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Overview of the Nixon-Ford Administration at the Department of Labor, 1969-1977

Prepared by U. S. Department of Labor, 1977

Introduction

A major goal of the Nixon and Ford Administrations was to develop a new working partnership between the Federal Government and the States and localities — a partnership termed New Federalism. The broad philosophic underpinning, the unifying theme, was that of revenue sharing. This principle reflected the belief that "decisions are better made when they are made by those directly concerned"; that the Federal Government should supplement rather than supplant the capabilities and resources of local governments; and that local officials and citizens were willing and able to carry out their own responsibilities. The New Federalism sought to bring government closer to the people and to return a larger share of the nation's responsibilities and decision making to the states and localities. Revenue sharing would provide state and local governments the resources to carry out these responsibilities and to permit them substantial freedom and flexibility to tailor programs to local conditions and priorities.

The distinctive feature of this approach was to remove the Federal presence as much as possible, and to substitute in its place local decision making, flexibility, and accountability. The principal vehicle chosen was block grants and revenue sharing, rather than categorical programs.

Government agencies were to become more accessible to people, and more responsive and effective in delivering their services. This goal was to be accomplished by decentralizing operations, strengthening the role of State and local governments, and by improving agency program performance. Stress was placed on systematic assessment of program effectiveness in order to insure the best possible use of increasingly limited Federal resources. Finally, Federal agencies were encouraged to develop stronger overall administrative policies and structures and to hold "red tape" to a minimum.

This was a political era marked by pressing new problems, imposing hardships on all citizens, including a growing energy shortage and an economy troubled by inflation, recession and rising unemployment. It was a period during which the country was beset by the problem invariably arising in changing from a wartime footing to a peacetime economy.

There were also minor crises within the Department of Labor. Questions were raised as to the reliability and integrity of BLS statistics and allegations were made regarding the "politicization" of the OSHA standard setting process.

The years 1969-1976 were marked by extremes. The labor force increased from less than 80 million in January 1969 to almost 96 million in November 1976 — a growth of over 16 million, the largest in our history.

Employment advanced to record levels, from approximately over 77 million workers in December 1968 to over 88 million in December 1976, an increase of over 11 million. The proportion of working age citizens participating in the labor force rose to historical highs — from 59.7% to 61.9%. The number of women in the labor force mushroomed. But on the minus side:

Unemployment increased from a wartime low of 3.3% in December 1968 to 7.9% in December 1976.

Black unemployment rates continued to be almost twice that of whites. Similarly, teenage unemployment rates, particularly among minorities, remain extremely high.

The rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, more than doubled from 1969 (5.4%) to 1974 (11.0%). For the year ending November 1976, the CPI had increased by 5%.

Guiding Principles and Developments

The Department of Labor's policies and programs took on new dimensions during the Nixon-Ford era. These were shaped by the following goals:

  1. In accordance with the concept of "New Federalism," to provide an environment and a capability for local units of government to deal directly and flexibly with unemployment, underemployment, and other social and economic problems without the constraints of a Federally imposed universal model.
  2. In keeping with its calling, "to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States," to expand the protection afforded American workers to their physical and economic well being.
  3. To assure speedier and more efficient delivery of services through management improvements, more realistic and attainable objectives, structural reorganizations, and greater attention to planning.
  4. To let collective bargaining work without government interference.
  5. To improve the regulatory process.

Five different Secretaries led the Department during this 8 year span. By contrast, in the first 32 years of its existence, the Department had but four Secretaries. Moreover, at the beginning of President Nixon's second term, almost the entire senior staff of the Department was changed.

Leadership turnover within this relatively short period predictably created problems by virtue of resulting differences in secretarial style, methods, and priorities. Notwithstanding these frequent changes in leadership, the Department grew in strength and function. During this period, the Department's responsibility for promoting the welfare of American workers increased enormously, as reflected by the number of laws it administers, the size of its budget, and the number of employees. More significant labor legislation was enacted during this time than during any period since the New Deal.

The Department's long standing efforts to safeguard the physical well being of the nation's workers was aided substantially through enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which affords protection to over 60 million workers in over 5 million different establishments. Coal miners' black lung and an expanded longshore workers' compensation program were also added to the Department's safety and health responsibilities during this period.

Workers also gained an improved measure of financial security in their retirement years under the landmark Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) established the first decentralized comprehensive employment and training programs on a national scale, including provision for transitional public service employment (PSE).

