• Feet to the Fire (Landrieu/Kennedy challenge DOL)
  • November 14, 2006
  • Law Firm: McGlinchey Stafford, PLLC - New Orleans Office
  • Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has teamed up with Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in sending a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao that seeks data on the DOL’s Gulf Coast investigations and outreach in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. “We’re concerned that the Department has not taken sufficient steps to increase its presence in the region or apply effective enforcement activities,” the letter stated. The senators ask DOL to provide the number of Wage and Hour Division investigators and Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors assigned to various Gulf Coast offices before September 2005, compared to those currently assigned to those offices. They also seek data on the number of DOL complaints filed and investigations taking place in the region. The Labor Department defended its expanded efforts, saying it has a “strong record of enforcement” on behalf of workers in the area.

    The Wage and Hour Division spokesman said it has initiated over 300 investigations in hurricane-related cases, potentially impacting over 9,000 employees and has already recovered in excess of $2 million in back wages for employees in hurricane- related cases. The investigations have been led by 26 staff members assigned on a permanent basis to WHD’s offices in the region, and up to 11 additional investigators and managers, most of whom are bilingual, who have been detailed to the Gulf Coast area each week, he added.

    The WHD has attempted some damage control by working with a number of advocacy groups, but the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, has sent a letter to President Bush and Secretary Chao enclosing a petition signed by more than 20,000 “concerned people” demanding that the administration “act immediately to stop the cruel, profit-driven exploitation of migrant laborers in New Orleans by ordering the DOL, OSHA and FEMA to ensure that workers are treated fairly.”