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Overview

The Department of Labor (DOL) is in charge of programs and laws that cover all facets of employment and work affecting 125 million workers and 10 million businesses. DOL administers federal labor laws covering workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions, a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, freedom from employment discrimination, unemployment insurance and other income support. Altogether the department enforces more than 180 federal laws, including such landmark legislation as the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. But the Labor Department has at times lost its way in helping the working man and woman, often during Republican administrations that have favored the interests of big business. The administration of George W. Bush has been no different, thanks to the questionable leadership of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

 

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History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Labor (DOL) was established in 1913 in response to years of lobbying by organized labor for a voice in the federal government that would improve the welfare of working people. Initially, the department consisted of the new US Conciliation Service (USCS), which mediated labor disputes, and four pre-existing bureaus: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bureau of Immigration, the Bureau of Naturalization and the Children’s Bureau. The first Secretary of Labor was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson, who selected Scottish-born Congressman William B. Wilson, a founder and former secretary-treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America.

           
When the US became involved in World War I, issues of war production, working conditions and labor peace took on great urgency. DOL assumed the major responsibility for implementing the nation’s war labor policies, which included recognition of the right of workers to bargain collectively, establishment of procedures to address grievances and an 8-hour workday.
 
After the war ended, the nation struggled to cope with labor-management conflicts that produced numerous strikes which threatened to paralyze the post-war economy. At the same time, a nationwide “Red Scare” led to a series of government raids resulting in the arrests of thousands of “dangerous” aliens accused of being Communists. The Justice Department demanded that DOL’s Bureau of Immigration deport all suspect immigrants, but Labor officials balked at the demands. As it was, more than 500 Communists were deported.
 
The 1920s and early 1930s were dominated by Republican administrations that were sympathetic to businesses. President Warren Harding appointed as secretary James Davis, who had attained national prominence as a charitable fund raiser. Although Davis was a union member, the department followed a neutral course toward organized labor and focused on other areas. Administration of a series of new, restrictive immigration laws and deportation of undesirable aliens became its main functions. DOL also expanded the activities of the Children’s Bureau and led the unsuccessful fight for a constitutional amendment limiting child labor. The employment service directed seasonal farm workers to areas of labor shortage, while the Women’s Bureau promoted the welfare of working women, primarily through information dissemination.
 
The department did little to help unemployed workers cope with the Depression under Labor Secretary William Doak, an official with the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. Doak’s successor, Frances Perkins, the first woman ever to serve in a presidential cabinet, followed Franklin Roosevelt from New York, where FDR had served as governor. Perkins had served as Commissioner of Labor and had developed plans to alleviate unemployment as the Depression deepened. She survived a politically motivated impeachment attempt over her refusal to deport Communist labor leader Harry Bridges and served until shortly after FDR died in April 1945.
 
Under Perkins’ leadership, DOL disbanded a special corps within the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization devoted to deportation of aliens. Perkins next helped set up the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which sent young, unemployed men from the cities to work on conservation projects in rural areas at a dollar a day. She played a major role in the design of many of the other economic assistance and social programs of the New Deal, but her main contribution was in the enactment of Social Security in 1935.
 
A number of New Deal programs directly involved the Department of Labor. The Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 revitalized the existing US Employment Service (USES) and established a nationwide system of employment offices. The USES also provided placement and recruitment for the unemployed and later helped administer Unemployment Insurance (UI) under the Social Security Act. The Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act of 1936 required that firms manufacturing goods for the government establish an 8-hour day and assure that the work would be done under safe and healthful conditions. It also authorized the Secretary of Labor to set minimum wages based on locally prevailing rates.
 
When Harry Truman succeeded FDR in April 1945, Perkins resigned voluntarily. Truman then appointed Lewis Schwellenbach, a federal judge and former US Senator, to carry the “Fair Deal” program forward at the Department of Labor. But new proposals struggled to move forward as the economy suffered under high inflation and many industries endured labor strikes. Reaction to the strikes led to the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which Schwellenbach opposed. As a result, the USCS was reconstituted outside the department as the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). Congress also ordered severe budget cuts for DOL, which critics viewed as pro-union. The hardest hit agency was the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which suffered a draconian 40% reduction in its staff.
 
When Schwellenbach died in office in June 1948, he was succeeded by Maurice Tobin, a popular governor of Massachusetts. With Tobin’s help, Truman won his surprising reelection in 1948, and the department won back its lost revenues from the budget cuts. Tobin transferred several dispersed labor functions into the department, including the USES, which had been removed in 1939. Congress also gave the secretary direct authority over the traditionally independent bureau heads. During the Korean War, DOL played a major role in mobilizing for defense production. In the process it began to deal with the need to raise the educational levels of workers and make better use of the capacities of women, older workers and minorities.
 
In 1953 President Eisenhower appointed as Secretary of Labor Martin Durkin, a Democrat and president of the plumbers and steamfitters union. The unions took Durkin’s appointment as a sign that the new administration was open to changing the hated Taft-Hartley Act. Durkin drew up amendments to the act, but when Eisenhower refused to support them, Durkin resigned in protest in September 1953.
 
Eisenhower replaced Durkin with James Mitchell, vice president in charge of labor relations and operations at a New York department store. Mitchell served during a period of high prosperity and low unemployment. He continued Durkin’s quest for organizational improvement, establishing himself as the administration’s representative for all federal agencies concerned with labor and reducing the overlapping of functions. In 1958 Congress authorized the department to enforce safety and health standards to protect workers in long-shoring and harbor work, and Mitchell headed a commission that investigated and publicized the problems of migrant farm workers
 
In 1961 President John Kennedy appointed Arthur Goldberg, special counsel to the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, as his Secretary of Labor. Goldberg became involved in a wide range of social and cultural issues. He regularly acted to settle or prevent strikes, particularly in the aerospace and transportation industries, and he abolished segregation in the department.
 
When Goldberg left the department to become a Supreme Court justice, he was succeeded by Under Secretary Willard Wirtz, a former labor lawyer and law professor active in Democratic politics. Under Wirtz, the department developed a wide range of programs to meet the social and economic goals of the President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty,” and it established the Manpower Administration to coordinate these programs.
 
During the Nixon and Ford Administrations a succession of five secretaries carried out policies of restructuring parts of the Great Society and decentralizing federal labor programs. George Shultz, an academic economist with special expertise in labor issues, was President Nixon’s first appointee and helped formulate the administration’s economic policies. He was succeeded by his Under Secretary, James Hodgson, former vice president for industrial relations with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Hodgson departed involuntarily after Nixon’s reelection and was succeeded by Peter Brennan, a unionist from the New York City building trades who had supported Nixon’s Vietnam War policies. Brennan was replaced by President Ford with John Dunlop, an academic labor economist and longtime government advisor. He served less than a year, resigning when President Ford vetoed a labor bill whose passage Dunlop had supported. Ford’s second appointee was Willie Usery, another unionist working in the department.
 
In January 1977 Jimmy Carter succeeded Gerald Ford. His primary domestic goal was to stimulate the economy and create jobs for the unemployed. He selected Ray Marshall, a labor economist at the University of Texas specializing in unemployment and minority group issues, to lead DOL. Marshall helped develop an economic stimulus program that included an expanded Job Corps.
 
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), created under Nixon, came under intense attack by 1977, and Marshall quickly instituted a “common sense priorities” program to focus on serious dangers, simplify safety and health regulations and help small businesses reduce occupational hazards. Enforcement became much stricter, safety standards were simplified, and tough health standards were issued for benzene, cotton dust, lead and other hazards. In addition, OSHA issued an innovative generic cancer policy which regulated a whole class of cancer-causing substances at once. In 1978 OSHA was joined by a sister agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), consisting largely of functions transferred from the Interior Department.
 
In January 1981 Ronald Reagan became president with a domestic agenda for economic recovery that emphasized reduced government domestic spending and relief for business from burdensome government rules. To carry out these programs at DOL, Reagan appointed as secretary Raymond Donovan, vice president of a construction company in New Jersey, who had been active in Reagan’s presidential campaign. One of Donovan’s primary goal was regulatory relief, and OSHA was the lead target in this effort. He immediately froze rules proposed during the Carter administration and sought to weaken existing standards to make them less costly for business. However, because of the complexity of rule-making procedures, existing rules proved difficult to change. OSHA adopted a less punitive approach to enforcement and encouraged voluntary compliance. MSHA and other regulatory agencies followed similar deregulatory policies.
 
Donovan was replaced by William Brock, the US Trade Representative and a former senator. The department began to focus on both long and short-term employment and training policies. It initiated a “Work Force in the Year 2000” project to help make plans to meet future skilled labor needs. It also cooperated with the broadcast industry in Project Literacy US.
 