The Department intensified its historic effort to eliminate racial and other discriminatory barriers to equal employment opportunity by requiring goals and timetables for hiring and upgrading minorities.

The Federal minimum wage was increased and protection extended to groups long ignored, such as domestic and farm workers.

Amendments to the Unemployment Insurance law in 1970 covered nearly 5 million additional workers — the largest single expansion of the system since it began in 1935. The law also provided the first permanent mechanism for extending the duration of benefits during periods of high unemployment.

Trade adjustment assistance benefits to workers displaced by import competition were liberalized.

In sum, from childhood through retirement, the Labor Department now, more than ever, has an obligation to every American who becomes a member of the workforce.

As a result of this growth, the Department is now involved in such diverse activities as creating jobs, removing needless barriers to employment, providing job information and guidance, assuring equal opportunity in employment and advancement, training and upgrading, improving workplace safety and health, helping workers relocate, restoring lost wages, protecting retirement income, safeguarding workers' rights, protecting against substandard wages, providing technical assistance to the parties in collective bargaining, and providing income and other protection to workers affected by foreign imports.

In addition, the Department is a key agency in the collection, analysis and dissemination, not only of labor statistics, but also of other key indicators of the nation's economic status and progress.

The Department is thus at the leading edge of important changes in industry and in the work force. In both its regulatory and service functions, the Department affects the lives of millions of Americans throughout the nation and in every part of our economic system.

Each incumbent Secretary has attempted to make each of the Department's programs more responsive to the needs of those it is intended to serve; to insure that regulation is reasonable and not onerous; to provide to the parties affected the opportunity to participate legitimately in the decision making process.

Given the multiplicity and complexity of the responsibilities assigned to it, the Department has been unceasing in its search for better ways to carry out its functions and, in so doing, make government more responsive and responsible.

The Department responded to the Administration's concern for better delivery of services by initiating a series of internal management changes. Some Departmental agencies were reorganized. A Program Budget and Review Committee was created, chaired by the Under Secretary, to rationalize and strengthen the management decision making process, especially with respect to resource allocation, and to facilitate greater coordination and control by the Office of the Secretary. A Management by Objectives program was implemented by the PBRC as an essential element of the Department's management process. A regional office structure was developed to provide a geographical focal point for all of the Department's activities and programs

Regional Directors were appointed to coordinate all programs of the Department in their region and to represent the Secretary in dealing with senior state and local officials and other organizations and individuals in an effort to bring government closer to the people. State and local leaders were thus better able to exert policy influence on Federal programs affecting their jurisdictions. More and more functions were decentralized: about 45% of the Department's employees were in the field at the beginning of 1969, and about 60% worked outside of Washington by the end of 1976.

In addition, hitherto separate operating agencies, often operating with considerable autonomy, increasingly came to be integrated to form a more cohesive organization that was more responsive to broad Departmental policy interests.

The issue of regulation, particularly its economic costs, was at the forefront of the Administration's concerns. Increasingly, the Department gained sensitivity to the impact of its rules and regulations on various affected groups, and addressed itself to the many economic and social implications of the statutes it administered, not only for the employer and work force but for the nation as well. The Department, on its own initiative, undertook a search for solutions as to how best to enforce the many laws it is mandated to administer.

The decentralization of job development, employment, training, and related labor market functions took place during the past 8 years. The Department solidified its focal position in rendering services to the poor and the disadvantaged by providing them with job skills, assisting them in job search, and aiding them financially through periods of unemployment.

Early in the period, administration of the Job Corps was transferred to Labor from the Office of Economic Opportunity. Marked progress was made in opening up new job opportunities for workers with special employability problems. As we moved to a peacetime economy, top priority was assigned to training and employment assistance for veterans. In addition, the Department stepped up its efforts to provide job finding, retraining, and relocation assistance to engineers, scientists, and technicians who found themselves jobless because of priority changes in the national defense and space programs.

Greater efforts also were made to improve conditions for migrant farm workers, with economic security and year round employment becoming primary goals.

The passage of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) in December 1973 marked a major shift in national manpower policy, replacing the existing network of Federal categorical programs with a special form of revenue sharing. Born of the Administration policy of decentralizing Federal services, CETA transferred funds and decision making authority to grass roots elected officials, and generally brought government closer to the people it affects.

