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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Milestones in Our Centennial

January 14, 2013 — 30th Anniversary of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act

The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act sets employment standards for farmworkers. The act replaces the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act.






January 20, 2013 — 20th Anniversary of Robert Reich's Appointment as Secretary of Labor

Robert Reich amasses an impressive academic pedigree, graduating summa cum laude from Dartmouth, winning a Rhodes Scholarship and earning a J.D. from Yale. He assists the U.S. Solicitor General, works for the Carter Administration at the Federal Trade Commission and teaches at Harvard for over a decade. In 1993, his fellow Oxford classmate, Bill Clinton, taps Reich to be secretary of labor. Under Reich, the minimum wage is increased, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act passes, the "No Sweat" program begins, and the Family Medical Leave Act is signed into law. The author of over a dozen books, Reich stays active in politics and the economy, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, working as a contributor to American Public Radio and CNBC, and using his blog and other social media to voice his opinions.






February 2, 2013 — 40th Anniversary of Peter J. Brennan's Appointment as Secretary of Labor

Peter J. Brennan (May 24, 1918-Oct. 2, 1996) grows up in the then-heavily Irish "Hell's Kitchen" neighborhood of New York. He attends a local college and takes a painter's apprenticeship that leads to union work. His labor career is interrupted by a stint in the Navy during World War II. Brennan goes on to climb the ladder at several trade councils, including the New York AFL-CIO, and is tapped as secretary of labor by President Nixon because he knows "the people."






February 5, 2013 — 20th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act

The department's observance of the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act included a February 5 ceremony hosted by acting Secretary Harris and featuring instrumental and influential supporters of the FMLA — former president Bill Clinton, former senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, and Tina Tchen, chief of staff to the First Lady and executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

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March 4, 2013 — 100th Anniversary of President Taft Creating the Labor Department

After much opposition, President William Howard Taft signs the Organic Act creating the U.S. Department of Labor. Signed during Taft's last hours in office, it is followed shortly thereafter by President Woodrow Wilson's appointment of William B. Wilson (no relation) as the first secretary of labor.






March 4, 2013 — 80th Anniversary of Frances Perkins' Appointment as Secretary of Labor

Frances Perkins is the first woman appointed to the Cabinet. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and a witness to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Perkins goes on to lead the battle against the Great Depression as secretary of labor. In office for 12 years (longer than any other secretary of labor), Perkins is the principal architect of the Social Security Act of 1935, maximum hour laws and a federal minimum wage. She also oversees the creation of regulations on child labor and unemployment insurance.






March 6, 2013 — 100th Anniversary of William B. Wilson's Appointment as Secretary of Labor

Appointed by Woodrow Wilson (no relation). Secretary of Labor when there were 2,000 DOL employees, and when there were four bureaus — Children, Immigration, Naturalization, and Labor Statistics — and a Division of Conciliation. With World War I, he put the Department of Labor (DOL) on the map. Many current DOL activities, except the regulatory work that later became so important, trace back to that period — employment services, employment of women, fair employment for minorities, labor-management relations. DOL helped much in winning the war by mobilizing an effective workforce for defense production.






Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 elevator poster. Download the poster in PDF form below.
Commemorating The 35th Aniversary of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 poster. Download the poster in PDF form below.

March 12, 2013 — 35th Anniversary of the Mine Safety and Health Act

On 35th Anniversary of Mine Safety and Health Act, Still More Work to Do — Senator Tom Harkin

At one time, Iowa was the third-largest coal-producing state in the nation, and my father — after many years working in coal mines — was stricken with black lung that left him prone to pneumonia and made it difficult for him to work. Although he stopped working in the mines before I was born, he often told me stories of losing friends in the mines — in accidents that were frighteningly common. Generations of brave miners have risked their health and safety every day to provide for their families.

Since my father's days, we have made great strides in workplace safety by taking bold action on behalf of the workers who keep our economy moving. Thirty-five years ago, Congress responded to a string of tragedies at American mines by enacting new standards and protections for workers in one of our most dangerous industries. The Mine Safety and Health Act put in place new safety and inspection standards, created the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to enforce those standards, and instituted stronger protections for workers who blow the whistle when they see employers disregarding the rules and putting workers in harm's way

Prior to the 1977 Act, an average of one miner was killed each day in a mining accident; horrifically, in 1970, 425 miners were killed. In the 35 years following enactment, those rates have dropped significantly. In 2012, there were 35 fatalities in U.S. mines — a number that is still too high, but represents significant improvements in worker safety [...]






March 31, 2013 — 80th Anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps

President Roosevelt and Congress create independent agencies like the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of the New Deal to help reduce high unemployment and bring an end to the Depression.






June 6, 2013 — 80th Anniversary of the Wagner-Peyser Act

Created with unemployed workers in mind, the Wagner-Peyser Act establishes the U.S. Employment Service, which creates a forum where workers and employers can exchange information.






June 10, 2013 — 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 guarantees that men and woman be given equal pay for equal work. It also ensures that employers cannot reduce the wages of either sex to equalize pay.






June 15, 2013 — 75th Anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act standardizes the 40-hour workweek and codifies paid overtime, minimum wage and child labor laws. It also creates the Wage and Hour Division to enforce the law.






August 4, 2013 — 25th Anniversary of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, signed on August 4, 1988, protects workers by giving them advance notice of plant closings or mass layoffs.






August 7, 2013 — 15th Anniversary of the Workforce Investment Act

The Workforce Investment Act (August 7, 1998) is enacted during President Clinton's second term to create a means for businesses to participate in workforce training and career pathways programs. It replaces the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982, providing funding for local, statewide and national on-the-job training.






August 13, 2013 — 65th Anniversary of Maurice Tobin's Appointment as Secretary of Labor

Maurice Tobin (May 22, 1901-July 19, 1953), starts his political career at 25 as the youngest-ever elected Massachusetts state representative and, more than a decade later, defeats four-term Boston Mayor James Curley. He becomes governor of Massachusetts before his appointment as secretary of labor. Tobin supports the Fair Employment Practices Bill, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion or national origin. Under Tobin, the department's staff and budget are fortified and government labor functions are consolidated. Under the Marshall Plan, he mobilizes American unions in rebuilding Europe; during the Korean War, he is responsible for wartime labor supply. Tobin also creates the Defense Manpower Administration.