Minneapolis: A look at the 2015 Conference

Minneapolis panorama

Review the agenda for the 2015 Conference


Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges delivers opening remarks: “Your work really matters”

Mayor Hodges closeup

US DOL Wage and Hour Deputy Administrator Laura Fortman: “Enforcement is not enough”

Fortman Closeup

Allen Smith: “When people steal and don’t get caught, they steal more.”

Allen Smith CLOSEUP

Wage Theft: More than all robberies combined


Mill City Museum: The blast heard around the labor world

Mill Museum ext

VPP: “All about people”


The new Vikings Stadium: Building for tomorrow

Int Vikings Stadium

Marty Mulloy: “Soft on people, hard on problems”

Marty Mulloy

Employer Investment in Apprenticeship: Meeting the skills gap


NAGLO panorama




Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges: “Your work really matters”


Mayor Hodges officialFresh off a visit just five days earlier with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges kicked off the 2015 NAGLO conference by welcoming the participants to the city. She was one of 70 mayors from around the world who discussed climate change and human trafficking with the Pope.

“I am very grateful to see you here,” she told the NAGLO group. “The work you do ensures that our labor standards and practices are ones that foster a great economy and great lives.”

Mayor Hodges talked about some of the recent accomplishments of Minneapolis, including the city being named the most “literate city in the US” in an annual survey from Central Connecticut State University. For a look at more of the city’s recent accolades, click here.

She also pointed out that her city faced areas of much needed improvement, including having some of the biggest gaps in the country between white people and people of color.

“That is true for employment, health, housing, education, and you name it,” she said. “It matters. It matters for the future of our region and our economy.” She emphasized that all workers needed to have the tools to be prepared for good jobs.

“But to create the workforce of the future, we need to create the workplace of the future,” she said. “We need a workplace where people are treated well and people are treated fairly.”

She said her city was working ensuring proper parental leave for workers and providing protections for fair scheduling. Mayor Hodges closeup

“Fair scheduling means making sure people know when they’re going to be working and when they are not, so that if their shift gets cancelled at the last minute and they have to rearrange their lives, they should be compensated for that.”

She also discussed the problem of wage theft, which is something she wants to fight. “We’re making sure we, as a city, have the tools at our disposal to make sure that the practice doesn’t happen and that practice doesn’t thrive.”

In the end, she said that Minneapolis is moving in the right direction. She said a CEO recently told her that he found it was hard to get people to come to the city, but it was impossible to get them to leave, even for a promotion.

“It’s our job to make sure we are a great place, and that we are great for everybody. It’s in that context, that the work that you do, the information you have, the practices that you share, and the oversight you do — really matters. Thank you for everything you do to support working people.”


Laura Fortman: “Enforcement is not enough”

Laura Fortman, deputy administrator of the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, spoke to the NAGLO group about the common goals and challenges her office faces that states face as well. As a former commissioner of labor for Maine, she offered a unique perspective of having been on both sides of the state and federal level.

Fortman Closeup“The more we can talk to each other, the better it is for all of us to do our jobs,” she said. “I don’t think there is anyone in this room who thinks they have all of the resources they need to do the monumental task that is in front of you.”

Fortman said the basic, fundamental mission of her division was that workers in the US receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. She said most employers are “doing the right thing,” but she also said that there are plenty of employers who steal from their workers.

Ethel Williams

Ethel Williams

In one example, Fortman talked about a woman named Ethel Williams. Her employer of nine years fired her while she was in treatment at an intensive care unit in Las Vegas, Nevada. She lost her apartment, her car, was forced to move from place to place to keep from being homeless. Eventually she had to apply for food stamps. Williams sought help from the Wage and Hour Division in Los Vegas. An investigation found she was wrongfully terminated under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and she received a check for $16,000 in back wages. She has since gotten her life back on track.

Fortman said there are some keys to keeping employers in compliance with the laws. She emphasized education and awareness. Her team holds frequent meetings with stakeholders. She has staff members who are multi-lingual and can talk with workers in their own language. When companies break the rules, her agency works to make sure certain certificates are revoked as a deterrent.

She said her agency is working on an employer guide that should help explain wage and hour issues such as the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“Enforcement is not enough,” she said. “We try very hard to improve compliance through education.”


Allen Smith: “When people steal and don’t get caught, they steal more.”