After Brock departed, Reagan selected Ann Dore McLaughlin, who had served as assistant secretary of the treasury and under secretary of the interior. During her brief tenure, McLaughlin sought to reconcile demands of work and family life largely through non-governmental means, establishing a Commission on Workforce Quality and Labor Market Efficiency. President George H. W. Bush was then elected, ushering in Elizabeth Dole, who had held several high government positions and was the wife of Senate Republican Leader Robert Dole. Although Dole resigned in 1990, she set the main policies that guided the department until the end of the Bush Administration. She was succeeded by Lynn Morley Martin, a former member of Congress.
 
In January 1993, President Bill Clinton, who was elected on a platform of “Putting People First” and reinvigorating the economy, appointed Robert Reich secretary of labor,. A Harvard professor, author and radio and television commentator, Reich had previously served in the Justice Department and on the Federal Trade Commission. Under his leadership, the Labor Department focused on building up the skills of American workers. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act, enacted in 1994, was designed to ease the transition from secondary education to employment for those who don’t graduate from college. Goals 2000: Educate America Act established a national system of skill standards to certify that workers had the skills that employers needed. States were given funds to establish one-stop career centers, linking unemployment insurance, job counseling and access to job training.
 
Reich left the administration in 1997 and was succeeded by Alexis Herman, a labor relations specialist who worked in the White House before taking over DOL. Herman facilitated negotiations between UPS management and Teamsters union leaders, ending a ten day strike. Under her leadership, DOL concentrated on retooling departmental skills programs into a simpler, more efficient system, giving working people needed skills to succeed in the new economy, moving people from welfare to work and working with disadvantaged youth through the Youth Opportunity program.
 
After the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Elaine Chao became the Secretary of Labor. Chao has been the longest serving member of President Bush’s cabinet, while running a department that has been become heavily pro-business.

 

History of the Department of Labor, 1913-1988

 

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What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Labor (DOL) is in charge of programs and laws that cover all facets of employment and work. DOL administers federal labor laws covering workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions, a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, freedom from employment discrimination, unemployment insurance and other income support.

 
Altogether the department enforces more than 180 federal laws. These mandates cover workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. A sampling of the major laws that the department enforces are: The Fair Labor Standards Act, which prescribes standards for wages and overtime pay; the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act ,which details safety and health conditions in most private industries; the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates employers who offer pension or welfare benefit plans for their employees; and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which regulates the hiring and employment activities of agricultural employers, farm labor contractors and associations using migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.
 
The Labor Department’s key offices are:
 
Jobs and Training
A key element within the Department of Labor, ETA promotes job-training initiatives and programs across the country. ETA’s largest task is to distribute funding that helps Americans receive employment training, either as first-time workers or those transitioning into new lines of work as a result of job displacement. One such program advocated by the Bush administration resulted in ETA distributing millions of dollars in grants without competition or oversight by labor officials, resulting in criticism from Congress and government auditors.
 
One of the oldest social programs in the federal government today, the Job Corps tries to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds complete their high school education and get a good start in the working world. The program has trained and educated two million individuals since it was first established during the Great Society era of the 1960s. Job Corps participants receive not only job assistance and education but also room and board during their time in the program, which can last up to two years. In spite of its altruistic mission, the Job Corps has long been a source of debate between liberals and conservatives over the program’s continuation and funding.
 
ODEP oversees the government’s development of disability employment policies to improve employment opportunities for the disabled in the workplace. It furnishes employers with tools and technical assistance, along with ideas and relevant updated labor market data and to revamp their beliefs regarding who they may choose to employ. Additionally, ODEP provides practical and beneficial ways and reasons to hire the disabled, coordinates and strategizes with staffs from other federal agencies, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that also are involved with matters related to employment. In addition, ODEP helps prepare the disabled with skills that will be specifically valuable in the present job market.     
 
VETS provides resources and services to help veterans locate grants, training and employment opportunities so they can return to a job after completion of military service. It carries out this mission through a variety of financial plans and policies for veterans and employers, including: e-VETS Resource Advisor, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program, the Recovery and Employment Assistance Lifelines initiative, USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994), Federal Veterans Preference Enforcement and the Vets Guide to Competitive and Discretionary Grants.
 
Working Conditions
ESA enforces compliance and monitors laws governing legally mandated equal employment opportunity, minimum wages and working conditions. ESA works with employers by giving technical assistance and training regarding proper administration of laws, including nondiscrimination, affirmative action, workers’ compensation, labor union standards, minimum wage, overtime and child labor.
 
OSHA develops and enforces government standards geared towards protecting workers on the job. OSHA also provides training and education to employers and employees on ways to improve health and safety in the workplace. Most industries and employment sectors come under OSHA regulations, with the exception of miners, transportation workers, many public employees and the self-employed. OSHA makes available to the public a wide range of data and statistics regarding health and safety in the workplace. Also, OSHA employs inspectors who look into allegations of health and safety violations by employers and is supposed to levy fines in cases where employers have been found guilty of violations. Several Republican administrations, including that of President George W. Bush, have worked to lessen the regulatory power of OSHA and turn its mandatory worker-safety programs into voluntary-based efforts by employers.
 
MSHA is the Department of Labor’s lead agency for protecting workers in the American mining industry. With a jurisdiction covering 12,700 metal and nonmetal mines and 2,100 coal mines, MSHA is charged with enforcing safety regulations that are designed to eliminate work-related accidents and health hazards. Despite its mandate to protect mine workers, MSHA has compromised mine safety as a result of its actions during the administration of President George W. Bush, which has appointed agency leaders from the ranks of mining companies.
 
Pensions
PBGC is a non-profit, federal corporation that protects retirement incomes of 44 million American workers enrolled in more than 30,000 private-sector pension plans. About 1.3 million people receive their pensions from PBGC even though their companies may no longer be in business. The agency was designed to be self-sufficient, funded not through taxpayer dollars, but by premiums paid by plan sponsors, earnings from invested assets, recoveries from terminated sponsors and assets collected from terminated plans. However, there is currently a $19 billion gap between the agency’s corporate liabilities and the actual assets of PBGC. The good news: In 2007, PBGC was ranked the best place to work in the federal government by the Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation.
 
EBSA is the primary agency responsible for protecting private pension plan participants and beneficiaries from the abuse or theft of their pension assets through the enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Because private sector pensions are second only to Social Security in providing individuals’ retirement income, effective oversight of the private pension industry's management of these assets is critical to ensure the economic security of workers, retirees and their families. Yet, the ESBA has been criticized for failure in protecting the people from fiduciary interests, as well as for its lack of enforcement in compliance issues.
 
Research
BLS is the research arm of the Labor Department and the principal fact-finding organization for the federal government in the field of labor economics. It collects and disseminates data on employment and unemployment, price and spending trends, compensation, productivity and health, all of which influences economic and social policymaking and important decisions within business and financial communities. BLS data is used by the business community, industry and labor in economic planning and collective bargaining. BLS data also factors into the development of other federal statistics, such as personal income estimates and Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

 

Wirtz Labor Digital Library

 

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Where Does the Money Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost $14 billion was spent on private and public contractors this decade by the Department of Labor, according to the federal web site, USAspending.gov. The biggest spenders within DOL were the Employment and Training Administration ($10.1 billion), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management ($1.7 billion), Bureau of Labor Statistics ($464 million), Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation ($439 million) and the Employment Standards Administration ($300 million)

 
DOL paid for a variety of services related to job training for workers, including costs associated with regional offices staffed by private companies that implement Labor programs. One example is the Job Corps, designed to help disadvantaged youths gain a foothold in the job market. The Job Corps operates largely through offices scattered around the country that are mostly operated by four companies: Management and Training Corporation, MINACT, Res-Care and Career Systems Development Corporation.
 
Those companies receiving the most money from the Labor Department from 2000-2008 were:
Management and Training Corporation
$2,188,077,620
Res-Care
$1,152,404,629
Owl International
$767,086,291
Minact
$593,797,980
Adams and Associates
$477,511,853
Exodyne
$428,704,562
Northrop Grumman
$325,193,081
Fluor Corporation
$323,394,152
Foxmar
$205,647,231
User Technology Associates
$199,329,158

 

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Controversies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Administration Weakens Worker Safety Protections

The Bush administration has consistently scaled back OSHA regulations and enforcement efforts. The changes reflect President Bush’s vow to limit new rules and roll back what it considered cumbersome regulations that imposed unnecessary costs on businesses.
 
