Tag Archives: response

Dept. of Labor Tactics Questioned in Firing Team That Helped Fired Workers

Tennessee labor officials are shutting down a federally funded rapid response team that had been used to provide quick assistance to employees caught in the midst of mass layoffs across the state, reports The Tennessean.
The elimination of the unit, which had been in operation for about a decade, comes despite the strong protest of some members of a state workforce advisory board. That board had refused to approve the change at a meeting last fall, and charged that the state’s last-minute change failed to comply with federal notice requirements.
Jeff Hentschel, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said some of the seven members of the team already have been given layoff notices, while others will be formally notified shortly. All will be off the state payroll by June 18.
He denied that the state violated the federal notice requirements, saying the state has the right to amend its annual plan prior to submission to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The job of responding to mass layoffs will now be delegated to 13 regional workforce agencies across the state. Hentschel said the $568,000 in cost savings will be allocated to those regional agencies, “who will absorb the rapid response duties and responsibilities.”
The state recently laid off an additional 125 employees who provided career job services at centers across the state.
Guy Derryberry, a member of the executive committee of the state Workforce Development board, said the elimination of the response team was inserted in the state’s annual plan just two days before the panel was scheduled to vote on the overall plan.
Derryberry also charged that draft minutes of the board’s Sept. 13, 2012, meeting incorrectly state that the panel approved the revised plan, even though they expressly refused to act on the change.
…Hentschel defended the omission, stating that the minutes were intended to be summaries of board action and not “a transcription of all language contained in a meeting.”
The elimination of the unit, whose employees have a combined 145 years of experience, has sparked a letter-writing campaign to state legislators and the governor charging that the last-minute changes were the result of recommendations from an out-of-state consultant brought in by the recently departed top management at the labor agency.
In fact, the disputed minutes quote former Deputy Labor Commissioner Alisa Malone as thanking the consultant, Mary Ann Lawrence of the Center for Workforce Learning, for her assistance in developing the plan.
Lawrence, according to the minutes, was present for the September session.
Earlier this year, the state of Tennessee halted payments to Lawrence’s company, which collected $1.1 million in fees through the Department of Labor and Workforce Development despite being cited in two successive state audits for contracting irregularities
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UT Legislative Candidate Survey Draws Low Response

“Vote Orange” is a new election slogan coming from the University of Tennessee, reports WPLN.
But according to a recent candidate survey, it’s hard to tell whose interests align with UT’s top officials. Only a third of General Assembly candidates bothered to answer the survey.
The questionnaire attempts to pin down lawmakers on increasing funding for higher education, maintaining lottery-funded scholarships and keeping guns off campus.
It was a first year for the survey. The results – as incomplete as they are – have been distributed to tens of thousands of alumni around the state, says UT President Joe DiPietro.
“Perhaps in the future, General Assembly members will participate in greater numbers, particularly if we have alumni who have conversations with their elected officials to gain a better perspective perhaps about why they didn’t participate.”
As part of a new strategic plan, UT is trying to turn its alumni into lobbyists who will influence their own lawmakers to back the university’s position on issues.

Note: The survey results are HERE.

Turner Responds to GOP Critics on Photo ID

Rep. Mike Turner is rejecting Republican attacks that he waffled on opposing the state’s new photo ID law and instead says the GOP should put its money where its mouth is, reports Andrea Zelinski.
If Republicans want to prove they don’t seek to disenfranchise voters, they need to spend as much as $8 million in taxpayer dollars to ensure that every voter can get to and from the DMV for a photo ID and better train people in the state’s driver’s license centers or repeal the law, Turner, of Old Hickory said. Turner introduced a repeal bill this month.
…Even though the Legislature funded the photo IDs to the tune of $438,000, Turner told TNReport this week the state should spend an amount in the ballpark of the $10 million Indiana spent on a similar law it passed in 2005.
“We were trying to get them to fund it. As it turns out, they didn’t fund it at the proper level. Not anywhere close to the proper level,” Turner said.
In four years, Indiana distributed more than 770,000 free photo IDs to voters costing $10 million based on materials, printing and manpower costs, according to Jeremy Burton, election outreach manager for Indiana’s Election Division.
“We believe the photo ID law has been good, not bad, for elections,” Burton told TNReport in a telephone interview this week. “Hoosiers expect to show photo ID at the polls now. It’s part of our routine now, we’re used to it. … We’ve worked really hard to not let this law stop anybody from voting.”
Tennessee Republicans say there’s adequate funding allotted for “free” photo IDs within this year’s budget.
… So far, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security has issued 2,385 free photo IDs to voters, and agency spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said the department does “not anticipate a need for additional funding this year or in the future.”