Allen Smith is the Assistant Director of the Special Projects and Initiatives Department for the International Union of Operating Engineers. He looked at prevailing wage underpayments, and made a clear point that it is a prevalent crime in the US.

“It happens all the time,” he said. Barclay Bros Scrip

Smith showed a picture of company script from 1880. Workers were paid in currency they could use only to buy merchandise at the company store.

“Workers a hundred years ago were regularly paid in company script,” he said. “How’d that work out for the workers? Not so good.”

Smith compared the use of company script to a current practice, where prevailing wage workers, union and non-union, are often paid benefits in lieu of wages.

“That is, in essence, a script for benefits. The problem is those benefit plans are run by the company.”

For example, a company says they will pay a worker $15 an hour in healthcare benefits.

Allen Smith CLOSEUP“But how much is it really worth?” he asked.

Smith pointed out that there are rules on the books to combat this type of worker fraud. However, he told the NAGLO group that contractors can be creative in how they get around the rules. They often don’t cheat everyone the same way. They’ll have missing workers, where they list five on the payroll but have 10 on the worksite. They will classify workers under the wrong craft. They will use apprentices that are not properly registered.

“When people steal and don’t get caught,” he said, “they steal more.”

Smith advised states to examine how they handle complaints and investigations. He argued that “first in, first worked” is not a good system. He said to give the big cases that impact the most workers more priority.

He also said to examine the complaints and don’t work bad ones. Agencies that are short on resources do not have the time or money to chase down cases that go nowhere.

He urged everyone to approach wage compliance with tremendous zeal. “When wage fraud happens, 100 years of labor laws disappear.”


Wage Theft: More than all robberies combined


Christie Hammond (Oregon), Ray Davenport (Virginia) and Michael Mauro (Iowa) participate in a panel discussion on wage theft

NAGLO President Larry L. Roberts led a panel discussion on the hot topic of wage theft.  As Kentucky’s secretary of labor, he mentioned how the Kentucky Labor Cabinet drew media attention to the issue by comparing wage theft to robbery.

What his office found was that money taken each year in Kentucky during all robberies combined fell well short of the total amount of wages improperly withheld from Kentucky’s workers. The Labor Cabinet’s wage and hour division collects an average of $4.5 million each year in wage restitution for employees, and that total far surpasses the average annual amount of $2 million taken during all robberies in the Commonwealth.


The Labor Cabinet used information from the Kentucky State Police’s annual report, Crime in Kentucky, to compare robbery totals to the latest wage restitution amounts for a three year period in Kentucky.

The number of wage theft victims far exceeds robbery victims in Kentucky. For all robberies in Kentucky, including banks, chain and convenience stores, homes, commercial offices, highway/street and miscellaneous robberies, there were 5,813 offenses combined during the last three years, for an average of 1,937 a year. For wage theft from 2011-13, there were 36,794 employees who were victims, for an average of 12,264 each year.


Christie Hammond, Oregon’s deputy commissioner of Labor and Industries, talked about how her state has created a coalition to stop wage theft. Her agency was able to obtain garnishment authority.

“What that means is if we determine there’s a wage violation, we get an order to the employer,” she said.  “If the employer doesn’t pay the unpaid wages, we can garnish bank accounts or anything else.”

Ray Davenport of Virginia added that the governor of his state issued an executive order last year that brought together six state agencies to create a task force to investigate and report on the issue of worker misclassification.

He said a study found that “as a conservative estimate” misclassification cost Virginia about $28 million in tax revenue each year, and there were potentially 200,000 workers that could be affected.

Michael Moura, commissioner of the Iowa Division of Labor Services, said that whenever he speaks to a group, most of his conversation is on wage theft. His data indicated that wage theft cost Iowa approximately $45 million a year in tax revenue. He said one of the obstacles is that employees don’t know the laws.

“Workers are not even aware,” said Moura. “The employer claims something is an industry practice, and the worker goes along with it. They may fear losing their jobs or having a negative report.”





Mill City Museum: The blast heard around the labor world

Mill Museum ext

The Mill City Museum

The particles filled the air, tiny and white, millions of them floating as dust inside the largest flour mill in the world, which was seven stories high and made of stone. It was 1878, before electricity became crucial to manufacturing, and water was the power source. The mighty Mississippi delivered that power to the structure, with its dark blue water turning to foam as it cascaded down an overflow spillway from the Saint Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

There were more than 200 people who worked in the Washburn A Mill, making it one of the largest employers in Minneapolis at the time. The mill could grind more than 100 boxcars of wheat into almost 2 million pounds of flour per day.