Under the current administration, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history. It has imposed only one major safety rule, and the only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court. Furthermore, OSHA officials have killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others.
 
Leaders in the Labor Department also scuttled almost 10 years of work to create new health and safety standards designed to stop the spread of tuberculosis in the workplace. During the 1990s, health experts noticed that TB was reappearing with alarming frequency across the United States. Under President Clinton OSHA began writing rules to protect five million people whose jobs put them in special danger of contracting TB, including those who work in hospitals, homeless shelters, prisons and drug treatment centers. During the first three years of President Bush’s term in office, OSHA officials sat on the TB regulations. Then, on the last day of 2003, the administration quietly killed them. 
OSHA Leaves Worker Safety in Hands of Industry (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
Bush Forces a Shift In Regulatory Thrust (by Amy Goldstein and Sarah Cohen, Washington Post)
 
Labor Department Slammed for Poor Oversight of Funds
One of the most important programs that the Labor Department has been charged with operating is President Bush’s High Growth Job Training Initiative, designed to increase high-demand job opportunities for American workers. To implement the program, Labor officials distributed $271 million in grants over seven years to a wide range of private companies, non-profits and governmental agencies.
 
But two audits by the Labor Department’s Inspector General (IG) found that the department made little effort to follow up on how government funds were used. Nor did officials bother to use competitive biding criteria to would-be recipients.
 
Democrats blasted ETA and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. “This report reveals a double insult for American taxpayers—not only did the Bush administration’s Labor Department handpick the organizations to receive DOL grants, but many of those organizations failed to deliver measurable results,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).
Oversight Lax on Labor Grants, Audit Says (by Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post)
 
MSHA Leader Helps Industry
In 2005, the Labor Department’s top official for protecting mine workers stepped down after several years of questionable decision-making. David Lauriski, a former mining company executive, tried unsuccessfully to weaken federal regulations governing coal dust levels in mines. The change would have helped Lauriski’s former company, Energy West Mining Company of Utah, which led other mining companies to oppose the plan.
 
Under Lauriski, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) rescinded more than half a dozen proposals intended to make coal miners’ jobs safer, including steps to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency made it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners said could increase the risk of fire.
 
Shortly before Lauriski resigned, the Labor Department’s Inspector General issued a report that revealed MSHA had improperly awarded no-bid, single-source contracts to companies. Two of those companies had ties to Lauriski and one of his assistants.

MSHA and the Sago Mine Disaster

(by Scott Lilly, Center for American Progress)

 

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Debate:

Revising the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed 1993 during the early years of the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton. Passage of FMLA was regarded as a significant victory for labor organizations and their constituents, who had helped elect Clinton to the White House in 1992.
 
The new law gave employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off unpaid for reasons such as caring for a sick child or family member or being physically unable to perform one’s job. The law also gave protection to workers in the form of guarantees that their jobs would still be available upon returning to work, that their benefits would be reinstated and employers could not retaliate against employees for exercising these rights. Seven million people took FMLA leave in 2005.
 
Business owners lobbied against passage of the FMLA and have sought ever since its passage to rein in its provisions. The latest attempt to do so came in early 2008 when the Department of Labor proposed new regulations supported by Republicans and business leaders. Congressional Democrats with close ties to organized labor criticized the changes, although it was unclear whether they could stop the new rules from going into effect, since the regulations don’t require approval from either the House or Senate to become law.
 
Pro
Labor Department officials and business leaders argue that the new rules are in the best interests of both labor and management because if nothing is done to “clarify” when employees can take unpaid leave, both sides will take a “more adversarial” approach to leave, with workers being hurt the most. Supporters insist the proposal doesn’t overhaul the FMLA but merely “tweaks” several areas in response to numerous court cases and a survey conducted among employers. In that survey, employers indicated that the family leave part of the law was working well but they were vexed by disruptions to their operations caused by medical leave abuses. Currently, about 46% of workers take FMLA leave without giving prior notice, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
 
According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, irresponsible employees have found they can use the act to skip work without consequences since companies cannot punish workers for taking leave under the FMLA. Such workers have claimed FMLA leave to avoid undesirable shifts or to excuse unannounced absences or tardiness. In other cases, employees take FMLA leave for ailments that are far from serious medical conditions. When this happens, their work is often dumped on coworkers or left undone.
Political Posturing Overshadows FMLA Common Ground (by Mark Schoeff, Jr., Workforce Management)
 
Con
To Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the new rules are little more than an attempt by the Bush administration to make it harder for employees to go on leave. They maintain that the regulations would undermine the FMLA. Dodd called the rules “gratuitous” and took particular exception to a proposed change that would allow employers to request a medical recertification for FMLA leave every six months. “If you have diabetes, you have diabetes,” he said. “This is not a condition that comes and goes.” Dodd also raised concerns about potential violation of employee privacy by allowing employers to contact directly a worker’s health care provider.
 
For Kennedy, with the economy teetering on a recession , the changes sent the wrong message. “When so many families are struggling, this is the worst possible time to roll back the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act,” he said.
Leave Rules May Tighten (by Cindy Skrzycki, Washington Post)
Democratic Leaders Oppose Revising FMLA Regulations (by Mark Schoeff, Jr., Workforce Management)
 
A Wise Investment vs. a Waste of Money
For almost as long as it has been around, the Job Corps has sparked debate over the programs’ success and effectiveness. Conservatives and Republican lawmakers have usually been the most focal critics of Job Corps, often calling for reductions if not outright elimination of the program. Democrats and labor representatives have been staunch supporters of the program and have managed to keep it alive even during times of Republican presidencies.
 
For
Supporters of the Job Corps insist the program has been a wise investment of federal dollars over the past 40 years. Their assertions, as echoed in the report, “Does Job Corps Work?” (PDF) are that:
  • Job Corps centers deliver comprehensive and consistent services
  • Job Corps makes a meaningful difference in participants’ educational attainment and earnings
  • The gains from Job Corps are found across most groups of students and types of settings
  • Job Corps is cost-effective: the value of benefits from the program exceed its costs
 
Against
According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, the Job Corps is a waste of money and should be closed down. Despite its lofty goals of helping young people advance their educational and vocational opportunities, the program simply does not produce results in a cost-effective manner.
 
The Heritage Foundation cites results from three sources - the 2001 “National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants’ Employment and Related Outcomes (PDF),” the 2001 “National Job Corps Study: The Benefits and Costs of Job Corps” and the 2003 “National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data (PDF)” - to point out how much is spent to achieve very few results. In fact, the think tank argued that some Job Corps data indicated that the program made things even worse for some participants in terms of income. Citing statistics from the 2003 study, The Heritage Foundation claimed that young women without children who participated in Job Corps earned less money after graduating than similar women who never participated in the program.

Job Corps: A Consistent Record of Failure (by David B. Muhlhausen, Heritage Foundation)

 

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Suggested Reforms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every two years the Advisory Committee on Job Corps examines the Job Corps program and releases its findings in a published report. The committee includes representatives from industry, academia, labor, career technical training, workforce development, faith-based and community organizations, law enforcement and other sectors. Its latest report, published in April 2008, made 22 recommendations of varying importance for Job Corps leaders to consider.

Key recommendations were as follows:
 
Simplify and Streamline OMS
Job Corps’ Outcomes Measurement System (OMS) is designed for Job Corps staff to assess their work in helping students throughout the Career Development Services System. The committee concluded that OMS was “cumbersome, complex and confusing and needs to be revamped.” Advisory members recommended the system be revised to make it “simpler, more streamlined, easier to understand and able to collect pertinent data that supports strategic and tactical decision-making at national, regional, corporate and center levels.”
 
Re-evaluate Common Outcomes Measures
Job Corps’ parent, the Department of Labor, is required by the Office of Management and Budget to collect information that is “not collectible,” causing Job Corps staff to waste time trying to meet OMB requirements. The committee recommended that labor officials find ways to pool information it collects for various reports to reduce the time spent on this activity so more time is available for student outcome improvement.
 
Align Training with Industry and Educational Requirements
Job Corps needs to do a better job of shaping its career and technical education training experiences in order for students to gain the real-world experience they need to compete in the job market. The committee recommended that program officials align Job Corps training with nationally recognized industry standards and educational institution
requirements.