Under CETA, states and some cities and counties, known as prime sponsors, are made responsible for planning and providing a wide range of employment and training services tailored to local needs.

A key issue now facing the Department with regard to this decentralized program is how to reconcile a national manpower policy with local initiatives determining manpower objectives and strategies. Still to be finally determined is the proper role of the Federal Government vis-a-vis state and local governments, and the means for assessing their responsiveness to changes in Federal policies reflecting the current state of the national economy.

Beginning with the Emergency Employment Act, public service employment in state and local public agencies became part of the arsenal of training and job creating programs. Such direct job creation in the public sector had not been used since the depression days of the 1930's. Job creation and development activities also enlisted private sector support through the National Alliance of Businessmen and the JOBS program. The revival of public service employment by the Emergency Employment Act and later in CETA (Titles II and VI) confronted the Department with problems it had never faced before, in objectives, structure, and time constraints.

Although designed to counter unemployment, the efficacy of public service employment (PSE), especially during a period of recession, was the subject of continuous debate throughout the Nixon-Ford period. Unanswered questions concern the extent to which PSE in fact has increased employment (the "displacement" effect); whether other expenditures or tax cuts increase employment more and with better cost benefit ratios; which approach produces goods and services most desired; and the political problems created in scaling down PSE as the economy improves.

The labor market problems of youth provoked a variety of Departmental responses during this period. Over 50% of CETA funds have been allocated to youth 16-22 years of age.

President Ford's 1974 call for ways, to bring the worlds of education and work closer together led to the creation of an interagency Work-Education Initiative in which the Department played a key role. This planning exercise focused on youth's problems of transition between school and work. The strategic vehicle selected was the establishment of a pilot network of work-education councils in some 15 communities as a means of enlisting the support, cooperation and collaboration of interested groups and institutions in the local community — educators, employers, unions, government, students, volunteers, etc.

Occupational information which is current, accurate, understandable, and usable is in scarce supply. To address this problem the Department created an experimental National Occupational Information Service, providing relevant occupational information to students, counselors, teachers, and others concerned about job and career decision making.

Another major objective of the Department was to help reduce structural and frictional unemployment resulting from labor market inefficiency and imbalances between the supply of and demand for particular job skills. The Employment Service was generally strengthened and new tools developed to increase the placement of unemployed workers. Referral priority was assigned to veterans, the handicapped, minorities, and the disadvantaged, and expanded service was made available to migrants and rural workers.

The WIN program, designed to move adults from welfare rolls to economic self sufficiency through job training and employment, was implemented and expanded.

We are learning, albeit slowly, from our training programs targeted at low skilled and disadvantaged workers. Properly designed and administered training programs, though costly, appear to yield long run benefits for enrollees and the economy generally. However, further experimentation is clearly called for.

Unemployment insurance, the nation's first line of defense for the jobless, was improved several times during this Administration. Coverage was broadened, benefits were extended for longer periods, financing levels were increased, unemployment assistance was provided for workers not covered under the State UI system, and a Commission was established to Federal study and recommend further changes.

Steps also were taken to improve the performance of the Federal-State UI program and the Employment Service, through automation, and to manage and monitor State agency performance.

Occupational Safety and Health

Workplace death and injury experience persuasively pointed up the need for strong Federal Governmental action to bring about safer and healthier workplaces. The Department's concern regarding this aspect of the quality of working life came to fruition with passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA).

OSHA represents an exception to the general shift of responsibilities from the Federal Government to the States. However, consistent with the Administration's desire to minimize the Federal regulatory role and presence, the Act provides for approval of State occupational safety and health programs which assure protection to workers "as effective as" that provided by the Federal program. Federal funds provide half the cost of such State efforts.

Despite this cost sharing, a number of large industrial states have withdrawn from the state plan program, largely as a result of fiscal restraints intensified by the recent recession. (Only 24 states have approved plans.)

OSHA's initial focus on safety measures and standards has begun to shift in the last 2 years to a greater concern about occupational health.

Pension Reform

A major law to protect the financial security of American workers and their families assigned additional responsibilities to the Department in 1974. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires the Department to enforce fiduciary standards and reporting and disclosure requirements for well over one and one-half million employee benefit plans, so as to assure the exclusive use of plan funds for the benefit of participants and their beneficiaries.

