After spending twelve of the last twenty years working at the Department of Labor, it is an honor and privilege to serve as the acting secretary of labor. The Labor Department’s work to fulfill the goal of Good Jobs for Everyone remains, as ever, in progress. Millions of people depend on the Labor Department to ensure compliance with employment laws; to process claims and distribute benefit check;, to provide grants for job training and placement services; to protect and strengthen pension and health care plans; to produce accurate and timely employment and price statistics; and to make sure employers keep workplaces safe, healthy and free of discrimination.
As President Obama’s second term begins, our mission to help working families has never been more important, and we are moving forward to fulfill that mission with renewed energy and purpose.
Ensuring the stability and continuity of our services during this time of transition is my chief focus as the department’s acting secretary. As deputy secretary, I was responsible for overseeing the development of the department’s strategic plan and annual operating goals, and then measuring our performance against those goals and the department’s past performance. I can report that the department’s performance has been very good, and it continues to improve. I also have worked with our agency leadership to identify opportunities for innovation and improvement, and we will continue our push to develop new tools, new strategies, and new ways of carrying out our mission. In addition to working at the Labor Department under Secretary Solis, I had the privilege to serve Secretaries Robert Reich and Alexis Herman under President Clinton, and the lessons of these previous transitions will inform my leadership of the department today.
In his inaugural address last week, President Obama outlined a bold, ambitious and progressive agenda. The Labor Department will be called upon to take an active role in realizing the president’s vision. We are ready. We have faced difficult trials in the past four years – the worst economic conditions in eight decades, the worst oil spill in history, the worst mine disaster in 40 years, the worst storm in the northeastern United States, and unprecedented wage inequality and threats to American workers’ economic security. I am confident that they have prepared us to overcome whatever obstacles lie ahead.
This moment is an opportunity for renewal. I am honored to lead this department as we pursue our agenda and continue to do everything we can to accelerate America’s economic recovery and put more people back to work. We remain steadfast in our commitment to working families and to a stronger economy.
Seth Harris is the acting U.S. secretary of labor.