 

Advisory Committee on Job Corps Report 2008 (PDF)

 

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Former Directors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hall of the Secretaries of Labor: Portraits and Biographies

 

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Comments

Barbara 5 months ago
I will keep posting until someone investigates Edison Job Corps. Bully Management has to stop. My son went there to learn and now he is asked to lie on his teacher, why are they trying to get rid of teachers who refuse to hold the students back? My son has been upset all weekend. Does anyone care?
madan subedi 2 years ago
dear sir/madam, i am madan subedi currently residing in 6921 donachie rd e,baltimore md 21239.i was hired as cashier in exxon mobil at 10375 red run blvd. owings mills,md 21117.i was hired to work only sun,mon,wed,fri and sat,and i made my class schedule accordingly.but my boss brought someone on training without informing me and the second day ,he told me not to come to work any more.he is even selling tobacco items without tax,and allowing smugglers stay there and do pa...

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Founded: 1913
Annual Budget: $49 billion
Employees: 16,848
Official Website: http://www.dol.gov/

Department of Labor

Perez, Thomas
Secretary

On March 18, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez to be the Secretary of Labor, succeeding Hilda Solis, who was secretary starting in 2009. Perez has served in the  Department of Justice as assistant attorney general for Civil Rights, the nation’s top civil rights enforcer, since 2009. Senate Republicans have already indicated that they may filibuster Perez, just as they recently did Obama's nominations of John Brennan to CIA and Chuck Hagel to the Defense Department.

 

Born in Buffalo, New York, on October 7, 1961, Thomas Edward Perez was the youngest of four children born to Rafael and Grace (née Brache) Perez, who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic. Rafael, a physician who earned U.S. citizenship by joining the U.S. Army during World War II, practiced medicine at a VA hospital and died when Thomas was 12 years old. His maternal grandfather, Rafael Brache, was the Dominican ambassador to the U.S. until his own government declared him persona non grata for criticizing the regime of President Rafael Trujillo, a notorious dictator. 

 

After graduating from Buffalo's Canisius High School in 1979, Perez earned an A.B. in International Relations and Political Science from Brown University in 1983, a J.D.  from Harvard Law School in 1987, and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1987. At Brown, he worked at the University's dining hall, and at Harvard, he was a law clerk for Attorney General Edwin Meese in 1986. After law school, Perez was a law clerk from 1987 to 1989 for Judge Zita L. Weinshienk in Colorado.  

 

Following his two-year clerkship term, Perez went to work at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC. From 1989 to 1995, he prosecuted federal criminal civil rights cases involving police misconduct and hate crimes. He was an instructor at the Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute, and also provided training to law enforcement officers, in the United States and abroad, on how to prevent police misconduct. He was heavily involved in Department efforts to combat racial profiling, including the successful prosecution of a high profile hate crimes case in Lubbock, Texas, where the defendants went on a fatal, racial-motivated crime spree directed at African-Americans.

 

Leaving the Justice Department in 1995, Perez was special counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) from 1995 to 1998, serving as his principal adviser on civil rights, criminal justice, and several constitutional issues. Perez was involved in the successful passage of the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, and in the development of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

 

Returning to the Justice Department, Perez served as deputy assistant attorney general for Civil Rights from January 1998 to February 1999, where he assisted in policy development and oversight of the litigation at the Civil Rights Division. He played a major role in the establishment of the Worker Exploitation Task Force, an interagency working group designed to combat the unconscionable exploitation of vulnerable immigrants, often in conditions amounting to slavery.

 

From February 1999 until the conclusion of the Clinton administration in early 2001, Perez served as director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he oversaw the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the health and human services setting and was Secretary Donna Shalala’s principal adviser on civil rights issues. During Perez’s tenure, OCR played a major role in the Department’s efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health, the subject of an article Perez subsequently published, in which he argued that ethnic and racial discrimination played a major role in undermining the health of minority groups.

 

A Democrat in a politically appointed position, Perez found himself out of work after the election of President George W. Bush. In April 2001, he was appointed assistant professor and director of Clinical Law Programs at the University of Maryland Law School, where he taught clinical law courses and oversaw the Law School’s clinical law programs until 2006.

 

A resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, Perez was elected to the Montgomery County Council in 2002, serving as council president in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, he ran for the Democratic nomination to be Maryland Attorney General, but his bid was eventually rejected by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which ruled that he had not practiced law in the state for long enough to qualify for the post. In January 2007, he entered Maryland state government, when he was appointed acting secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, a position that became permanent in March 2007, and which he held until his appointment to the Justice Department in 2009.

 

Among the private organizations in which Perez has been involved are the Latino-based service and advocacy organization Casa de Maryland, on whose board of directors he sat from 1995 to 2002, and the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Health Professions, a bipartisan group addressing the lack of minority representation in the health professions. In late 2008, Perez was appointed a member of the Agency Review Team of the Obama-Biden Transition.

 

Perez donated $1,250 to Democratic candidates and causes between 2004 and 2008. 

 

Perez and his wife, Anne-Marie Staudenmaier, an attorney with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, have three children. 

 

To Learn More:

Perez has the Track Record to Lead Labor Department (by William G. Robertson and Ronald R. Peterson, The Hill)

Obama's Labor Nominee Faces GOP Opposition Over His Role In A Supreme Court Case (by Carrie Johnson, NPR)

Thomas E. Perez: Prevailing Wage Lifts Workers, Sets Example for Employers (by Thomas E. Perez)

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Solis, Hilda
Previous Secretary

Born on October 20, 1957, Hilda Solis was raised in La Puente, California in the San Gabriel. Her father, Raúl Solis, an immigrant from Mexico, has worked as a Teamster helping to organize employees in both Mexico and the US. Her mother, Juana, who was born in Nicaragua, worked on an assembly line for Mattel Inc. for 22 years. The third of seven children, Solis was the first member of her family to attend college, graduating from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a BA in political science (1979). She later earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California (1981).

 
While attending grad school, Solis interned in the White House Office of Hispanic Affairs during the latter days of the Carter administration. She went to work as a management analyst in the civil rights division of the Office of Management and Budget, but soon left after Ronald Reagan became president.
 
Solis returned to Los Angeles and became director of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program, which sought to help disadvantaged youths gain entry into college.
 
Solis was first elected to public office in 1985 as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees. By 1991 she had become a protégé of LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who appointed Solis to the Los Angeles County Commission on Insurance. With Molina’s powerful backing, Solis successfully ran for the Democratic nomination to represent the California State Assembly’s 57th district in 1992. Two years later, State Senator Art Torres gave up his seat to run for state Insurance Commissioner, opening the way for Solis to become the first Latina elected to the California Senate. She easily won re-election in 1998, but thanks to the state’s term limits law, could not run again for the Legislature’s upper house.
 
In 2000, Solis gambled and challenged longtime Democratic Congressman Matthew Martinez for the party’s nomination to represent California’s 31st Congressional District. Martinez, an 18-year veteran of Capitol Hill, had earned the ire of organized labor when he supported the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), prompting complaints from locals and some Democrats. During her campaign against Martinez, Solis enjoyed the support of labor unions, US Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, along with Martinez’s sister, Helen Lujan. She went on to easily beat the incumbent in the Democratic primary by almost 40 points, and also won the general election without difficulty due to the district’s lopsided registration favoring Democrats. 
 
Following the 2000 reapportionment, Solis’ seat became the 32nd Congressional District, which includes Azusa, Baldwin Park, Covina, Duarte, El Monte, Irwindale, Rosemead, South El Monte, West Covina and portions of Monterey Park and East Los Angeles. She held the primarily Hispanic seat until getting the nod to be the next Secretary of Labor.
 
Solis’ Congressional duties have involved serving as the first Latina on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which included being vice chair of the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials and a member of the Health and Telecommunications Subcommittees. Solis also served on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. In addition, she served as co-vice chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, as a senior whip and a regional whip for Southern California, as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health and the Environment Task Force, and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
 
Outside of Congress, Solis has served on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), including being vice chair of the Helsinki Commission’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. Solis also served as part of the Mexico–United States Interparliamentary Group.
 
Throughout her political career, Solis has established herself as a liberal Democrat focused on issues such as affordable health care, protecting the environment, and supporting organized labor. Her signature labor bill while in Congress was the so-called “green jobs” act of 2007, which provided funding for such jobs as energy efficiency retrofit and service, green building construction, and solar panel installation. While serving in the California Senate, she helped raise the state minimum wage in 1996 from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour. She is the only member of Congress on the board of the pro-labor American Rights at Work  Solis has a 93% lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO as a Congressional representative, and a 96% liberal rating by National Journal.
 
During the 2008 presidential primary campaign, Solis was a superdelegate committed to Hilary Clinton until Clinton withdrew.
 
Solis was sworn in as Secretary of Labor on March 13, 2009.
 