ERISA provides that employees be included as plan participants at an early date and that liberal standards of vesting be met. These provisions help to guarantee workers future retirement benefits.

Private employee benefit plans now invest more than $210 billion in assets, which are to be used for future benefit payments. ERISA requires that fiduciaries prudently invest such funds; to diversify plan assets to minimize the risk of large losses; and to act in a manner solely in the interests of participants and their beneficiaries.

ERISA was set up with dual jurisdiction between the Internal Revenue Service, the newly created Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and the Department of Labor. There is some overlapping on reporting requirements and on the authority to grant exemptions between the IRS and the Department. Certain philosophic differences exist between the agencies on basic approach. The priorities of the IRS focus on tax code issues. In this area further coordination is needed.

Job Discrimination

Equal opportunity is a basic tenet of American democracy — a principle which the Department strove increasingly to make a reality in America's workplaces. Through the Federal contract compliance program and by statute, the Department has played a major role in the fight against employment discrimination — equal pay for equal work and equal employment opportunities for minorities, women, older workers, the handicapped, and veterans.

In 8 years, significant legal victories and settlements were won: the Corning Glass decision, important in implementation of the Equal Pay Act; the consent decrees in the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. and Steel industry cases, which moved major blocs of industry in the direction of accepting affirmative action goals and timetables and back pay settlements.

Management of the contract compliance program proved difficult. Obstacles included the poor communication between OFCC and the compliance agencies; the absence of clear and precisely articulated directives for compliance agencies; the lack of a clear cut line of demarcation between OFCC and EEOC and how the equal employment opportunity workload would be allocated between the OFCC, EEOC, and other government agencies; and competition for priorities among the groups for whom affirmative action is prescribed whether by legislation or executive order.

With the additional responsibility for administering affirmative action programs for handicapped employees and veterans, a new office was created, the 0ffice of Contract Compliance Programs, to facilitate a coordinated approach to affirmative action strategies and thereby translate concept and rhetoric into application and enforceable compliance standards. The reorganization, coupled with new leadership, appears to have resolved several problems, and to have improved the effectiveness of the program.

Labor-Management Relations

Through the work of the Construction Industry Stabilization Committee and the Construction Industry Collective Bargaining Commission, the Department helped to restore stability to wage and bargaining relationships in this critical sector of our economy. Towards the end of this era, however, the consensus which Secretary Dunlop tried to obtain with respect to construction situs picketing, coupled with reorganization of construction bargaining structure, did not materialize.

Early in this Administration, the Department announced a policy of disengagement from collective bargaining disputes in an effort to encourage the parties to bargain more responsibly. This policy of minimal Federal intervention was generally followed by each Secretary, except in cases of occasional emergency, where the public welfare and national interest were at issue. Such exceptions occurred with respect to disputes in the railroad, trucking and rubber industries.

In 1974, legislation raised the minimum wage to $2.30 an hour and provided new coverage for 7.4 million workers, primarily Federal, State and local government employees and domestic workers. However, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a test case brought before it by the National League of Cities, denied expansion of coverage to State and local government employees.

In 1976, the Department announced its intention to withdraw from the International Labor Organization pending the resolution of three issues: strengthening of the ILO's tripartite system to maintain the influence and autonomy of worker and employer groups; improving ILO substantive programs and operations; and increasing U.S. influence in the Governing Body and in ILO meetings.

A special effort was mounted in 1974, pursuant to a Court order, to assist migrants and other seasonally employed farm workers to seek jobs other than seasonal farm work and to provide the services necessary to improve the living and working conditions of those who remain in the agricultural market.

While certain farm workers were brought under the protection of unemployment insurance, and were assured more equitable treatment through wage, housing, and transportation standards prescribed in amendments to the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act, efforts to extend protection through an agricultural labor relations law were unsuccessful.

Administrative Developments

In line with Executive Office directives, the Department made a concerted effort to develop greater management expertise and foster a greater sense of professionalism in the conduct of its programs.

This was reflected in a gradual build up of the analytic capabilities of staff units in the Office of the Secretary. The central policy development, planning and evaluation unit was strengthened in 1969, elevated to a higher status and placed under the direction of an Assistant Secretary.

Each new Secretary stressed the Department's need to bolster its planning and evaluation capability to develop better knowledge about program performance and to assess more confidently the full impact of the Department's programs on the economy and the nation's workers. Increased emphasis was placed on program evaluation efforts, as a managerial and policy tool, while recognizing that absolute measures of performance are difficult to develop.