A roller mill from the Washburn mill

The workers there faced numerous hazards, including conveyor belts that could break, whipping workers in the face or slicing them across their bodies. Limbs, hands or feet could be caught in exposed machinery that ground, chopped, and stirred inside the bustling and busy facility. If an injury happened, a worker’s ability to keep the job was extremely jeopardized.

Another danger lurked in the day to day operations: the flour dust itself. Over time, the dust turned to dough inside the workers’ lungs, giving them something they

Millstone used in the Washburn mill

Millstone used in the Washburn mill

called “Baker’s Disease,” which led to terrible coughing, pains and difficulty breathing. In the short-term, the dust posed another, more immediate danger — it was flammable. The whole mill was a powder keg. A simple spark could ignite an explosion unlike anything most people at the time could have dreamed possible.

The day shift ended at six o’clock p.m. on May 2, 1878, allowing most of the people who worked at the mill to go home. The night crew employees, 14 men, were in the facility an hour later — when disaster struck.

A spark, perhaps from two millstones running dry, ignited the dust. In three concussive booms, the mill exploded. The series of explosions rocked the city, raining chunks of stone onto neighborhoods. People ten miles away reported hearing the tremendous blast. The local newspaper described it like an earthquake. It reported in the next edition, “The heaviest stone structure in Minneapolis, the great Washburn Mill, which has been the pride and boast of our flourishing city, was leveled to the ground.”

Mill explosion 1878

Rendering of the disaster, 1878

“Each floor above the basement became brilliantly illuminated, the light appearing simultaneously at the windows as the stories ignited one above the other,” said one unidentified witness. “Then the windows bust out, the walls cracked between the windows and fell, and the roof was projected into the air to great height, followed by a cloud of black smoke, through which brilliant flashes resembling lightening passing to and fro.”

The 14 workers inside were killed; probably instantly. The fire spread to two adjacent mills, costing the lives of four more workers. In all, six mills were destroyed, reducing the entire Minneapolis flour mill industry by more than 30 percent.

It was known as “The Great Mill Disaster.” Newspapers all over the country made it front page news. Lawmakers called for reforms in the milling industry. Ventilation systems were added and other precautionary measures to avoid dust buildup were taken to improve safety in mills across the United States.

The Washburn mill was rebuilt by 1880. It included the best machinery of the day, automatic steel rollers instead of traditional millstones, in order to improve safety and prevent another dust explosion.

Fire nearly destroys the structure in 1991

Fire nearly destroys the structure in 1991

Eventually, time caught up with the mill. In 1965, the mill had become obsolete and closed. By 1991, homeless people often used the vacant building for shelter. On a cold night in February, a fire started and spread throughout the structure, destroying it. The official cause was never determined.

As part of the 2015 NAGLO Conference, labor leaders from across the country toured Mill City Museum, which is built around the ruins of the flour mill. The city of Minneapolis cleaned up the debris from the 1991 fire and built a museum and education center within the fortified ruins. The result is both beautiful and historic, and it’s an especially appropriate place for people who make it their job to protect the rights of workers.




VPP: All about people

Pam Dickens, Cour

Pam Dickens, Courtney Malveaux and NAGLO President Larry Roberts

The NAGLO participants had an opportunity to hear from a panel about the benefits of OSHA partnerships, specifically the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

Moderated by Minnesota’s commissioner of labor, Ken Peterson, the panel included Doug Kalinowski, director of OSHA Cooperative and State Programs; Jay Rodstein, HSE Manger for Honeywell International, Pam Dickens, safety manager for Kimberly Clark; and Courtney Malveaux, former commissioner of labor for Virginia.

Malveaux pointed out that the average VPP worksite has a Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) case rate of 52 percent below the average for its industry.

“Go and visit a VPP site,” said Malveaux, and it’s like the air is different. Everybody takes ownership. It isn’t just top down, it’s bottom up.”

Malveaux shared the fact that he was on a tour of a VPP facility in his state, and a worker stopped him and asked him to please hold the rail while doing down the stairs. It was obvious that everyone in the facility cared about safety.

Kalinowski, who heads up OSHA’s Cooperative and State Programs Division, talked about how partnerships have saved lives.

“We currently have one national partnership with electrical transmission and distribution, those are the people that do all the power lines,” said Kalinowski. “At some point in time there were somewhere between 14 and 15 fatalities a year in that industry. Last year there was one.”

