Then, Now Next: U.S. Department of Labor's Centennial
March 4, 1913, marked a milestone event in the history of the American workforce. On that day, President William Howard Taft — on his last day in office — reluctantly signed legislation creating the U.S. Department of Labor and giving workers a direct seat in the President's Cabinet for the first time.
Observance of our centennial actually got underway last year, with the production of a centennial video, an interactive timeline, a series of historical posters and collection a of historical vignettes in our DOL newsletter all designed to educate, inform and inspire the public about our rich history.
Did You Miss Any Events?
Not to worry. We will keep you posted on all of our events both past and future. Come back often to see what you may have missed.
Books That Shaped Work in America [11/19/13]
- Swearing In Ceremony for Thomas Perez as the 26th Labor Secretary [09/4/2013]
- DOL and the Postal Service Celebrate "First Day of Issue — Made in America — Building a Nation" Stamp Ceremony
- William H. Taft (founder of the Department of Labor) does his part to keep Washington Nationals fans cool during a recent baseball game [07/20/2013]
- SOL Shire Lecture video [06/28/2013]
- Moynihan Black Poverty Report Revisited 50 Years Later [06/13/2013]
- Frances Perkins Used as Commencement Inspiration for New Graduates [05/03/2013]
- 100 Years of U.S. Labor and Employment Relations: A Look Back, A Look Forward, and A View from a Comparative Perspective [04/26/2013]
- Bloomberg's Story on the Women's Bureau's Esther Peterson: "A Pioneer's Unfinished Struggle to Give Women Equal Pay" [04/10/2013]
- On what would have been her 133rd birthday, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell honors Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the architect of Social Security.
- A special DOL Centennial moment from the game show Jeopardy [03/28/2013]
- Labor's Birthday Consolation Gift: Labor's Saint Celebrated [03/28/2013]
- Carl Fillichio, senior adviser for Public Affairs and Communications at the Labor Department, joined Federal News Radio with a look at Labor's past, present and future. [03/07/2013]
- 20th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act [02/05/2013]
- Cornell University Academic Symposium at the Department of Labor [11/9/2012]
President Woodrow Wilson, American Federation of Labor founder Samuel Gompers and William Wilson, the first U.S. Secretary of Labor
A Brief History
The organic act establishing the Department of Labor was signed on March 4, 1913, by a reluctant President William Howard Taft, the defeated and departing incumbent, just hours before Woodrow Wilson took office. A Federal Department of Labor was the direct product of a half-century campaign by organized labor for a "Voice in the Cabinet," and an indirect product of the Progressive Movement. In the words of the organic act, the Department's purpose is "to foster, promote and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, and to enhance their opportunities for profitable employment."
Initially the Department consisted of the new U.S. Conciliation Service (USCS), which mediated labor disputes, plus four pre-existing bureaus: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bureau of Immigration, the Bureau of Naturalization and the Children's Bureau. Woodrow Wilson's appointee as Secretary of Labor was Scottish-born Congressman William B. Wilson (1913-1921), a founder and former Secretary-Treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America [...]
From Our Archives
Our Centennial Video
One hundred years of struggle, perseverance and triumph are documented in this six-minute film dedicated to the hard-won achievements of working people and the way that the Labor Department has worked to fulfill its mission in a rapidly changing world.
Narrated with the expressive baritone of film and television actor Luis Avalos, the video takes the viewer on a voyage to the past and provides a glimpse of the people and events that forged the many freedoms and protections that workers cherish today.
Our Historical Timeline
Take a journey through the decades with the Department of Labor's interactive historical timeline. This visually innovative educational tool presents information about key milestones over a century of progress for the rights and protections of working people, providing insights into the people and stories that changed the way we work in America for the better. Beginning with the First Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1884 and culminating with the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the timeline guides you through the upheavals and advancements of a tumultuous century.
The timeline will be updated continuously throughout the Labor Department's centennial year with new moments and new breakthroughs that tell the department's story. You can contribute to this living document by submitting your own suggestions for new entries. Send your ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books That Shaped Work in America
As part of our ongoing centennial commemoration, the U.S. Department of Labor recently unveiled a new project: Books That Shaped Work in America. This “online book club,” as Secretary Perez has described it, is designed to engage people in an ongoing conversation about work…and especially about work at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Former secretaries of labor, several current employees, media personalities and others submitted their choices for books they love that informed their understanding about careers, occupations and workplaces. The range of selections is extraordinary – everything from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations to Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town; from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People to Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada. There are even two books titled Madam Secretary (one the memoir of Madeleine Albright and the other a biography of our own Frances Perkins).
