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Promoting Good Jobs: Department of Labor Leaders Reflect on Priorities this Labor Day

In advance of Labor Day, we asked Department of Labor leaders to reflect on how their agencies are promoting good jobs and providing the tools and resources workers need to succeed. 

From promoting safe and equitable workplaces to providing workforce training and educating workers about their rights and empowering them to organize unions, these leaders are committed to ensuring all workers experience the promise of the American dream: That hard work pays off. Here's a snapshot of what they’re working on across the department: 

 

This year, we announced the Good Jobs Initiative to provide critical information to workers, employers and government agencies as they work to improve job quality and access to good jobs for all working people. What does improving job quality and equity mean to your agency? 

Addressing long-standing inequities for women means helping them enter higher paying jobs still deemed nontraditional for women. It also means raising wages and benefits in the jobs where women are the majority of workers. To meet the imperative in this moment to recover from the pandemic with greater equity, the Women’s Bureau has prioritized investments and initiatives that support workers to know their rights in the workplace and help women gain access to jobs of the future through investments in pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships. Director of Women’s Bureau Wendy Chun-Hoon.At the Office of Disability Employment, improving job quality and equity strikes at the very heart of our mission. This means advancing community-based, competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. It means ensuring youth with disabilities grow up expecting to work and succeed. It means helping people who experience injury or illness — including those with long COVID-19 — to keep working or return to the workplace once ready. In light of the challenges of the past two years, it also means supporting workers with mental health conditions, rates of which have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic. Assistant Secretary Taryn Williams Here at the Employment and Training Administration, job quality and equity are at the core of everything we do. To improve job quality, we need to ensure that all of our investments and training programs provide the support workers need to access good quality jobs — jobs that provide workers with a family-sustaining wage, opportunities for career investment, and an empowering, supportive workplace. ETA can improve equity by ensuring vulnerable workers in underserved communities have pathways to these quality jobs by expanding access to federal programs, breaking down historical and systemic barriers to good-paying jobs, and supporting trainees every step of the way. Acting Assistant Secretary Brent Parton.   Good jobs are at the heart of everything we do at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy. Whether we’re advancing the department’s regulatory agenda, promoting evidence-based policymaking, or helping federal agencies build job quality standards into our historic federal investments, our goal is to help empower workers and employers alike to create good jobs that are open to all working people, including more women, people of color, immigrants, workers with disabilities, and others who are too often left out of these opportunities. Assistant Secretary for Policy Raj Nayak.

Work is changing, and across the board, workers are looking for opportunities to learn new skills and start new careers.  How is your agency supporting workers as they seek to advance their careers?

ETA is supporting workers seeking to advance their career by ensuring they have the foundational skills, industry credentials, and work experience they need to thrive in a 21st century labor market. We are also heavily focused on partnering with employers and industries in all sectors, to not only help them fill the jobs they need today — but plan for the jobs of the future — by building out long-term, sustainable talent pipelines through registered apprenticeships. Acting Assistant Secretary Brent Parton. DOL VETS continues to adapt our employment training resources to make them more accessible to transitioning service members, veterans and their spouses as they navigate the job search process. We’re now providing virtual employment workshops at various stages of the transition process to ensure that each person we support has access to the resources they may need to reach their full potential in the workplace. We are also strengthening our internal and external partnerships to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce of the future that includes our veterans and military spouses. Assistant Secretary James D. Rodriguez.The Bureau of International Labor Affairs works globally to build worker power and voice, strengthen workers’ rights, and protect the most vulnerable workers. We have an amazingly talented and hard-working team, and we want to make sure they all have opportunities to learn and grow and fulfill their potential, both in the workplace and in the personal sphere. We are also working with other countries to strengthen our understanding and cooperation on apprenticeships, which allow workers to gain new skills and advance their careers. Deputy Undersecretary Thea Lee.

On his first day in office, President Biden issued a historic charge to all federal agencies: Pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved. How is your agency building an inclusive workforce where all workers can find jobs that are safe, pay fair wages and don’t discriminate? 