Concomitantly, increasing use was made of research and E&D programs to design and test experimentally alternative strategies to solving economic and social problems before embarking on large and expensive operational programs.

Recent functions assigned the Department are exceedingly complex. For example, OSHA is required to oversee 5 million work places and the pension law (ERISA) affects one and one half million pension and welfare funds. For this reason the Department increasingly has sought closer relations with labor and management, and has resorted to earlier consultation with both parties as one means of improving the effectiveness of its regulatory programs. This concern also has been prompted by the general counter reaction to the increasing complexity of Federal regulations.

The Department is fully cognizant of its legal responsibility to achieve compliance with Federal labor laws intended to protect workers or potential workers. At the same time, the Department's managers have become increasingly appreciative of the many effects of their regulatory programs on small business and on unions, a matter of continuing Administration concern.

Various measures were taken to develop closer relations between the Department and those whom it regulates, looking towards greater involvement, more simplified regulations, and recognition of the diversity of problems, needs and circumstances. It was felt such measures were sorely needed, and were compatible with Departmental policy in carrying out the intent of regulatory statutes.

Through testimony in Congressional oversight hearings and staff papers, the Department has taken action to improve the quality of public debate and dialogue on Departmental programs. This was viewed as another application of the principle of encouraging discussions involving affected groups in the formulation and application of regulatory policy. Regular meetings with the public media on a variety of issues were another important component of this approach.

At the operating agency level, a Secretary's Committee on Regulatory Reform, comprised of Agency heads or their deputies, provided a forum for program managers to discuss and exchange views on major regulatory and other programmatic issues.

For most of this period, the Department was not viewed as a senior partner in setting economic policy, nor did it come to play a major role. From time to time, circumstances thrust the Department into the economic arena, on such issues as welfare reform, energy, and trade policy. Through his participation on the Economic Policy Board, Secretary Dunlop enhanced the Department's influence over basic economic decision making at the top policy level.

Relations with Organized Labor

The Department has always tried to maintain cordial and mutually beneficial relations with organized labor. Over 8 years, these relations have ranged from excellent to very strained. The latter periods were sometimes the result of misunderstandings and other times were due to basic differences in policy and philosophy between the Administration and the labor movement on such issues as a youth minimum wage and situs picketing. It may be that personality clashes also have been a factor.

Achievements and Failures

The Department has had its notable successes and its conspicuous failures, legislatively and administratively.

Administratively, on the credit side:

In 1971, on a crash program basis, and within about 6 months, 160,000 people were put to work in transitional jobs in the public sector;

The Department has designed and implemented several employment and training programs for ex-criminal offenders, drug abusers, the aged, displaced aerospace workers, rural workers, and persons on welfare rolls.

The Department successfully handled the sensitive assignment of supervising the election of the United Mine Workers.

The Federal-State employment system, designed to help people find jobs and help employers find qualified people, has been modernized by the establishment of a nationwide computerized Job Bank system, providing daily listings of job orders, and by developing a program for computerized matching of jobs and job seekers.

The Department has met its responsibility in administering the Executive Order extending bargaining rights for Federal employees, and has helped facilitate effective collective bargaining in the Federal Government.

On the legislative front, the Department developed, expedited through Congress, and implemented two major worker interest laws: the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The programs created the first national efforts to: 1) ensure safe and healthful working conditions for American workers; and 2) protect workers' pension rights.

Other legislative enactments supported by the Department included:

1974 Amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act assuring workers a more adequate minimum wage and extending coverage to domestic service workers, Federal government employees and State and local government workers. (As noted above, most of the latter group was later excluded by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.)

The Trade Act of 1974, which improved the existing program of trade adjustment assistance for workers displaced by foreign imports.

Passage of CETA in 1973.

Passage of emergency legislation on rising unemployment which authorized public service jobs, extended unemployment compensation for millions of workers, broadened unemployment insurance coverage, and raised the taxable wage base.

Amendments to the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act, the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, and the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.

Coverage of Nonprofit Hospitals under the National Labor Relations Act.

On the other hand, some legislative objectives which were not achieved include:

General or special bills designed to resolve disputes in the transportation industry threatening national emergencies.