He also said fewer injuries and illnesses mean greater profits as workers’ compensation premiums and other costs plummet.

“You know, safety does pay,” he said.

Jay Rodstein, of Honeywell International, added that his company didn’t just have an objective to comply with OSHA’s guidelines, but a goal to exceed them.

“Our CEO has basically ordered us to go out and not just seek the external certifications, but actually implement practices that show we’re doing that,” he said. “The fact that we’re in the VPP program encourages us to come up with the next best thing that we’re going to do.”

For Pam Dickens, safety manager at Kimberly Clark in Kentucky, being a VPP company is all about people.

“If we can’t send people home to their families, we haven’t done our jobs,” she said.

Dickens pointed out that the National Safety Council reported that the average lost-time injury cost a company about $50,000. She said each heavy construction injury or illness equals about 8 or 9 lost workdays, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. She added that work injuries cost Americans more than $181 billion in 2012 alone.

She said safety is something that requires constant attention.

“This is something that is very near and dear to me,” she said. “As a mom, really one of my highlights is being a mom to the 340 people in my mill. Who takes care of people better than their mom? Whenever I start the day, that’s how I address everything in our facility. I don’t allow people to be exposed to things and put at risk.”


The new Vikings Stadium: Building for tomorrow

Vikings Stadium viewWP_20150728_024NAGLO members were able to tour the construction site of U.S. Bank Stadium, the future home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

Resembling an upside down Viking ship, the facility is one of the biggest state assets.  City officials say it will support thousands of jobs and generate significant economic activity.

According to Mortenson Construction, 1,600 construction workers were involved in just the first year of construction.

WP_20150728_021Int Vikings StadiumAn analysis completed by Conventions, Sports & Leisure, International (CSL) and Mortenson Construction in states that the stadium will provide the following economic impact:

*The construction of a new stadium will support approximately 13,000 jobs, including 7,500 construction and trades workers who will be employed during the three-year building process.

*Nearly 4.3 million work hours with almost $300 million in wages for construction workers will be required for this project.

*In addition, the fabrication of project materials will create a separate substantial number of jobs and wages.

*Upon completion of the stadium, 3,400 full and part-time jobs will be supported by the economic activity generated by a new stadium.

*Over 90% of the total materials and labor subcontract value will go to Minnesotans.

*According to CSL, the economic activity from a new stadium will generate over $26 million per year in tax revenue and over $145 million in direct spending by Vikings fans inside Minnesota.

Marty Mulloy: “Soft on people, hard on problems”

Marty MulloyMarty Mulloy has faced some troubled times. From the period of 2004 to 2010, he was involved in closing or selling 34 plants for Ford Motor Company.

Mulloy has retired as Ford’s Vice President of Labor Affairs, but he took time to speak to the NAGLO participants about how labor and management worked together to save Ford during the economic downturn.

From 2001 to 2008, the US automotive industry lost more than $50 billion. Global competition had intensified, and US domestic auto companies were slowly going out of business. Ford’s labor costs were uncompetitive and increasing on an unsustainable trajectory.

Chrysler and GM took billions of dollars in federal bailout money to stay afloat. But Ford refused to take the taxpayer’s money. Ford’s CEO, Alan Mullaly, put it simply in a meeting: “We’re not taking their f—ing money. We’re going to do it on our own.”

“GM came in with $77 billion and Chrysler came in with $18 billion of government money,” said Mulloy. “People get ticked off at the Patriots for deflating the football! Our competitor just picked up $77 billion and all their creditors are out standing in line and can’t get their money.”

The temptation to take the money was extremely difficult to resist. Mulloy talked about how financial advisors would come into this office and say one thing: “We need to take the money.”

“We had to close 11 assembly plants,” Mulloy said. “Losing an assembly plant is like closing a military base. It’s huge. You’ve got five to six thousand people. The rollover effect, the multiplier effect, from an assembly plant is almost one to 10. So if you’re taking 5,000 jobs out, you’re not taking 5,000, you’re taking 50,000.”

These closures were having a devastating effect on the economy. Mulloy said Ford went from about 114,000 hourly employees to under 40,000.

“We did not have one involuntary reduction. Everyone was done voluntary. We bought out people, and not one was forced out.”