Calif. Congresswoman Solis Tapped to Head Labor (by Alec MacGillis, Washington Post)
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Overview

The Department of Labor (DOL) is in charge of programs and laws that cover all facets of employment and work affecting 125 million workers and 10 million businesses. DOL administers federal labor laws covering workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions, a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, freedom from employment discrimination, unemployment insurance and other income support. Altogether the department enforces more than 180 federal laws, including such landmark legislation as the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. But the Labor Department has at times lost its way in helping the working man and woman, often during Republican administrations that have favored the interests of big business. The administration of George W. Bush has been no different, thanks to the questionable leadership of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

 

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History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Labor (DOL) was established in 1913 in response to years of lobbying by organized labor for a voice in the federal government that would improve the welfare of working people. Initially, the department consisted of the new US Conciliation Service (USCS), which mediated labor disputes, and four pre-existing bureaus: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bureau of Immigration, the Bureau of Naturalization and the Children’s Bureau. The first Secretary of Labor was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson, who selected Scottish-born Congressman William B. Wilson, a founder and former secretary-treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America.

           
When the US became involved in World War I, issues of war production, working conditions and labor peace took on great urgency. DOL assumed the major responsibility for implementing the nation’s war labor policies, which included recognition of the right of workers to bargain collectively, establishment of procedures to address grievances and an 8-hour workday.
 
After the war ended, the nation struggled to cope with labor-management conflicts that produced numerous strikes which threatened to paralyze the post-war economy. At the same time, a nationwide “Red Scare” led to a series of government raids resulting in the arrests of thousands of “dangerous” aliens accused of being Communists. The Justice Department demanded that DOL’s Bureau of Immigration deport all suspect immigrants, but Labor officials balked at the demands. As it was, more than 500 Communists were deported.
 
The 1920s and early 1930s were dominated by Republican administrations that were sympathetic to businesses. President Warren Harding appointed as secretary James Davis, who had attained national prominence as a charitable fund raiser. Although Davis was a union member, the department followed a neutral course toward organized labor and focused on other areas. Administration of a series of new, restrictive immigration laws and deportation of undesirable aliens became its main functions. DOL also expanded the activities of the Children’s Bureau and led the unsuccessful fight for a constitutional amendment limiting child labor. The employment service directed seasonal farm workers to areas of labor shortage, while the Women’s Bureau promoted the welfare of working women, primarily through information dissemination.
 
The department did little to help unemployed workers cope with the Depression under Labor Secretary William Doak, an official with the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. Doak’s successor, Frances Perkins, the first woman ever to serve in a presidential cabinet, followed Franklin Roosevelt from New York, where FDR had served as governor. Perkins had served as Commissioner of Labor and had developed plans to alleviate unemployment as the Depression deepened. She survived a politically motivated impeachment attempt over her refusal to deport Communist labor leader Harry Bridges and served until shortly after FDR died in April 1945.
 
Under Perkins’ leadership, DOL disbanded a special corps within the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization devoted to deportation of aliens. Perkins next helped set up the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which sent young, unemployed men from the cities to work on conservation projects in rural areas at a dollar a day. She played a major role in the design of many of the other economic assistance and social programs of the New Deal, but her main contribution was in the enactment of Social Security in 1935.
 
A number of New Deal programs directly involved the Department of Labor. The Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 revitalized the existing US Employment Service (USES) and established a nationwide system of employment offices. The USES also provided placement and recruitment for the unemployed and later helped administer Unemployment Insurance (UI) under the Social Security Act. The Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act of 1936 required that firms manufacturing goods for the government establish an 8-hour day and assure that the work would be done under safe and healthful conditions. It also authorized the Secretary of Labor to set minimum wages based on locally prevailing rates.
 
When Harry Truman succeeded FDR in April 1945, Perkins resigned voluntarily. Truman then appointed Lewis Schwellenbach, a federal judge and former US Senator, to carry the “Fair Deal” program forward at the Department of Labor. But new proposals struggled to move forward as the economy suffered under high inflation and many industries endured labor strikes. Reaction to the strikes led to the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which Schwellenbach opposed. As a result, the USCS was reconstituted outside the department as the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). Congress also ordered severe budget cuts for DOL, which critics viewed as pro-union. The hardest hit agency was the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which suffered a draconian 40% reduction in its staff.
 
When Schwellenbach died in office in June 1948, he was succeeded by Maurice Tobin, a popular governor of Massachusetts. With Tobin’s help, Truman won his surprising reelection in 1948, and the department won back its lost revenues from the budget cuts. Tobin transferred several dispersed labor functions into the department, including the USES, which had been removed in 1939. Congress also gave the secretary direct authority over the traditionally independent bureau heads. During the Korean War, DOL played a major role in mobilizing for defense production. In the process it began to deal with the need to raise the educational levels of workers and make better use of the capacities of women, older workers and minorities.
 
In 1953 President Eisenhower appointed as Secretary of Labor Martin Durkin, a Democrat and president of the plumbers and steamfitters union. The unions took Durkin’s appointment as a sign that the new administration was open to changing the hated Taft-Hartley Act. Durkin drew up amendments to the act, but when Eisenhower refused to support them, Durkin resigned in protest in September 1953.
 
Eisenhower replaced Durkin with James Mitchell, vice president in charge of labor relations and operations at a New York department store. Mitchell served during a period of high prosperity and low unemployment. He continued Durkin’s quest for organizational improvement, establishing himself as the administration’s representative for all federal agencies concerned with labor and reducing the overlapping of functions. In 1958 Congress authorized the department to enforce safety and health standards to protect workers in long-shoring and harbor work, and Mitchell headed a commission that investigated and publicized the problems of migrant farm workers
 
In 1961 President John Kennedy appointed Arthur Goldberg, special counsel to the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, as his Secretary of Labor. Goldberg became involved in a wide range of social and cultural issues. He regularly acted to settle or prevent strikes, particularly in the aerospace and transportation industries, and he abolished segregation in the department.
 
When Goldberg left the department to become a Supreme Court justice, he was succeeded by Under Secretary Willard Wirtz, a former labor lawyer and law professor active in Democratic politics. Under Wirtz, the department developed a wide range of programs to meet the social and economic goals of the President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty,” and it established the Manpower Administration to coordinate these programs.
 
During the Nixon and Ford Administrations a succession of five secretaries carried out policies of restructuring parts of the Great Society and decentralizing federal labor programs. George Shultz, an academic economist with special expertise in labor issues, was President Nixon’s first appointee and helped formulate the administration’s economic policies. He was succeeded by his Under Secretary, James Hodgson, former vice president for industrial relations with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Hodgson departed involuntarily after Nixon’s reelection and was succeeded by Peter Brennan, a unionist from the New York City building trades who had supported Nixon’s Vietnam War policies. Brennan was replaced by President Ford with John Dunlop, an academic labor economist and longtime government advisor. He served less than a year, resigning when President Ford vetoed a labor bill whose passage Dunlop had supported. Ford’s second appointee was Willie Usery, another unionist working in the department.
 
In January 1977 Jimmy Carter succeeded Gerald Ford. His primary domestic goal was to stimulate the economy and create jobs for the unemployed. He selected Ray Marshall, a labor economist at the University of Texas specializing in unemployment and minority group issues, to lead DOL. Marshall helped develop an economic stimulus program that included an expanded Job Corps.
 
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), created under Nixon, came under intense attack by 1977, and Marshall quickly instituted a “common sense priorities” program to focus on serious dangers, simplify safety and health regulations and help small businesses reduce occupational hazards. Enforcement became much stricter, safety standards were simplified, and tough health standards were issued for benzene, cotton dust, lead and other hazards. In addition, OSHA issued an innovative generic cancer policy which regulated a whole class of cancer-causing substances at once. In 1978 OSHA was joined by a sister agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), consisting largely of functions transferred from the Interior Department.
 
In January 1981 Ronald Reagan became president with a domestic agenda for economic recovery that emphasized reduced government domestic spending and relief for business from burdensome government rules. To carry out these programs at DOL, Reagan appointed as secretary Raymond Donovan, vice president of a construction company in New Jersey, who had been active in Reagan’s presidential campaign. One of Donovan’s primary goal was regulatory relief, and OSHA was the lead target in this effort. He immediately froze rules proposed during the Carter administration and sought to weaken existing standards to make them less costly for business. However, because of the complexity of rule-making procedures, existing rules proved difficult to change. OSHA adopted a less punitive approach to enforcement and encouraged voluntary compliance. MSHA and other regulatory agencies followed similar deregulatory policies.
 
Donovan was replaced by William Brock, the US Trade Representative and a former senator. The department began to focus on both long and short-term employment and training policies. It initiated a “Work Force in the Year 2000” project to help make plans to meet future skilled labor needs. It also cooperated with the broadcast industry in Project Literacy US.
 
