Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
National Association of Manufacturer's Conference
Monday, May 11, 2009
I would like to thank Mr. Arthur Cage for the truck, which represents an important part of our nation's economy, both workers and the trucking industry.
I have to say that his record is an amazing accomplishment. To drive that many miles and not have an accident is truly astounding. I think he deserves another round of applause.
Thank you for the invitation to join you this morning.
I would like to thank Mr. (John) Engler for that warm introduction.
It is great to be here at the National Association of Manufacturers' Manufacturing Summit. I want to congratulate all of you for taking time to participate in dialogues with your elected representatives and with members of the Obama administration during your summit.
It is no secret to many of you in this room today that manufacturing is among the worst-affected industry sectors in the United States by the current financial crisis.
Faced with declining profits and an increasingly more competitive global economy, job cuts have become all too common. Layoffs have been more pronounced in sectors with high exposure to credit such as automobiles and home building, just to name a few.
But I'm sure all of you are feeling the pinch.
Since the recession began back in December 2007, over 5.1 million jobs have been lost.
The unemployment rate is at 8.5%.
The millions of Americans who have lost their jobs and are now worried about paying their mortgage, keeping their health insurance or paying for their kid's college tuition.
Unemployment numbers for April are expected to be released on Friday.
We know many of the challenges we face and are tackling these head on.
Within weeks of entering office, the President confronted the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and ushered through the most ambitious economic recovery package in history.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing immediate relief for Americans who have lost their jobs. Over the next 2 years, it will help create or save millions of private sector jobs that will put Americans back to work and get our economy back on the right track.
At the Department of Labor we are working every day to implement the Recovery Act to help create new job opportunities for American families, and to ensure that workers have fair, safe and healthy workplaces.
We have moved aggressively to enact the pieces of the Recovery Act that will protect workers who have lost their jobs, provide new worker training opportunities for workers looking to upgrade their job skills, and to create new job opportunities in emerging sectors such as green jobs and health IT.
I am proud to say that we have distributed $45 billion of the $46 billion made available by the Recovery Act to states and cities across the country.
We have extended the timeframe for which individuals are eligible for unemployment insurance, increased the size of unemployment insurance checks, and have encouraged a number of states to modernize their unemployment insurance systems.
As a part of the Recovery Act, the Department of Labor has injected $3.5 billion in worker training funds into state worker training programs.
The Department of Labor has also implemented provisions of the Recovery Act that provide extended COBRA coverage to allow workers who lose their jobs greater access to health insurance, and provided a subsidy to help certain workers afford health care coverage under COBRA.
Both the Recovery Act and the President's budget call for a significant realignment of the Department's priorities, including shifting additional resources to agencies charged with enforcing workplace safety and health laws.
I know that this is also a priority for all of you here today as well.
I know on the issue of enforcement we will not always see eye to eye, but I believe we need to work together to level the playing field for all workers.
My priority is to create safe and healthy workplaces that reduce fatalities and injuries, and at the same time increase worker productivity.
We all know that manufacturing creates high value added jobs with higher than average wages and benefits. The manufacturing sector contributes to American productivity growth at higher rates than other sectors in our economy. A stronger manufacturing sector can help with our administration goals of promoting a strong manufacturing base, creating good-paying middle class jobs, helping auto companies, and stabilizing our trade imbalance.
That is why we are thinking about a broad range of possibilities for investments in manufacturing, including rail, light and high-speed, buses, smart grid batteries, along with upstream relevant supply chains and downstream commercialization initiatives.
We know we have a long way to go, but this crisis was not made in a day, and it will certainly not be solved in a day. We have much work ahead of us, but President Obama and I firmly believe that this nation has the fortitude, spirit, and resources to pull itself out of this crisis and to emerge more prosperous and stronger than ever before.
I want to assure you all today that I have always had and will continue to have an open-door policy. I am sensitive to the fact that what we at the Department of Labor do have an immediate impact on your business. I know that small businesses, such as small manufacturers and medium sized manufacturers like some of those that you represent, will play an important role in this recovery. For example, small businesses are responsible for half of all private sector jobs and they created almost 70% of all new jobs in the past decade.
Many of these businesses are women-owned. In 2008 the 7.2 million majority-owned, privately-held, women-owned businesses employed 7.3 million people and generated $1.1 trillion in sales.
My understanding of these and other businesses is why I am pleased to have joined the U.S. Hispanic Chamber at their annual conference, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee at the G-8 Labor Ministerial, the Private-Sector Forum at the Summit of the Americas, and why I am here today.
It is why when I hosted 35 women leaders in green jobs for a roundtable on Earth Day that I invited Xerox, among others, to join me.
I want to work with the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups to ensure that we are providing you and your workers with the tools necessary to be competitive in business, here in the United States and abroad.
When businesses succeed, workers and their families succeed. This can only happen if there is dialogue between us. By working together, we can turn our economy around and create pathways to success for all of us.
With your help, we can do all of those things.
I look forward to an on-going dialogue with NAM and its members!
So, let's get to work!
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