Mulloy close upFord had things like the Education Opportunity Program, which provided employees with money for school as well as expenses and insurance. Employees were able to become doctors, nurses, truck drivers and more. Many employees took lump sum buyout deals worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Ford divested several of its satellite brands. Ford sold its claims to Hertz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo, and Mazda, as well as discontinuing the Mercury line.

The most important key to Ford’s survival was its relationship with the union that represented its workers, the United Auto Workers (UAW). Mulloy said high level meetings between labor leaders and top management officials began to work when everyone realized the humanity of the person sitting across the table.

“They would say, I hate this guy,” said Mulloy. “You’d say, ‘do you know him?’ They’d say no, but I hate him.”

Mulloy’s motto was to be soft on people but hard on problems.

“You can’t walk away from problems,” he said.

Collaboration allowed for some breakthrough agreements. There was an agreement for alternative and flexible work schedules. There were deals on overtime and relief time changes, and bonuses were suspended. The UAW agreed to no increases to base wage or pension levels for traditional employees. There were new, team-based work structures.

By 2011, Ford was back on track and making profits. The company made plans to create 12,000 new jobs in the US and invest more than $16 billion, including $6.2 billion in US plants.

The company was leaner and more efficient, too. In 2006, Ford was making about 37 cars per employee and losing about $15 billion. In 2012, Ford was making about 63 cars per employee and was turning a profit of about $8 billion.

“Now that is remarkable,” he said. “And it’s the reason we didn’t go bankrupt.”

Working together made all the difference, and Mulloy’s point rang loud and clear: Be soft on people, but hard on problems.


Employer Investment in Apprenticeship: Meeting the skills gap

JessicaLoomanMore than half of the NAGLO participants raised their hands when asked if their agencies handled registered apprenticeship. The question came from Jessica Looman, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, who moderated a panel discussion on employer involvement in apprenticeship and dual training.

“Almost every state is looking at the expansion and development of registered apprenticeship or dual training or experiential learning,” said Looman. “This is something that is on the minds of lots of people.”

Looman talked about how her state is involved in registered apprenticeship and dual-training through an initiative called PIPELINE, which stands for Private Investment, Public Education, Labor and Industry Experience. The Department of Labor and Industry holds ongoing council discussions with members of the advanced manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare services, and information technology fields. More than 250 recognized industry experts, employers, educators and labor representatives participate in these councils.

The panel consisted of three members of PIPELINE: Laura Beeth of Fairview Health Systems, Adam Suomala of Leading Age Minnesota, and Bernd Weber of Buhler Inc. The panelists talked about how their companies are using registered apprenticeship and dual training to meet an ever-widening skills gap.

Adam Suomala talked about how employers relied too heavily on the education system to prepare workers.

“What we learned was that there was a disconnect,” said Suomala. “Employers were thinking you (the educators) train them, we hire them and we employ them.”

Suomala’s association, which serves older adult service providers, brought faculty from colleges and employers to the same table.

“There was that great conversation as we looked at developing a career,” he said. “Academics would say you need to have this, this, and this, and the employers would say here’s how it really works out on the floor. It was that coming together that developed a new curriculum — a new career. ”

Panelist Laura Beeth works in the healthcare industry. She said healthcare services continue to boom, giving tremendous opportunities for career pathways.

“We’re looking at all different areas,” she said. “The nursing track, the specialty track, and keeping those diversity pipelines open so we can really focus on entry level health information technology, patient care, health informatics, and more.”

Bernd Weber talked about how his company, Buhler Inc., which has its roots in Europe, is familiar with apprenticeship — especially the German model, which places a high priority in identifying career paths for students early in their academic life.

The European approach differs from the American in terms of attitude. In the US, skilled training has often been seen as something more for troubled-youths than for college-bound students with promising talents. In Germany, it is a respected and common career path. According to the New York Times, about 60 percent of high school students in Germany utilize apprenticeship programs – in fields such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, banking, and hospitality. In the US, fewer than five percent of high school students are involved in apprenticeship.

“We see clearly that there is talent out there,” said Weber. “But right now it’s kind of holding back because of the idea of the parents that kids have to go to college.”

One thing was certain: all the panelists agree that there is a skills gap. Experienced baby boomers are retiring and most potential new hires don’t have the required training.

“We need high knowledge experts in all fields; mechanical, electrical, electronic,” said Weber.

All agreed that registered apprenticeship is a sure bet for employers to obtain workers with the skills they need to run a successful business. With educators and employers working together, workers, companies and economies — will all benefit.