After Brock departed, Reagan selected Ann Dore McLaughlin, who had served as assistant secretary of the treasury and under secretary of the interior. During her brief tenure, McLaughlin sought to reconcile demands of work and family life largely through non-governmental means, establishing a Commission on Workforce Quality and Labor Market Efficiency. President George H. W. Bush was then elected, ushering in Elizabeth Dole, who had held several high government positions and was the wife of Senate Republican Leader Robert Dole. Although Dole resigned in 1990, she set the main policies that guided the department until the end of the Bush Administration. She was succeeded by Lynn Morley Martin, a former member of Congress.
 
In January 1993, President Bill Clinton, who was elected on a platform of “Putting People First” and reinvigorating the economy, appointed Robert Reich secretary of labor,. A Harvard professor, author and radio and television commentator, Reich had previously served in the Justice Department and on the Federal Trade Commission. Under his leadership, the Labor Department focused on building up the skills of American workers. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act, enacted in 1994, was designed to ease the transition from secondary education to employment for those who don’t graduate from college. Goals 2000: Educate America Act established a national system of skill standards to certify that workers had the skills that employers needed. States were given funds to establish one-stop career centers, linking unemployment insurance, job counseling and access to job training.
 
Reich left the administration in 1997 and was succeeded by Alexis Herman, a labor relations specialist who worked in the White House before taking over DOL. Herman facilitated negotiations between UPS management and Teamsters union leaders, ending a ten day strike. Under her leadership, DOL concentrated on retooling departmental skills programs into a simpler, more efficient system, giving working people needed skills to succeed in the new economy, moving people from welfare to work and working with disadvantaged youth through the Youth Opportunity program.
 
After the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Elaine Chao became the Secretary of Labor. Chao has been the longest serving member of President Bush’s cabinet, while running a department that has been become heavily pro-business.

 

History of the Department of Labor, 1913-1988

 

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What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Department of Labor (DOL) is in charge of programs and laws that cover all facets of employment and work. DOL administers federal labor laws covering workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions, a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, freedom from employment discrimination, unemployment insurance and other income support.

 
Altogether the department enforces more than 180 federal laws. These mandates cover workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. A sampling of the major laws that the department enforces are: The Fair Labor Standards Act, which prescribes standards for wages and overtime pay; the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act ,which details safety and health conditions in most private industries; the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates employers who offer pension or welfare benefit plans for their employees; and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which regulates the hiring and employment activities of agricultural employers, farm labor contractors and associations using migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.
 
The Labor Department’s key offices are:
 
Jobs and Training
A key element within the Department of Labor, ETA promotes job-training initiatives and programs across the country. ETA’s largest task is to distribute funding that helps Americans receive employment training, either as first-time workers or those transitioning into new lines of work as a result of job displacement. One such program advocated by the Bush administration resulted in ETA distributing millions of dollars in grants without competition or oversight by labor officials, resulting in criticism from Congress and government auditors.
 
One of the oldest social programs in the federal government today, the Job Corps tries to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds complete their high school education and get a good start in the working world. The program has trained and educated two million individuals since it was first established during the Great Society era of the 1960s. Job Corps participants receive not only job assistance and education but also room and board during their time in the program, which can last up to two years. In spite of its altruistic mission, the Job Corps has long been a source of debate between liberals and conservatives over the program’s continuation and funding.
 
ODEP oversees the government’s development of disability employment policies to improve employment opportunities for the disabled in the workplace. It furnishes employers with tools and technical assistance, along with ideas and relevant updated labor market data and to revamp their beliefs regarding who they may choose to employ. Additionally, ODEP provides practical and beneficial ways and reasons to hire the disabled, coordinates and strategizes with staffs from other federal agencies, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that also are involved with matters related to employment. In addition, ODEP helps prepare the disabled with skills that will be specifically valuable in the present job market.     
 
VETS provides resources and services to help veterans locate grants, training and employment opportunities so they can return to a job after completion of military service. It carries out this mission through a variety of financial plans and policies for veterans and employers, including: e-VETS Resource Advisor, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program, the Recovery and Employment Assistance Lifelines initiative, USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994), Federal Veterans Preference Enforcement and the Vets Guide to Competitive and Discretionary Grants.
 
Working Conditions
ESA enforces compliance and monitors laws governing legally mandated equal employment opportunity, minimum wages and working conditions. ESA works with employers by giving technical assistance and training regarding proper administration of laws, including nondiscrimination, affirmative action, workers’ compensation, labor union standards, minimum wage, overtime and child labor.
 
OSHA develops and enforces government standards geared towards protecting workers on the job. OSHA also provides training and education to employers and employees on ways to improve health and safety in the workplace. Most industries and employment sectors come under OSHA regulations, with the exception of miners, transportation workers, many public employees and the self-employed. OSHA makes available to the public a wide range of data and statistics regarding health and safety in the workplace. Also, OSHA employs inspectors who look into allegations of health and safety violations by employers and is supposed to levy fines in cases where employers have been found guilty of violations. Several Republican administrations, including that of President George W. Bush, have worked to lessen the regulatory power of OSHA and turn its mandatory worker-safety programs into voluntary-based efforts by employers.
 
MSHA is the Department of Labor’s lead agency for protecting workers in the American mining industry. With a jurisdiction covering 12,700 metal and nonmetal mines and 2,100 coal mines, MSHA is charged with enforcing safety regulations that are designed to eliminate work-related accidents and health hazards. Despite its mandate to protect mine workers, MSHA has compromised mine safety as a result of its actions during the administration of President George W. Bush, which has appointed agency leaders from the ranks of mining companies.
 
Pensions
PBGC is a non-profit, federal corporation that protects retirement incomes of 44 million American workers enrolled in more than 30,000 private-sector pension plans. About 1.3 million people receive their pensions from PBGC even though their companies may no longer be in business. The agency was designed to be self-sufficient, funded not through taxpayer dollars, but by premiums paid by plan sponsors, earnings from invested assets, recoveries from terminated sponsors and assets collected from terminated plans. However, there is currently a $19 billion gap between the agency’s corporate liabilities and the actual assets of PBGC. The good news: In 2007, PBGC was ranked the best place to work in the federal government by the Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation.
 
EBSA is the primary agency responsible for protecting private pension plan participants and beneficiaries from the abuse or theft of their pension assets through the enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Because private sector pensions are second only to Social Security in providing individuals’ retirement income, effective oversight of the private pension industry's management of these assets is critical to ensure the economic security of workers, retirees and their families. Yet, the ESBA has been criticized for failure in protecting the people from fiduciary interests, as well as for its lack of enforcement in compliance issues.
 
Research
BLS is the research arm of the Labor Department and the principal fact-finding organization for the federal government in the field of labor economics. It collects and disseminates data on employment and unemployment, price and spending trends, compensation, productivity and health, all of which influences economic and social policymaking and important decisions within business and financial communities. BLS data is used by the business community, industry and labor in economic planning and collective bargaining. BLS data also factors into the development of other federal statistics, such as personal income estimates and Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

 

Wirtz Labor Digital Library

 

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Where Does the Money Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost $14 billion was spent on private and public contractors this decade by the Department of Labor, according to the federal web site, USAspending.gov. The biggest spenders within DOL were the Employment and Training Administration ($10.1 billion), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management ($1.7 billion), Bureau of Labor Statistics ($464 million), Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation ($439 million) and the Employment Standards Administration ($300 million)

 
DOL paid for a variety of services related to job training for workers, including costs associated with regional offices staffed by private companies that implement Labor programs. One example is the Job Corps, designed to help disadvantaged youths gain a foothold in the job market. The Job Corps operates largely through offices scattered around the country that are mostly operated by four companies: Management and Training Corporation, MINACT, Res-Care and Career Systems Development Corporation.
 
Those companies receiving the most money from the Labor Department from 2000-2008 were:
Management and Training Corporation
$2,188,077,620
Res-Care
$1,152,404,629
Owl International
$767,086,291
Minact
$593,797,980
Adams and Associates
$477,511,853
Exodyne
$428,704,562
Northrop Grumman
$325,193,081
Fluor Corporation
$323,394,152
Foxmar
$205,647,231
User Technology Associates
$199,329,158

 

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Controversies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Administration Weakens Worker Safety Protections

The Bush administration has consistently scaled back OSHA regulations and enforcement efforts. The changes reflect President Bush’s vow to limit new rules and roll back what it considered cumbersome regulations that imposed unnecessary costs on businesses.
 
