Wasteful High Jinks at the Labor Department
Staffers slam DOL busy work, propaganda, and favoritism.


In response, the posters thenceforth were mounted in expensive, locked-glass cases for protection. Secretary Solis sent a three-page letter to all departmental employees waxing eloquent on the contribution of homosexuals, boasting about her efforts to have the department promote LGBT equality and celebrate LGBT pride (including a banner over the building entrance) — and blasting the unnamed vandals who tore down the elevator posters.

“Earlier today,” she wrote on June 23, 2011, “we screened a documentary about Bayard Rustin here in the FPB. We’ve provided copies of the video to our regional offices and have encouraged them to sponsor similar events. I’ve instructed the Wirtz Library to screen the film for any employees who would like to watch it, individually or as a group. My office is happy to partner with any agency or group that would like to screen the film.”

Regarding the second example of waste at Labor, the religious poll: In 2010, two Episcopal priests launched Lent Madness, a take-off on NCAA basketball March Madness in which voters choose their favorite Christian saints. Labor higher-ups pushed employees to take part in the religiously themed event. Because former Labor secretary Frances Perkins is recognized as a saint by the Episcopal Church, Labor Department public-affairs senior adviser Carl Fillichio sent an e-mail to his employees on March 1, 2013 (the first day of sequestration, no less), urging them to vote in the poll. “Show your love for Frances today and help her reach the ‘Saintly Sixteen’ round!” Fillichio wrote. “Don’t forget to vote. And forward to friends and familiy [sic].” One source questioned whether this was a violation of church-state separation.

Other employees speculate that the strange campaign may have created a security breach. Online registration was required to vote. “All of this is a violation of DOL computer-security protocol, which prohibits using government computers for personal use,” says one source.

Shortly after Lent Madness, the department suffered a computer phishing attack severe enough that department tech support sent a department-wide e-mail warning employees about phishing and advising them on how to avoid it.

Contacted for comment, the public-affairs adviser Fillichio defended the exercise. “The office of the assistant secretary for administration and management and the office of the solicitor, including the department’s ethics attorneys, conducted an investigation that concluded that the activity ‘did not violate any law, regulation, or policy’ and ‘determined that the activity did not result in a computer security breach,’” Fillichio told NRO.

Regarding the third time-and-money waster, on poetry, this past December and January, OSHA chief David Michaels had his staff repeatedly push employees to enter an internal New Year’s poetry contest in conjunction with a holiday party. His last urging came in the form of an e-mailed poem urging entries in which employees would:

Sing of last year’s deeds.
Feats of which you’re proud.
Now’s your chance to boast
Bragging’s clearly allowed. . . . 
Since, after all, we’re OSHA,
And this is our celebration,
You must voluntarily comply
With mandatory regulation.

Several employees griped about Michaels’s poetic pestering. “They waste employees’ time asking them to enter the national poetry contest or to log on to an outside website and vote in a religious poll,” said one. “Both of those examples take away from staff time, and it’s against government protocol to use computers for non-government things . . . So the question is, How many workers were injured the week that the head of OSHA directed his staff to concentrate on the national poetry contest and diverted their attention from protecting workers?”

In the fourth example in our list of waste, inordinate time and money were spent on an internal news magazine called “Frances Mag” and on entries (and fees) in outside PR-award contests, some DOL employees complained. Fillichio announced the contest, critics said, in a self-aggrandizing manner. Frances won a Ragan’s Employee Communications Award (fee for each entry, paid by taxpayers: $225) for a cover story called “Is There Anything OSHA Inspectors Won’t Eat?

Ragan’s, in granting the award, noted that “the issue as a whole dealt with such food-related issues as ethical questions for employees at events where food is served and stories of courage on the part of employees investigating wage and safety conditions in stockyards, restaurants, and everything in between.”

The Labor communications office entered many other contests as well, ranging from the “Blue Pencil and Blue Screen Awards” of the National Association of Government Communications to the “Thoth Awards” from the Public Relations Society of America. “Often there are more than 40 categories that the DOL PR office can and does enter per contest,” says one source, “each with a fee paid for by the taxpayers.”


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