Forum on Working Conditions for Forest Workers

Federal officials will discuss new efforts to protect the health and safety of contract workers on national forest lands and hear comments at a public forum to be held in Eugene on Jan. 31.

Mark Rey, USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment and Alex Passantino, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, will be among those discussing efforts to improve enforcement of workforce protections for forestry workers.

The forum will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, in the Pittman Room at the Len Casanova Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, near Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Sustainable Northwest, the University of Oregon-Ecosystem Workforce Program, Watershed Research and Training Center, Communities Committee, Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters and the University of Oregon are sponsoring the event with participation from the Forest Service and the Department of Labor.

The Forest Service has made changes in contracting rules for seasonal workers who perform various tasks on national forest lands including: Recognizing and reporting health and safety violations such as lack of proper equipment and apparel; providing safe housing for workers when housing is provided; and ensuring that contractor violations be a factor in evaluating future bid awards. Contractors provide a variety of work in the forests including tree thinning, brush removal, stream restoration and fire fighting.

Forest Service and Labor Department officials will review progress made in assuring the safety and welfare of seasonal and other workers contracted to conduct work on National Forests. A panel will then listen to comments from those attending.

Those wishing to address the forum can sign up upon registration beginning at 12:30 p.m. and will have three minutes to speak, or can provide written comments. Spanish language interpretation will be available. Forest Service and Labor Department officials will use the feedback in evaluating further improvements to seasonal contracting operations.