Under the current administration, OSHA has issued the fewest significant standards in its history. It has imposed only one major safety rule, and the only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court. Furthermore, OSHA officials have killed dozens of existing and proposed regulations and delayed adopting others.
 
Leaders in the Labor Department also scuttled almost 10 years of work to create new health and safety standards designed to stop the spread of tuberculosis in the workplace. During the 1990s, health experts noticed that TB was reappearing with alarming frequency across the United States. Under President Clinton OSHA began writing rules to protect five million people whose jobs put them in special danger of contracting TB, including those who work in hospitals, homeless shelters, prisons and drug treatment centers. During the first three years of President Bush’s term in office, OSHA officials sat on the TB regulations. Then, on the last day of 2003, the administration quietly killed them. 
OSHA Leaves Worker Safety in Hands of Industry (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
Bush Forces a Shift In Regulatory Thrust (by Amy Goldstein and Sarah Cohen, Washington Post)
 
Labor Department Slammed for Poor Oversight of Funds
One of the most important programs that the Labor Department has been charged with operating is President Bush’s High Growth Job Training Initiative, designed to increase high-demand job opportunities for American workers. To implement the program, Labor officials distributed $271 million in grants over seven years to a wide range of private companies, non-profits and governmental agencies.
 
But two audits by the Labor Department’s Inspector General (IG) found that the department made little effort to follow up on how government funds were used. Nor did officials bother to use competitive biding criteria to would-be recipients.
 
Democrats blasted ETA and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. “This report reveals a double insult for American taxpayers—not only did the Bush administration’s Labor Department handpick the organizations to receive DOL grants, but many of those organizations failed to deliver measurable results,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).
Oversight Lax on Labor Grants, Audit Says (by Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post)
 
MSHA Leader Helps Industry
In 2005, the Labor Department’s top official for protecting mine workers stepped down after several years of questionable decision-making. David Lauriski, a former mining company executive, tried unsuccessfully to weaken federal regulations governing coal dust levels in mines. The change would have helped Lauriski’s former company, Energy West Mining Company of Utah, which led other mining companies to oppose the plan.
 
Under Lauriski, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) rescinded more than half a dozen proposals intended to make coal miners’ jobs safer, including steps to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency made it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners said could increase the risk of fire.
 
Shortly before Lauriski resigned, the Labor Department’s Inspector General issued a report that revealed MSHA had improperly awarded no-bid, single-source contracts to companies. Two of those companies had ties to Lauriski and one of his assistants.

MSHA and the Sago Mine Disaster

(by Scott Lilly, Center for American Progress)

 

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Debate:

Revising the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed 1993 during the early years of the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton. Passage of FMLA was regarded as a significant victory for labor organizations and their constituents, who had helped elect Clinton to the White House in 1992.
 
The new law gave employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off unpaid for reasons such as caring for a sick child or family member or being physically unable to perform one’s job. The law also gave protection to workers in the form of guarantees that their jobs would still be available upon returning to work, that their benefits would be reinstated and employers could not retaliate against employees for exercising these rights. Seven million people took FMLA leave in 2005.
 
Business owners lobbied against passage of the FMLA and have sought ever since its passage to rein in its provisions. The latest attempt to do so came in early 2008 when the Department of Labor proposed new regulations supported by Republicans and business leaders. Congressional Democrats with close ties to organized labor criticized the changes, although it was unclear whether they could stop the new rules from going into effect, since the regulations don’t require approval from either the House or Senate to become law.
 
Pro
Labor Department officials and business leaders argue that the new rules are in the best interests of both labor and management because if nothing is done to “clarify” when employees can take unpaid leave, both sides will take a “more adversarial” approach to leave, with workers being hurt the most. Supporters insist the proposal doesn’t overhaul the FMLA but merely “tweaks” several areas in response to numerous court cases and a survey conducted among employers. In that survey, employers indicated that the family leave part of the law was working well but they were vexed by disruptions to their operations caused by medical leave abuses. Currently, about 46% of workers take FMLA leave without giving prior notice, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
 
According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, irresponsible employees have found they can use the act to skip work without consequences since companies cannot punish workers for taking leave under the FMLA. Such workers have claimed FMLA leave to avoid undesirable shifts or to excuse unannounced absences or tardiness. In other cases, employees take FMLA leave for ailments that are far from serious medical conditions. When this happens, their work is often dumped on coworkers or left undone.
Political Posturing Overshadows FMLA Common Ground (by Mark Schoeff, Jr., Workforce Management)
 
Con
To Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the new rules are little more than an attempt by the Bush administration to make it harder for employees to go on leave. They maintain that the regulations would undermine the FMLA. Dodd called the rules “gratuitous” and took particular exception to a proposed change that would allow employers to request a medical recertification for FMLA leave every six months. “If you have diabetes, you have diabetes,” he said. “This is not a condition that comes and goes.” Dodd also raised concerns about potential violation of employee privacy by allowing employers to contact directly a worker’s health care provider.
 
For Kennedy, with the economy teetering on a recession , the changes sent the wrong message. “When so many families are struggling, this is the worst possible time to roll back the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act,” he said.
Leave Rules May Tighten (by Cindy Skrzycki, Washington Post)
Democratic Leaders Oppose Revising FMLA Regulations (by Mark Schoeff, Jr., Workforce Management)
 
A Wise Investment vs. a Waste of Money
For almost as long as it has been around, the Job Corps has sparked debate over the programs’ success and effectiveness. Conservatives and Republican lawmakers have usually been the most focal critics of Job Corps, often calling for reductions if not outright elimination of the program. Democrats and labor representatives have been staunch supporters of the program and have managed to keep it alive even during times of Republican presidencies.
 
For
Supporters of the Job Corps insist the program has been a wise investment of federal dollars over the past 40 years. Their assertions, as echoed in the report, “Does Job Corps Work?” (PDF) are that:
  • Job Corps centers deliver comprehensive and consistent services
  • Job Corps makes a meaningful difference in participants’ educational attainment and earnings
  • The gains from Job Corps are found across most groups of students and types of settings
  • Job Corps is cost-effective: the value of benefits from the program exceed its costs
 
Against
According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, the Job Corps is a waste of money and should be closed down. Despite its lofty goals of helping young people advance their educational and vocational opportunities, the program simply does not produce results in a cost-effective manner.
 
The Heritage Foundation cites results from three sources - the 2001 “National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants’ Employment and Related Outcomes (PDF),” the 2001 “National Job Corps Study: The Benefits and Costs of Job Corps” and the 2003 “National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data (PDF)” - to point out how much is spent to achieve very few results. In fact, the think tank argued that some Job Corps data indicated that the program made things even worse for some participants in terms of income. Citing statistics from the 2003 study, The Heritage Foundation claimed that young women without children who participated in Job Corps earned less money after graduating than similar women who never participated in the program.

Job Corps: A Consistent Record of Failure (by David B. Muhlhausen, Heritage Foundation)

 

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Suggested Reforms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every two years the Advisory Committee on Job Corps examines the Job Corps program and releases its findings in a published report. The committee includes representatives from industry, academia, labor, career technical training, workforce development, faith-based and community organizations, law enforcement and other sectors. Its latest report, published in April 2008, made 22 recommendations of varying importance for Job Corps leaders to consider.

Key recommendations were as follows:
 
Simplify and Streamline OMS
Job Corps’ Outcomes Measurement System (OMS) is designed for Job Corps staff to assess their work in helping students throughout the Career Development Services System. The committee concluded that OMS was “cumbersome, complex and confusing and needs to be revamped.” Advisory members recommended the system be revised to make it “simpler, more streamlined, easier to understand and able to collect pertinent data that supports strategic and tactical decision-making at national, regional, corporate and center levels.”
 
Re-evaluate Common Outcomes Measures
Job Corps’ parent, the Department of Labor, is required by the Office of Management and Budget to collect information that is “not collectible,” causing Job Corps staff to waste time trying to meet OMB requirements. The committee recommended that labor officials find ways to pool information it collects for various reports to reduce the time spent on this activity so more time is available for student outcome improvement.
 
Align Training with Industry and Educational Requirements
Job Corps needs to do a better job of shaping its career and technical education training experiences in order for students to gain the real-world experience they need to compete in the job market. The committee recommended that program officials align Job Corps training with nationally recognized industry standards and educational institution
requirements.