Our goal is to align the most basic and fundamental shared value – our health and safety and that of our families – with the core values of every workplace in America. We are working to make sure our most vulnerable workers are fully included in this vision and commit to ensuring that every worker – no matter their gender or age, the color of their skin, the language they speak, or their citizenship status – know their rights and have the protections they need and deserve. Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.The mining community is becoming more diverse, and MSHA is working to reflect that diversity in our workforce. That is why MSHA must employ individuals who look like and speak the same languages as the miners we seek to protect. Many of our inspectors come from and live in the communities they serve. One of the ways we have had success improving the diversity of our workforce has been establishing an apprenticeship inspector program that actively recruits experienced miners from traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations and regions. This and other efforts help break down potential language, cultural, or other barriers when working with miners who may encounter unsafe or unhealthy conditions at work. Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson.In recent years, the vital contributions of essential workers in many industries – such as health care, food production and services, construction, delivery services and warehousing and logistics – have become increasingly clear. Yet many workers – particularly women and people of color – are among the nation’s lowest paid workers. Too often, these workers’ rights are violated, and they fall victim to wage theft, misclassification, retaliation and exploitation. The Wage and Hour Division is determined to ensure worker protections and hold employers accountable. Principal Deputy Administrator Jessica Looman. At the Solicitor’s Office, we are answering the president’s historic call by embedding equity in our work both internally and externally. We know that the achievement of our mission to protect all workers is only possible with a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture within SOL. To that end, we are implementing strategies to attract and retain members of underserved communities into our workforce. And we are bringing a lens of equity and inclusivity to our enforcement as well – filing more cases on behalf of workers with less access to other forms of relief; using early intervention strategies to protect vulnerable workers from retaliation, including immigrant workers; and working aggressively to combat misclassification of workers where we see it. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda.The Women’s Bureau is taking important steps toward ensuring women have greater representation in higher wage industries, with the ability to work in a safe environment. Part of this effort has included meaningful engagement with industry stakeholders in historically male-dominated occupations to denounce sexual violence and harassment in the workplace and effect significant change in their recruitment, training and retention strategies. The Women’s Bureau is prioritizing efforts that support women from underserved communities, especially women of color, to ensure an equitable recovery. Director of Women’s Bureau Wendy Chun-Hoon. The Department of Labor is committed to building diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in everything we do. Longstanding inequities and changing patterns of work require new ways of thinking about what constitutes a model workplace: we envision one that not only ensures worker safety and just compensation, but one that empowers workers who have been marginalized and underserved for too long. DOL is collaborating with workers, unions, employers, state and local government, and our sister federal agencies to ensure that the historic investments in infrastructure and climate create quality jobs for all that result in shared prosperity. U.S. Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su.

As Secretary Walsh has said, “Every single American worker should be able to retire with security.” How are you working to ensure all workers receive quality benefits and can enjoy a secure retirement? 

As the secretary’s representative on Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation matters, EBSA helped implement the American Rescue Plan’s program for troubled multiemployer pension plans and ensure that up to 3 million people, in danger of having their benefits cut, receive their full pensions for decades to come. We have also expanded mental health and substance-use disorder benefits investigations to ensure people receive the care they need. EBSA guarantees that America’s workers and their families can use their benefits now and look forward to enjoying the retirement they earned. Acting Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Administration Ali Khawar.

Throughout our country’s history, unions have been the driving forces for advancements in workers’ rights and an improved living standard for all workers. What is the department doing to  empower workers who choose to organize and collectively bargain with their employers? 

The Office of Labor-Management Standards is forwarding the Biden-Harris administration’s effort to ensure that workers, employers and the public understand the many important benefits unions have gained for their members and shared with employers and the country at large. Our efforts include answering questions about union organizing in the workplace, the benefits of union representation and how modern partnerships between labor and management  benefit workers and management. OLMS works to assure that the labor movement – and the hundreds of thousands of union officers and employees it faithfully represents – is financially secure and democratic. Director of Office of Labor-Management Standards Jeff Freund. I am where I am today because of unions. Unions gave my family access to the American dream, and it not only helped keep me employed — it helped me get sober. With good health benefits, a member assistance program and a supportive community, I was able to address my alcoholism and follow new opportunities: Massachusetts state representative, mayor of Boston and now your Secretary of Labor. We're committed to being the most pro-union administration in history, and that's why the Biden-Harris administration took action and established the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which I proudly serve alongside of Vice President Kamala Harris. The department  is playing a leading role in this first-of-its-kind government-wide effort in promoting policies, programs and practices to help more workers organize and successfully bargain with their employers. U.S. Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh.

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