As of the writing of this article, we’ve had at least 10 gins have Wage and Hour investigations in the region. AL, NC, SC and GA offices all have investigations started or have sent notice requesting the gin to gather information to begin an investigation. So far all of these investigations have been virtual…or at least they’re starting that way.
Mike Rios, the head of enforcement in the region recently stated at the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Labor Relations Forum, that they are doing most of their investigations virtually but that hasn’t stopped from many either beginning as in-person or moving to in-person during the course of the investigation. So, don’t think you’re out of the woods with a virtual investigation.
We’re often asked what to expect. In these days with virtual investigations, we’re not 100% sure. I can tell you what typically happens during a on-site investigation and since the desired outcome is the same, it would follow that they’re going to try to get to the same information and areas virtually. This puts even more pressure on you as the employer. Most of what I’m going to mention is speculation so treat it as such.
A few gins have called us recently regarding a letter or email from OSHA regarding their DART Rate. So what is a DART Rate and do you know what yours is? A DART Rate is a measure of injuries and illnesses and is designed to be able to compare industry to industry and individual companies to an industry average. It is SUPPOSED to eliminate the size factor so that you can compare apples to apples. DART stands for Days Away Restricted or Transferred.
Ideally, the DART rate is the number of injuries that would be lost time or restricted an employer with 100 employees would have in a year’s time. It is based on the 200,000 hour base for 100 employees at 2000 hours each. Employers record injuries with days away, restricted or transferred on their OSHA 300 form. For the past few years, nearly all employers have been required to send their OSHA 300A summary information (this includes the DART information) to OSHA. This has evolved in to some gins getting letters.
I have been reading some this morning on what we might expect for labor under a new Biden administration. Lots of speculation surrounding Department of Labor secretary and that will become a bit more clear as time goes on. The concerns I have are more of a day-to-day issue.
The first of my concerns is minimum wage. One of candidate Biden’s key promises was to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. This is an easy ask for a Dem controlled House even if the Republicans are able to keep the Senate. Also possible for the Republicans to give away in response for push back on another issue. It won’t be an easy task but look for it to be a visible issue early on.
Also on Wages. Under the Obama administration the Secretary had pushed to make it much harder for an individual to be an independent contractor. The intent is to get rid of the ‘gig economy’ such us Uber. California has a law that we may see a push to be mirrored in the rest of the US. As Politico has California’s Labor secretary as a potential for US Labor Sec. it is likely that classification as an independent contractor will be much harder. This could mean haulers and select other truckers that have been contractors will be considered employees… and subject to overtime.
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, which aims to give brands and retailers assurances they need to source U.S. cotton, has announced a new slate of regional-focused webinars from Nov. 9 through the end of 2020. The additional webinars were added following demand during the September and October sessions. Enrollment is now open to all U.S. cotton growers.
Starting Nov. 9, growers who have not yet had the opportunity will get to learn about the benefits of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol and ask questions of the team. While the sessions are divided by region, growers are free to join any session that fits in their schedule. Participants can enroll at https://trustuscotton.org/enrollment-webinar-live-sessions/.
A recent study from the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol and the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 60% of fashion, apparel and textile business leaders said implementing sustainability measures was a main strategic objective for their organization. The top measure businesses are implementing is establishing a sustainability strategy with measurable targets, which 58% of respondents said they were doing. In second, 53% said they were working on collecting data from across the business and from the supply chain to measure performance.
The protocol is an assessment system established by U.S. cotton producers and industry organizations to provide a mechanism by which U.S. cotton producers can assess and verify their current production practices and measure their progress toward long-term sustainability goals.
The Cotton Trust Protocol contributed this article.
Although the webinars for the Southeast begin November 19, all producers and ginners are welcome to attend any of the webinars.
It is never an easy task to notify our membership of the passing of one of our members or affiliates. Last week we lost another one of our number. Robert Earl Godwin of the West Florida Gin in Walnut Hill, FL passed away on November 5 at the age of 76. Robert Earl was a good friend of the association and well loved by those that knew him best. He will be missed.
Robert was laid to rest on Sunday, November 9. A full obituary can be found here: https://www.pettyfuneralhomes.com/obituaries/Robert-Godwin-5/#!/Obituary
Even though this year has barely gotten under way for most gins, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has started making its presence felt in much of our region. We have recently received reports of virtual investigations in NC, SC and AL. We understand an in-person investigation is scheduled but has yet to be conducted in SC.
This is the second year of a regional cotton gin emphasis program. Association staff has met with Wage and Hour staff in both NC and SC recently. It was a very constructive meeting. They provided the documents linked at the bottom of this article for ginners resources. We can only assume that this emphasis program will continue until a low number of violations (even very minor ones) are found. This is the first time that NC has been involved. It is unknown how many gins will be inspected in any given state but last year 10-15 gins across the region were visited.