 

Advisory Committee on Job Corps Report 2008 (PDF)

 

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Former Directors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hall of the Secretaries of Labor: Portraits and Biographies

 

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Comments

Barbara 5 months ago
I will keep posting until someone investigates Edison Job Corps. Bully Management has to stop. My son went there to learn and now he is asked to lie on his teacher, why are they trying to get rid of teachers who refuse to hold the students back? My son has been upset all weekend. Does anyone care?
madan subedi 2 years ago
dear sir/madam, i am madan subedi currently residing in 6921 donachie rd e,baltimore md 21239.i was hired as cashier in exxon mobil at 10375 red run blvd. owings mills,md 21117.i was hired to work only sun,mon,wed,fri and sat,and i made my class schedule accordingly.but my boss brought someone on training without informing me and the second day ,he told me not to come to work any more.he is even selling tobacco items without tax,and allowing smugglers stay there and do pa...

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Founded: 1913
Annual Budget: $49 billion
Employees: 16,848
Official Website: http://www.dol.gov/

Department of Labor

Perez, Thomas
Secretary

On March 18, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez to be the Secretary of Labor, succeeding Hilda Solis, who was secretary starting in 2009. Perez has served in the  Department of Justice as assistant attorney general for Civil Rights, the nation’s top civil rights enforcer, since 2009. Senate Republicans have already indicated that they may filibuster Perez, just as they recently did Obama's nominations of John Brennan to CIA and Chuck Hagel to the Defense Department.

 

Born in Buffalo, New York, on October 7, 1961, Thomas Edward Perez was the youngest of four children born to Rafael and Grace (née Brache) Perez, who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic. Rafael, a physician who earned U.S. citizenship by joining the U.S. Army during World War II, practiced medicine at a VA hospital and died when Thomas was 12 years old. His maternal grandfather, Rafael Brache, was the Dominican ambassador to the U.S. until his own government declared him persona non grata for criticizing the regime of President Rafael Trujillo, a notorious dictator. 

 

After graduating from Buffalo's Canisius High School in 1979, Perez earned an A.B. in International Relations and Political Science from Brown University in 1983, a J.D.  from Harvard Law School in 1987, and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1987. At Brown, he worked at the University's dining hall, and at Harvard, he was a law clerk for Attorney General Edwin Meese in 1986. After law school, Perez was a law clerk from 1987 to 1989 for Judge Zita L. Weinshienk in Colorado.  

 

Following his two-year clerkship term, Perez went to work at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC. From 1989 to 1995, he prosecuted federal criminal civil rights cases involving police misconduct and hate crimes. He was an instructor at the Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute, and also provided training to law enforcement officers, in the United States and abroad, on how to prevent police misconduct. He was heavily involved in Department efforts to combat racial profiling, including the successful prosecution of a high profile hate crimes case in Lubbock, Texas, where the defendants went on a fatal, racial-motivated crime spree directed at African-Americans.

 

Leaving the Justice Department in 1995, Perez was special counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) from 1995 to 1998, serving as his principal adviser on civil rights, criminal justice, and several constitutional issues. Perez was involved in the successful passage of the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, and in the development of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

 

Returning to the Justice Department, Perez served as deputy assistant attorney general for Civil Rights from January 1998 to February 1999, where he assisted in policy development and oversight of the litigation at the Civil Rights Division. He played a major role in the establishment of the Worker Exploitation Task Force, an interagency working group designed to combat the unconscionable exploitation of vulnerable immigrants, often in conditions amounting to slavery.

 

From February 1999 until the conclusion of the Clinton administration in early 2001, Perez served as director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he oversaw the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the health and human services setting and was Secretary Donna Shalala’s principal adviser on civil rights issues. During Perez’s tenure, OCR played a major role in the Department’s efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health, the subject of an article Perez subsequently published, in which he argued that ethnic and racial discrimination played a major role in undermining the health of minority groups.

 

A Democrat in a politically appointed position, Perez found himself out of work after the election of President George W. Bush. In April 2001, he was appointed assistant professor and director of Clinical Law Programs at the University of Maryland Law School, where he taught clinical law courses and oversaw the Law School’s clinical law programs until 2006.

 

A resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, Perez was elected to the Montgomery County Council in 2002, serving as council president in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, he ran for the Democratic nomination to be Maryland Attorney General, but his bid was eventually rejected by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which ruled that he had not practiced law in the state for long enough to qualify for the post. In January 2007, he entered Maryland state government, when he was appointed acting secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, a position that became permanent in March 2007, and which he held until his appointment to the Justice Department in 2009.

 

Among the private organizations in which Perez has been involved are the Latino-based service and advocacy organization Casa de Maryland, on whose board of directors he sat from 1995 to 2002, and the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Health Professions, a bipartisan group addressing the lack of minority representation in the health professions. In late 2008, Perez was appointed a member of the Agency Review Team of the Obama-Biden Transition.

 

Perez donated $1,250 to Democratic candidates and causes between 2004 and 2008. 

 

Perez and his wife, Anne-Marie Staudenmaier, an attorney with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, have three children. 

 

To Learn More:

Perez has the Track Record to Lead Labor Department (by William G. Robertson and Ronald R. Peterson, The Hill)

Obama's Labor Nominee Faces GOP Opposition Over His Role In A Supreme Court Case (by Carrie Johnson, NPR)

Thomas E. Perez: Prevailing Wage Lifts Workers, Sets Example for Employers (by Thomas E. Perez)

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Solis, Hilda
Previous Secretary

Born on October 20, 1957, Hilda Solis was raised in La Puente, California in the San Gabriel. Her father, Raúl Solis, an immigrant from Mexico, has worked as a Teamster helping to organize employees in both Mexico and the US. Her mother, Juana, who was born in Nicaragua, worked on an assembly line for Mattel Inc. for 22 years. The third of seven children, Solis was the first member of her family to attend college, graduating from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a BA in political science (1979). She later earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California (1981).

 
While attending grad school, Solis interned in the White House Office of Hispanic Affairs during the latter days of the Carter administration. She went to work as a management analyst in the civil rights division of the Office of Management and Budget, but soon left after Ronald Reagan became president.
 
Solis returned to Los Angeles and became director of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program, which sought to help disadvantaged youths gain entry into college.
 
Solis was first elected to public office in 1985 as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees. By 1991 she had become a protégé of LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who appointed Solis to the Los Angeles County Commission on Insurance. With Molina’s powerful backing, Solis successfully ran for the Democratic nomination to represent the California State Assembly’s 57th district in 1992. Two years later, State Senator Art Torres gave up his seat to run for state Insurance Commissioner, opening the way for Solis to become the first Latina elected to the California Senate. She easily won re-election in 1998, but thanks to the state’s term limits law, could not run again for the Legislature’s upper house.
 
In 2000, Solis gambled and challenged longtime Democratic Congressman Matthew Martinez for the party’s nomination to represent California’s 31st Congressional District. Martinez, an 18-year veteran of Capitol Hill, had earned the ire of organized labor when he supported the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), prompting complaints from locals and some Democrats. During her campaign against Martinez, Solis enjoyed the support of labor unions, US Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, along with Martinez’s sister, Helen Lujan. She went on to easily beat the incumbent in the Democratic primary by almost 40 points, and also won the general election without difficulty due to the district’s lopsided registration favoring Democrats. 
 
Following the 2000 reapportionment, Solis’ seat became the 32nd Congressional District, which includes Azusa, Baldwin Park, Covina, Duarte, El Monte, Irwindale, Rosemead, South El Monte, West Covina and portions of Monterey Park and East Los Angeles. She held the primarily Hispanic seat until getting the nod to be the next Secretary of Labor.
 
Solis’ Congressional duties have involved serving as the first Latina on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which included being vice chair of the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials and a member of the Health and Telecommunications Subcommittees. Solis also served on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. In addition, she served as co-vice chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, as a senior whip and a regional whip for Southern California, as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health and the Environment Task Force, and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
 
Outside of Congress, Solis has served on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), including being vice chair of the Helsinki Commission’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. Solis also served as part of the Mexico–United States Interparliamentary Group.
 
Throughout her political career, Solis has established herself as a liberal Democrat focused on issues such as affordable health care, protecting the environment, and supporting organized labor. Her signature labor bill while in Congress was the so-called “green jobs” act of 2007, which provided funding for such jobs as energy efficiency retrofit and service, green building construction, and solar panel installation. While serving in the California Senate, she helped raise the state minimum wage in 1996 from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour. She is the only member of Congress on the board of the pro-labor American Rights at Work  Solis has a 93% lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO as a Congressional representative, and a 96% liberal rating by National Journal.
 
During the 2008 presidential primary campaign, Solis was a superdelegate committed to Hilary Clinton until Clinton withdrew.
 
Solis was sworn in as Secretary of Labor on March 13, 2009.
 
Calif. Congresswoman Solis Tapped to Head Labor (by Alec MacGillis, Washington Post)
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