Up on the Hill

Filed in DOL, Jobs, Minimum Wage, Safety by on March 26, 2014 1 Comment

This morning, for the first time, I had the opportunity to testify on Capitol Hill before the House Education and Workforce Committee about the important work we do at the Labor Department.

As I explained to the committee, just about everything we do at the department supports President Obama’s agenda of creating opportunity for all. We help people get the skills they need to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.  We help ensure that our workplaces are safe and free from discrimination. We make sure hard work is rewarded with a fair wage. And we give people the chance to retire with dignity.

Secretary Perez testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee March 26, 2014.

Secretary Perez testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee March 26, 2014.

Our 2,500-plus American Job Centers, for example, help out-of-work Americans access all the services they need – resume assistance, job leads, career counseling, training opportunities and more.  At the height of the recession, the AJCs were the nation’s emergency room for job-seekers, administering the critical care necessary to get people back on their feet.

Business leaders like Andra Rush of Detroit Manufacturing Systems use the AJCs to find the skilled workers they need. I like to think of ours as a “Match.com” role, finding exactly the right fit between job seekers and employers. Since the recession began, we have served, on average, more than 14 million people each year, including more than a million veterans, through our job training and employment services.

But we want to do even better. That’s why we’re working closely with Vice President Biden on a review of the federal government’s training programs. We’re going to identify what works and take it to scale, while figuring out what doesn’t work and fixing it.

But as I testified this morning, there’s a whole lot more to our work at the department.

If opportunity means nothing else, it must mean the right to return home safe and sound after a hard day’s work. No person should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood. So, as I explained to the committee, the number of workers killed on the job has been cut from 14,000 in 1970 (the year OSHA was created) to an all-time low of 4,400 last year, in a workforce that’s twice the size. Employer after employer tells me it’s a false choice to suggest we can have job growth or job safety – they believe we can and must have both.

Rewarding hard work with a fair wage is also central to our mission and to the president’s opportunity agenda. Too many Americans, despite working full time, are still living in poverty. That’s why the president has pushed so strongly for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The workers I speak to need this raise; and the businesses I’ve heard from recognize that it’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

The basic bargain of America is that everyone has the chance to succeed. No matter where you started out the race, you can finish it ahead of the pack. No matter the circumstances of your birth or the ZIP code you live in, you can live out your highest and best dreams.

Fulfilling that bargain is what the Labor Department is committed to every day. I hope that we can work with Congress this year and beyond to expand opportunity for all.

Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec.


Comments (1)

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  1. Sheryl Eldridge says:

    Great stuff! We need to find avenues to inform and empower our small businesses of the rich resources available from the Job Centers. Oftentimes, they are burdened financially as well as within the human capital area needed when advertising for skilled workers. Today, who knows how individuals seeking jobs look for job; what mediums do they use? The Job Centers would be an asset to the small businesses.

    We also need to have more avenues for the small businesses to embrace the DOL and all the DOL has to offer. Regulatory agencies are too often seen as a threat when in fact they are to “go to” agencies. After all, whose going to come over you for noncompliance? The DOL was a valuable resource to me back in the day when FMLA was first enacted. My local DOL saved me when this new law was placed on my desk to learn, design and implement.

    There is so much available and we need to seek ways to inform and educate the small businesses.

    On the education, training, development and HRD front, train as much as possible and begin with early ages/stages in life to set the foundation for a strong and capable future workforce. Check out what the private schools are doing with three year old students? Have you ever interviewed or offered a podium to to a three year old? They have the love of learning like no other young person and this is the perfect place to start the skill building they will need in as little as 15-16 years.

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