragg,
Labor member, Railroad Retirement Board

Advisory on Union Officer Elections and Public Disclosure Reporting in Areas Affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) issues this advisory regarding the labor union officer election requirements under Title IV and the reporting requirements of Title II of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). OLMS recognizes that due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, it may be difficult or impossible for some unions to conduct timely union officer elections. Similar difficulties may confront unions, labor relations consultants, and employers faced with public disclosure filing requirements. OLMS issues this advisory for those unions, employers, or labor relations consultants affected by COVID-19.
Elections: The LMRDA requires that all national and international labor unions elect their officers not less often than every five years. Officers of intermediate bodies, such as general committees, system boards, joint boards, joint councils, conferences, and certain districts, district councils and similar organizations, must be elected at least every four years, and officers of local labor unions not less often than every three years. See the OLMS Electing Union Officers publication for further information.
Labor unions affected by COVID-19 must still make a good faith effort to conduct officer elections within LMRDA timeframes. OLMS has jurisdiction to file a civil enforcement action concerning a failure to hold a timely election after receipt of a complaint from a union member who has first sought a remedy from his or her union. If OLMS receives a complaint from a union member solely regarding a union’s failure to hold an election within the LMRDA timeframes, but the election has been completed prior to OLMS receipt of the complaint, then OLMS will take no enforcement action. If OLMS receives a complaint regarding a union’s ongoing failure to hold an election, and that failure was attributable to COVID-19, OLMS will promptly seek a voluntary compliance agreement with the union. The agreement would require the union to hold the election when practicable on a date certain. With such an agreement, OLMS will not seek a civil enforcement action based on the complaint, provided the election is held in conformance with the agreement.
Public Disclosure Reports (LM reports): Labor unions, labor relations consultants, and employers affected by COVID-19 must make a good faith effort to file required public disclosure reports. The failure to file a timely and complete report is an ongoing violation of the LMRDA. OLMS has jurisdiction to file a civil enforcement action concerning a failure to meet reporting requirements. OLMS will not, however, pursue a civil enforcement action with regard to a delinquent or deficient report when these reporting violations are attributable to COVID-19. Unions, employers, and labor relations consultants wishing to take advantage of this enforcement policy should contact OLMS before the report is due, describe the circumstances necessitating additional time, and provide a date certain by which the report can reasonably be submitted. Under these circumstances, OLMS will not lodge a civil enforcement action to obtain the delinquent or deficient report. Unless an extension is granted, LM reports are due by March 31, 2020.

Beginning with filings for the 2017 fiscal year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) now requires secretaries and treasurers of SMART Transportation Division locals to electronically file their labor organization annual reports, commonly known as Forms LM-2, LM-3 or LM-4.

The form to be filed is determined by the total annual receipts of the local:

  • Form LM-2 is required for locals with total annual receipts of $250,000 or greater;
  • Form LM-3 is required for locals with total annual receipts between $10,000 and $250,000; and
  • Form LM-4 is required for local with total annual receipts of less than $10,000.

These forms are filed by registering for and then using OLMS’ web-based electronic forms system (EFS) at https://olms.dol-esa.gov/efsui/
After registering with the EFS, a private identification number (PIN) is required annually and can allow multiple union officers to access the filing. Form LMs need to be digitally “signed” by the treasurer and the president of the local.
Each local officer also needs to register on the system to set up his or her individual profile so he or she can log in with their username and password to sign the report. This only has to be done once.
Once registration is completed and a PIN secured, the form can be accessed, saved as a draft, verified, digitally signed and submitted via the EFS over a period of time from multiple locations by logging in with a web browser.
The last signer of the form must complete the form and file it by hitting “submit.” This step is often missed by officers and their local’s report ends up being late as a result.
Descriptions and example filings of the LM forms, as well as robust support for filers and assistance in registering for the EFS, are available on the DOL website at https://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/EFS/EFShelp.htm.
A link to the DOL help page covering LM filings also is accessible via the S&T Tools section on the SMART TD website.

DOL_labor WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is soliciting nominations to fill five, 3-year vacancies on the Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, also known as the ERISA Advisory Council. The deadline to submit nominations is July 31.

The 15-member council provides advice on policies and regulations affecting employee benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The secretary of labor appoints members for staggered 3-year terms. Members represent specified groups or fields that are involved in employee benefits.

The council meets at least four times a year and makes recommendations to the secretary regarding functions carried out under ERISA. Participation in the council’s meetings and other work generally requires a commitment of 15 to 20 days per year.

EBSA will accept nominations to fill one vacancy in each of the following five fields:

  • Employee organizations
  • Employers
  • Investment counseling
  • Actuarial counseling
  • The general public

Interested individuals and organizations may nominate qualified candidates for membership.

Nominations should briefly describe the individual’s qualifications, and the group or field the candidate represents. Nominations should also include the nominee’s full name, work affiliation, mailing address, phone number and email address. The nomination should also state that, if offered, the candidate would accept the appointment to the ERISA council. Nominations must be submitted by letter, resolution or petition, and be signed by the person or, in the case of a nomination by an organization, by the group’s representative making the recommendation. Additionally, each nomination must include the nominating party’s full name, mailing address, phone number and email address.

