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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
We Can Help Kick-Off
Chicago, IL
April 1, 2010

Good morning…buenos dias.

Thank you all for being here and thank you Dr. Allen-Meares both for that warm introduction and for your hospitality.

Before going any further, I want to take a moment to recognize my former Congressional colleagues who have joined us today:

  • Rep. Danny Davis – whose district we are in this morning;
  • Rep. Rush; and
  • Rep. Schakowsky

They are strong advocates for working families. 

And, I can tell you that they fight for you tirelessly in Congress. You should feel very proud of them. 

It is always great to be in Chicago…the City that Works…the home of our President, Barack Obama.

And, for many reasons, it’s fitting that we gather today at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

For starters, this is a remarkably diverse campus.

You have students from all over the world…and all walks of life here. 

And, your classrooms are blessed with the perspectives of working students, veterans and seniors.

And for more than a century, this institution of higher learning has evolved to meet the needs of the people of Chicago.

Secondly, we are gathered in the shadows of Hull House, a place that set the course for many of the worker protection and social programs we take for granted today.

From the start, Hull House was a center for community building and social empowerment. 

It’s where leaders like former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins learned the values of safe workplaces, fair wages, and strong labor laws.

And, what lessons they were indeed! 

As many of you know, Frances Perkins was largely responsible for the adoption of social security, unemployment insurance, federal laws regulating child labor, and the adoption of the federal minimum wage.

And lastly, it’s fitting that we are here because you can see Chicago’s magnificent skyline. 

You see a remarkable city, where ordinary people have done—and continue to do—extraordinary things. 

When I look at that skyline…it reminds me of the duty that I have to those whose blood, sweat and tears made those buildings possible—to those who work in them during the day, and to those who clean them at night.

Being here…with all of you, is also a reminder of why I'm so proud to be your Secretary of Labor.

One of the reasons I took this job was to stand up for hardworking families; to ease their struggles and ensure that all workers are treated fairly.

As I said on my first day….there’s a new sheriff in town.

And, this sheriff believes that workplace enforcement is not only our responsibility, it’s our moral obligation!

At the Department of Labor we are focused on protecting workers.

That is why I have bolstered the enforcement staff in all of my agencies. 

I have already added 250 investigators in the Wage and Hour Division alone…and I’m not done yet!

Because while there are many employers in our country who play by the rules, there are also many who do not—those who look to edge out the law-abiding competition by refusing to pay workers the wages they earn. 

I have a message for those employers…those who break our nation’s labor laws, and prey on vulnerable workers:

It ends today!

And to every working man and woman in America who has been taken advantage of, but has been too afraid to come forward…know this:  the Department of Labor is on your side, and we can help!

If someone comes into your house and steals from you…you could and you should call the authorities. 

Because theft of your property is not just unacceptable, it’s illegal. 

Your wages are no different. 

If someone is stealing them, you can and you should call us.  

And, we want you to do just that. 
So today, my department’s Wage and Hour Division is launching a new public awareness campaign that will empower vulnerable workers.

The “We Can Help” campaign is not about a new and novel approach.

In fact, it’s based on the core mission of the Labor Department …protecting all workers under the law.

The campaign will inform workers of their rights, and encourage them – regardless of immigration status – to report violations of wage and hour laws that occur on the job.

Starting today, from Boston to Boise, from Puerto Rico to Portland and from Detroit to Dallas, my staff will conduct outreach to stakeholders and vulnerable workers in a broad range of industries that include:

  • Construction;
  • Apparel;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Restaurants;
  • Home health care; and
  • Hotels and motels.

We are also working with international consular officials, community- and faith-based organizations, and advocacy groups throughout the country…to educate workers on their rights.

We will use public service announcements, worker rights videos, posters, publications, and billboard advertisements to get our message out. 

And, I am proud to say that the campaign will be in multiple languages.
To give you just a taste of what I’m talking about…I would like to take a moment to show you one of our public service announcements.  Please take a look.

[VIDEO PLAYS]

Along with those people you saw in the video, we have also recruited major league baseball players—and, we are already working to do these in a variety of languages.

In addition to these PSA’s, our website – www.dol.gov – will have more information on the campaign. 

And, it will bring workers the sort of accessible resources that can make the difference between their becoming victims of wage theft, and their helping others in their workplace understand the protections of the law.

Because, while we are excited about this initiative, there is more work to be done in protecting workers and ensuring that all employers are playing by the rules. 

To put it bluntly, workplace protection is not just the business of the Labor Department….it is everyone’s business.

So, today I also want to ask all of you, to help us reach those workers who need our help.

No nation can, or should get ahead by taking advantage of the most vulnerable. 

And, we can not let the pressures of the economy fall solely and unjustly on those at the bottom. 

Together we can meet the needs of America’s workers and their families, all the while building a more prosperous and equitable nation.

After all, work is about more than just a paycheck. 

It’s about dignity.  It’s about pride.  It’s about respect!

So, my message to all workers today is simple…the time for being afraid is over. 

Para mis hermanas y hermanos Latinos…. “No temas.  Tu tienes derechos.  Seas documentado o no, te podemos ayudar!”

You have rights, and WE CAN and WILL HELP!!!

Thank you very much.