Thursday, December 02, 2010

BNA Daily Labor Report, November 29, 2010, Monday

BNA Daily Labor Report

November 29, 2010, Monday

BNA Daily Labor Report

Election Had Little Impact on DOL Agenda
Official Says During Webcast Discussion

The recent midterm election results will not have a major impact on the Labor Department's agenda in the near term, despite the changing makeup of Congress, Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris said Nov. 29.

Speaking with Dean Harry Katz of Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School as part of a Cornell-sponsored series of policy webcasts, Harris said the election results were “not a ratification of the view that we have to drastically slash government spending,” and that DOL programs to foster job creation and help workers will continue.

“No one lost jobs because of radical government spending,” Harris said. He added that DOL is “not really a job-creating agency,” but it can help ensure that unemployed workers transition smoothly into new jobs through apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs, for example.

“Our agenda hasn't changed” because of the new makeup of Congress, Harris said. But, “the question we will now face is how we're going to negotiate with the House and Senate over their role in us implementing our agenda.”

‘Dialogue With Appropriators.'

Describing that process as a “give and take” with lawmakers, Harris said the department would “be in a dialogue with our appropriators” about which DOL programs work best and are most successful in achieving their goals.

“It will be incumbent on us to communicate effectively how we're making workers' lives better,” Harris said.

The department's goal of “making workers' lives better,” Harris said, was reflected in its recent release of a five-year strategic plan (193 DLR A-11, 10/6/10).

“The government spends a lot of time talking about itself and not enough about the people it serves,” Harris said. The DOL strategic plan, he said, was designed to redirect the department's focus on workers' needs, especially through its emphasis on measuring outcomes of DOL's worker protection agencies.

Asked for a response to criticism that the department is unfriendly to businesses because it seeks to impose burdensome regulations on them, Harris said he was “perplexed” by such assertions because many of the laws enforced by DOL have been in effect for decades. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act has been on the books for upward of 75 years, Harris said.

“We're not creating a huge mountain of new regulations for employers” to follow, Harris said. “The goal is to achieve compliance” with existing laws, and “there are many strategies” to do so, he said.

‘Not Interested in a Gotcha Game.'

For example, Harris said, DOL's Occupational Safety and Health Administration funds a program targeting small business compliance with the OSH Act. In addition, all of DOL's agencies provide “a mountain of compliance material” on their websites.

“We're not interested in a gotcha game,” Harris said. “We want to ensure compliance with the law,” he said, adding that human resources professionals could play a large role in that effort, especially when it comes to employers reconciling compliance with labor laws with “profit-making strategies.”

Other areas touched on by Harris during the hour-long discussion included the department's programs targeted at veterans. The department was seeking to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies to “help veterans transition to civilian employment,” Harris said, and emphasized that most one-stop career centers, funded through the Workforce Investment Act program, provide priority services for veterans.

Harris said that President Obama likely would be announcing additional programs to promote veterans' employment “in the next few months.”

Harris also emphasized DOL's efforts to help workers with disabilities obtain services through the workforce investment system, as well as the need to meet older workers' job training needs as they transition into new roles as a result of the economic downturn.

By Michael Rose
Video of the webcast may be accessed at


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