On June 14 the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 in favor of advancing a bill (S. 3295) that would appropriate $158.8 billion to the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and related agencies, for fiscal year (FY) 2013. In approving this measure, the panel also voted in favor of an amendment that would prevent the DOL from enforcing its new rule governing H-2B visas for temporary, seasonal nonagricultural workers for the fiscal year. The committee rejected amendments that would have similarly prevented the NLRB from enforcing its decision in Specialty Healthcare, implementing its rule amending representation election procedures, and funding lawsuits against states that have enacted secret ballot election laws.
H-2B Visa Rule
Among other changes, the H-2B rule will require businesses employing temporary, seasonal foreign workers and/or workers in corresponding employment to guarantee to offer employment for a total number of work hours equal to at least three-fourths of the workdays in every 12-week period (or, for job orders less than 120 days, every 6-week period). In addition, the rule requires employers to pay the same transportation and subsistence costs for employees who perform similar work to those hired under the program. Last year’s DOL funding bill already delayed this rule’s implementation for 2012. The rule also faces a court challenge. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) offered the amendment, which was approved 19-11.
DOL Funding Levels
The bill would provide a total of $12.342 billion for the Department of Labor for FY 2013, down slightly from the amount granted for FY 2012 ($12.553 billion). Portions of this total would be allocated as follows:
- The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) would receive $237,730,000. As discussed in the bill’s Senate report, (pdf) the additional $10 million in funding over the 2012 level is designed:
to address the misclassification of employees as independent contractors and to provide enhanced enforcement of overtime pay regulations. In addition, as proposed in the budget request, the Committee recommendation includes funds reallocated from the Women’s Bureau for WHD efforts on Family and Medical Leave Act issues. The Committee also supports the President’s request to provide additional resources for the WHD to increase its oversight of organizations participating in the special minimum wage program for individuals with disabilities authorized under section 14(c) of the FLSA, in order to protect the rights of workers with disabilities.
- The bill would provide the same level of funding ($41,289,000) to the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS) as it provided for this year.
- The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) would also receive the same amount ($105,187,000) as it received in 2012. The conference report notes that
almost 2 years ago the Department issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding regulations for implementing section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Committee strongly supports the administration’s plan to issue a final rule by October of this year, as these regulations have not been updated in over 40 years.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would receive a slight bump in funding for 2013. The bill would provide $565,468,000 for OSHA for FY 2013, up from $564,788,000 granted for 2012.
- The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) would receive $183,153,000 for FY 2013.
The bill would provide $288,306,000 for the NLRB, an amount that is $10 million more than the agency received in 2012. The increase is intended to fund the NLRB’s planned relocation costs.
The appropriations bill would grant the National Mediation Board (NMB), the agency charged with mediating collective bargaining disputes, conducing representation elections, and administering arbitration of employee grievances in the railway and airline industries, $14.4 million for FY 2013. This amount is $1 million more than that given to the NMB in 2012. The proposed increase is intended to decrease the “backlog of key workloads and to respond to oversight and reporting requirements included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.”
The bill would provide the HHS with $71.0 billion for FY 2013, up from $69.62 billion provided to the agency in 2012. This funding level includes $3.156 billion for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Photo credit: digital planet design