Then, Now, Next: U.S. Department of Labor's Centennial

DOL Elevator posters for the 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.


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 [...]

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


Books That Shaped Work in America

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.

Wealth of Nations
Busy Town
How to Win friends and Influence People
Madam Secretary

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.

To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights
Department of Labor Employees

Your Work is Our Work

DOL employee Anthony Camilli
DOL employee Malika Jeter
DOL employee Lucia Garcia
DOL employee Day Al-Mohamed
DOL employees Tony Rios
DOL employee Isabel Colon

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.

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.


Online Resources for Jobseekers

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