Construction Industry Collective Bargaining Act of 1975 Welfare reform Collective bargaining rights for agricultural employees

Looking Ahead

The Labor Department is working:

The Labor Department is working:

with unions and industry to create more apprenticeship opportunities;

to smooth the transition from school to work and to help young workers find permanent jobs and make career choices;

through training, to develop and expand the nation's skilled work force;

to develop jobs in private industry in lieu of government created and subsidized jobs;

to improve the labor market information network;

to improve the Department's capacity to provide services to the collective bargaining parties;

to enhance the achievement of equal employment opportunity;

to bolster current evaluation capabilities so as to provide a firmer basis for judging program activities and program impact.

But significant unfinished tasks remain some reflecting program or administrative shortcomings.

Still unsolved is the dilemma of reducing unemployment without accelerating inflation. A solution to this problem must be found if we are to reduce the human cost of unemployment and a substantial loss in national productivity.

Although equal job opportunity is an enduring Department goal, the task of breaking down barriers to employment, of eliminating discrimination, is still incomplete. "Hometown" responses to affirmative action requirements in construction need improvement. Within the Department also, we need to broaden opportunities for minorities and women to enter and advance upward in the professional ranks.

The unemployment rate of young veterans, and of youth generally, is still far too high. Although our performance is creditable, jobs for veterans continues to be a top priority need.

Too many Americans are out of work and lack the income to provide a decent living for themselves and their families.

Although we are committed to reduce the number of job connected deaths, injuries, and illnesses, substantial hazards to safety and health continue to exist in our workplaces. State plans, consistent with the principle of de-Federalization, have not developed as expected. In addition, legal challenges to the right of OSHA inspectors to inspect workplaces jeopardized OSHA's enforcement program.

The volume of worker complaints and the frequent imposition of sanctions indicate the continuing need to achieve greater compliance with laws and standards administered by the Department.

We need to identify the factors that impede effective collective bargaining and develop proposals for achieving more constructive bargaining relationships.

We need to achieve greater efficiency in the administration of Federally operated workers' compensation programs and those operated by the States, as well.

Services provided migrant and seasonal farm workers need greater focus and coordination among various Departmental agencies.

Relations with unions representing the Department's employees need substantial improvement.

The policy decision-making process has yet to be fully institutionalized. A central office has not been developed which is secure in its function and relationship to the Secretary and Under Secretary, and so implanted organizationally and administratively as to enable it to play the role of "constant challenger." Four offices attached to the Office of the Secretary participate in policy making, creating problems of coordination, clearance, jurisdiction, and authority. As a consequence, the Department's role in policy development has been more to react than to initiate.

At the same time, the PBRC planning process has acquired increasing strength and significance during this period, playing a coordinating role for the Department's constituent agencies, and often serving as a substitute for a policy formulation process.

We must continue our efforts to redirect the International Labor Organization so as to reinforce the promotion of workers' interests and minimize its use for tangential political purposes.

We must continue to explore and develop more effective means of responding to the needs of those we serve and regulate.

We must continue to clarify the functions of the Regional Directors in relation to those of the Assistant Secretaries and the regional program managers.

The Department to some extent represents a segment of our society, the working people or those who want to work or are retired from work. As part of this role, DOL works with other parts of the Executive Branch in developing policies to deal with the myriad problems faced by the nation. In this context, DOL worked with virtually every other major Department and agency on some issue. Perhaps the closest partner is HEW with which DOL worked on such issues as welfare reform, workers' compensation, school to work transition, safety and health, and improved health care programs. Other agencies with particularly close interfaces include DOD in terms of training programs; Interior on mine safety; Commerce on data series, product liability, trade, and others; EPA on noise, pesticides, and toxic substance controls; Agriculture on farm labor relations issues; Justice on EEO, pensions, safety and health, and minimum wage enforcement; etc.

No less than in other Federal agencies, there is a sense of common purpose at all staff levels to meet and respond to the charge and the challenge in our charter, which in the case of the Labor Department, is to protect and improve the welfare of American workers.

The Department will continue, as it has done before, to meet the challenge of a dynamic post industrial society in which the American people, through their elected representatives, set forth an ever growing body of workplace laws which determine the quality of working life. The complexity of our laws reflecting the complexity of our society, poses critical problems and decisions for Agency heads in implementing and administering their programs. The Department is prepared, more than ever, to respond responsibly and effectively to these challenges.