But this is not a static project. It is just like work in America itself and the U.S. Department of Labor: ever-evolving. It is also interactive. We encourage you to suggest a book on the site. Also, please, share this wonderful resource with your local library, post it on your Facebook page and tell friends and family about it over the holidays. It will be exciting to watch the list grow and diversify.
Our Mission and Our People
The U.S. Department of Labor continues to undertake a broad range of initiatives to advance its mission. In this section, you can get to know some of the department's dedicated professionals and learn more about our current objectives by following up-to-the-minute updates from the department. A diverse group of agencies with functions designed to implement the provisions of dozens of employment laws combine urgent enforcement or employment assistance activities with long-term planning and policy development to support working families and respond to the needs of our nation's communities.
Watch the video and see what DOL's mission means to our employees.
Your Work is Our Work
Our people are standing strong for workers in every corner of the country, hitting the road and pitching in where we're needed most. Workers are our business, and we are determined to serve you each and every day. These are just a few of the stories of Labor Department employees in their own words that express our tireless commitment to protecting and defending our most valuable national resource: you. Select the photos above to view the 'Workers are My Business' video series.
(WORK IN PROGRESS) Blog
- Cheaters Shouldn’t Win
One of the most important things we do at the Department of Labor is enforce laws aimed at protecting workers on the job – laws that ensure they’re paid what they’re owed; laws that set health and safety standards so they don’t have to risk their lives for their livelihood; laws that prohibit discrimination. These [...]
- A New Day for Miners’ Health
Aug. 1 marks the start of new and historic protections against black lung disease for U.S. underground and surface coal miners. American coal miners will be better protected from the disabling and life-shortening respiratory diseases known as “black lung” as a new rule goes into effect Aug. 1, representing the first major changes in this [...]
- Protecting Workers & Preventing Unfair Competition
There has been significant interest recently in Wage and Hour Division’s use of the “hot goods” provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act. While it is not a tool we use frequently, it is an important part of enforcement of our nation’s wage and hour laws. In passing the FLSA, Congress acknowledged the inherent competitive [...]
- Disability Rights are Civil Rights
Earlier this month, we as a nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just minutes before putting pen to paper on that historic day, President Lyndon B. Johnson went on television to address the nation, articulating the law’s fundamental purpose: to create a better, more inclusive society [...]
- A Bold Idea Endures: 50 Years of Job Corps
Editor’s note: As we continue to post Job Corps stories in honor of its 50th anniversary, we want to hear from you. Submit your story through our Web form here − or share on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #JobCorps50. Fifty years ago this summer, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a series of [...]
Centennial Proclamations From President Obama and Around the Country
President Obama is marking the Labor Department's Centennial with a proclamation recognizing "the United States Department of Labor for upholding dignity in our workplaces and our way of life." He is joined by nearly 150 governors, mayors and elected officials from across the country all issuing statements of appreciation for the profound impact that the Labor Department has made on the lives of our workers and our communities.
A Vision for the Future
With our eyes fixed on tomorrow, the Labor Department continues to seek out new ways to meet the challenges of a new era and inspire the next century of progress for the American workforce. As we recognize 100 years of achievement, we also seek opportunities for reinvention and renewal, becoming a truly NEXT-centric organization. Here, you'll find a calendar of upcoming events that honor the past and lay the foundations for a more promising future events like our recent commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, where former President William Jefferson Clinton spoke of the profound benefits of the law for millions of families and the department announced important changes to the law that provide expanded protections for military families and workers in the airline industry. You can also experience our reimagined Labor Hall of Honor, a place where all of us can take inspiration from the achievements of those who came before us.
For centennial updates, follow #DOL100 on Twitter.
Technology Working for You
There is no doubt the original architects of the Labor Department would be astonished by the tools at our disposal today for providing services and enforcing our laws. They would never have dreamed, for example, that in an instant, from the factory floor or the fields, workers could access vital safety and health information or connect with workers on the other side of the world. We are living in an age of enormous possibility. The Labor Department is harnessing this possibility by developing digital tools with immediate practical benefits. Our mobile apps are empowering workers with the knowledge they need when they need it. We are embracing the ingenuity of the public through challenges that encourage the sharing of ideas to solve urgent problems. And we are assisting jobseekers and trainees by establishing networks that ease the pathways to opportunity.
Subscribe to our Award-winning Newsletter
Join the over 250,000 subscribers who receive our weekly newsletter the winner of the AVA Digital 2013 Gold Award, the 2012 Thoth Award and the 2012 Ragan's 2012 PR Daily Award. To receive updates on Labor Department news, events and information delivered directly to your inbox, enter your email address below.