Send nominations either by mail or email. Address mailed nominations to Larry Good, Executive Secretary, ERISA Advisory Council, Room N-5623, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. Alternatively, send nominations by email to good.larry@dol.gov. The nomination must be a separate attachment to the email.

To read the Federal Register Notice, visit https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-14781. Additional information about the council and the appointment process can be found on EBSA’s website at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/aboutebsa/erisa_advisory_council.html.

More than 200 whistleblower complaints against railroad since 2001

osha-logo_web NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – For the third time since 2011, the Union Pacific Railroad has violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act at its yard in North Platte by disciplining employees who reported workplace injuries and sought medical attention, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. Since 2001, the company has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide.

In the most recent case, OSHA investigators determined that Union Pacific disciplined a 35-year-employee after the locomotive freight engineer reported injuries sustained in a Dec. 22, 2013, collision and received medical attention. The company has been ordered to pay the engineer $350,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and provide information about whistleblower rights to all its employees. Prior to this incident, the employee had never been disciplined.

“It is disheartening that this employee, a loyal railroad worker for 35 years, faced disciplinary action because he sought needed medical attention for a work-related injury. Union Pacific’s actions and the repeated complaints filed by their employees are indicative of a culture that doesn’t show that same loyalty to their workers or concern for their safety,” said Marcia P. Drumm, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “Whistleblower protections play an important role in keeping workplaces safe. It is not only illegal to discipline an employee for reporting an injury and seeking medical attention, it puts everyone at risk.”

Any of the parties in this case can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Based in Omaha, Union Pacific Corporation is one of America’s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, is North America’s premier railroad franchise, in 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States. It has 47,000 employees and operates 8,000 locomotives over 32,000 route miles.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov/.

DOL_labor WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement on the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report released today on union membership in 2014:

“Today’s report confirms what we’ve always known: that belonging to a union makes a powerful difference in people’s lives, providing greater economic security and helping them punch their ticket to the middle class.

“The 2014 BLS data show that among wage and salary workers, those in a union have median weekly earnings of $970, compared to $763 for those not in a union. That’s not pocket change – it amounts to greater than $10,000 a year more for union members. There is also a smaller gender pay gap for unionized workers – women who are in a union come closer to parity with their male counterparts than do non-union women. The report also finds that the union membership rate was 11.1 percent last year, 35.7 percent for public-sector workers.

“The economy is resurgent, with an unemployment rate well below 6 percent and job growth we haven’t experienced since the late 1990’s. The challenge we face now is creating shared prosperity, ensuring that our growing economy works for everyone. To do that, we need to turn up the volume on worker voice.

“There is a direct link throughout American history between the strength of the middle class and the vitality of the labor movement. It’s not a coincidence. When unions are strong, working families thrive, with wages and productivity rising in tandem. But when the percentage of people represented by unions is low, there is downward pressure on wages and the middle class takes it on the chin.

“President Obama said in the State of the Union that middle-class economics requires ‘laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give workers a voice.’ That means protecting and strengthening collective bargaining rights, and it also means exploring new organizing strategies and other innovative approaches to empowering workers in a modern economy.

“Across the country at the grass-roots level, workers and their advocates are doing just that. Whether it’s auto workers emulating the German works council model, or the dynamic movement of fast-food workers seeking a raise, or efforts by taxi drivers and home health care workers to stand up for their rights, we are seeing more people seeking creative ways to make their voices heard.

“Doing so can and must be done in collaboration with employers. We reject the old false choice and zero-sum thinking – the kind that suggests either workers or their employers can thrive, but not both. Unions succeed not at the expense of business, but in partnership with business. Forward-looking employers recognize that they can give their workers a voice while giving their bottom line a boost.

“To maintain robust economic growth, to create more shared prosperity and a better life for millions of middle-class families, we need full-throated worker voice.”

DOL_labor WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez will formally induct into the Labor Hall of Honor approximately 12,000 Chinese immigrant laborers who worked on the Central Pacific Railroad between 1865 and 1869. The Chinese Railroad Workers are the first Asian Americans to receive such a tribute since the establishment of the Hall of Honor in 1988. Their efforts, which connected the United States from east to west, laid the foundation for the extraordinary economic prosperity enjoyed by the nation in the years that followed.

Many of these workers risked their lives and even perished from the harsh winters and dangerous working conditions. They faced prejudice, low wages and social isolation. Yet, despite these challenges, they courageously took a stand to organize for fairer wages and safer working conditions. Their efforts not only stitched our nation together, but also advanced the American ideals of equal opportunity; collective organizing and good, safe jobs for all workers, immigrant and American-born alike. 

As President Obama noted in his presidential proclamation, May is designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, in part because the Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869.

On the eve of the 145th anniversary of that accomplishment, we honor these pioneers for their dedication and perseverance to the job of building this great nation and for highlighting the power of immigrant laborers. The national theme of AAPI Heritage Month 2014 is “I Am Beyond,” challenging all Americans to look beyond stereotypes and misguided perceptions of the AAPI communities, which have made profound contributions to the American way of life – and the American way of work – throughout our nation’s history.

DOL_labor The Labor Department wants companies to begin filing all workplace injury and illness reports electronically so they are available for anyone in the public to see.
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will announce the plan on Thursday as part of a proposed rule that would dramatically change the way companies file safety records, according to a person familiar with the proposal.
Read the complete story at the Journal Review.