Remarks by Acting Secretary of Labor Jule Su at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference (As Delivered)

Washington, DC

March 11, 2024

Wow! Thank you very, very much. How is everybody doing?



Thank you so much, Mayor Patterson, for that introduction and for your leadership in Athens.

And I want to acknowledge this year's President of the National League of Cities, Mayor Sander, from my home state of California.

I know that California is well-represented today, including city leaders from my home town. So hello, Cerritos!


It's really great to be here with you all, and especially as you celebrate 100 years.

I'm proud of the partnership that we've built—you just saw that amazing video—called "Good Jobs, Great Cities." It's a partnership that really goes both ways as we work to build our workforce infrastructure—and I'll say more about that in a second.

But I really want to acknowledge the force, the phenomenon, that is Mayor Woodards. Mayor Woodards, are you here?


Mayor Woodards, for your leadership, for your vision, for launching "Good Jobs, Great Cities" with us, and for your ongoing work to make sure that it succeeds—it's truly a privilege to get to work with you.

Now, I know you heard from my boss already today, President Biden.

So I'm not going to belabor how we've created nearly 15 million jobs in just three years.


I'm not going to focus on the historically low unemployment rate of less than 4 percent for two years now and running—the longest stretch in 50 years.


I'm not going to talk about all of that strong economic growth, except to say that none of that happens by accident.

Leadership matters. And President Biden came into office determined to build our economy from the middle out and the bottom up. And he knows that behind every new job is a story of a worker, a family, a community.

Workers like Rose Evans from Ohio.

A few years ago, Rose wasn't sure how she was going to provide for her kids. But she started an apprenticeship program ten days after her C-section —women are amazing—and she became a journey worker with the Sheet Metal Worker's Union. 

And as Rose's daughter, Diamond, was growing up, she saw just what a good union job means for a family because she lived it. And with the help of a grant from the Department of Labor many years later, Diamond followed in her mom's footsteps. So she's now a first year apprentice with the Sheet Metal Worker's Union, Local 20, in Kokomo, Indiana.

And mom? Mom Rose is still using her hands to build our country. She just started work on her second project funded under President Biden's Investing in America agenda—and this one is in Kokomo where she works alongside her daughter.

Good jobs change lives. They bring dignity and respect. And they build inter-generational wealth and pride.

You all know this. I hear stories like this every time I come and visit your cities—from Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, Wisconsin to Montgomery, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi. From Eugene, Hillsboro, and Springfield, Oregon to New Haven, Connecticut. From Cleveland and Pittsburgh to Columbia, South Carolina—these are all cities I've been in in the last month. And wherever I go, I try to sit down with you: mayors who are making it happen every single day.

Our country's economic growth and the historic investments we're making across America have created a moment of tremendous possibility. Mayor Woodards said it in the video; it is a once in a generation opportunity. And they're not just investments for today; they are investments that are going to shape our cities for decades to come.

As city leaders, you're at the intersection of those possibilities—with the chance to turn them into real opportunity for your people and your communities.

And the Department of Labor wants to be your partner as we seize this moment so that together, we can build a brighter and better future, where every single person knows the transformative power of a good job.

So, as you know, President Biden's Investing in America agenda is about hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and bridges, it's about modernizing airports, it's about building electric vehicle charging stations, making sure that every American turns on the faucet gets clean drinking water, and every community has high speed, reliable, affordable internet.

All of this means jobs.

So some of you have heard me say this before, but I think of our workforce system as infrastructure, too. It's the roads and bridges that connect people to the good jobs they want and need and employers to the people that they want and need.

But like our physical infrastructure, our workforce infrastructure needs some work. It's got some potholes. It's got some cracks. It doesn't reach every community the way that it should. Some have to go a long way to find that on ramp to the middle class.

Not this time.

In President Biden's America, alongside all of you, we are building workforce infrastructure that's as strong as our physical infrastructure, a system that reaches all communities and where opportunity doesn't depend on the zip code in which you were born or the circumstances in which you grew up.

Now, as city leaders, you know better than anyone your specific workforce needs. But while each community is unique, I know that we all face a common challenge: how to build a workforce infrastructure that reaches every community, including people who've been left out in the past.

And we have to get this right. This isn't just about training. It's about connectivity. And that's why I say it's a form of infrastructure.

So for St. Louis, that means building a new advanced manufacturing innovation district right there in north St. Louis. In Birmingham, it's about connecting training programs to jobs in advanced manufacturing and clean energy and then making sure women and people of color are included in those programs. And you just heard about Frederick, Maryland, where city leaders are focused on making sure that young people, those who are not connected to schools or jobs, as well as those who've been formerly incarcerated, are getting jobs in their communities so one day they can buy their own home.

At a time when our economy is growing, and as we create millions of new jobs in communities across the country, we cannot leave diverse talent untapped. Building an inclusive economy is not just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do.

And one way that happens is through Registered Apprenticeships. So if we think of our workforce system as infrastructure, Registered Apprenticeships are like superhighways. Apprentices earn a paycheck, while they gain the skills that are needed for an in-demand job in their community.

And this month, we announced another $200 million in grants to continue to expand, diversify, and strengthen this proven "earn and learn" training model. So just last week, I was in Madison, Wisconsin with the Vice President…


Hello Madison! ... as well as Mayor Rhodes-Conway and we were promoting Registered Apprenticeship programs.

At the Department of Labor, we're on a mission to reach a million apprentices in 2024. And we want people in your city to be part of that million. Please go to to learn how to expand apprenticeships—across industries for young people and even within your own city governments.

Now a couple of other things, a good job obviously isn't enough if a worker doesn't have access to reliable, affordable child care.

San Antonio recently conducted a survey and found that nearly 60 percent of workers cannot afford child care in a given week. So last month, my team was proud to take part in San Antonio's "Equity Summit" with Mayor Nirenberg, where the topic was solutions to make child care more affordable, and the conversation was about the most feasible options. And now as a result of that Summit, the city is working on a budget proposal that's going to help families with child care needs.

Another common issue that I know you're all grappling with—and the Senator talked about this just a little while ago—is mental health.

Creating good jobs isn't enough if workers aren't well enough to do them. And in the past, we've thought of mental health issues as separate from jobs issues. We can't do that anymore. At, we do have resources—accessible right from our main page—about how to help workplaces to prioritize mental health. And last week, we launched a section devoted to young people's mental health, specifically.

So all of us have a part to play in keeping our communities healthy.

So I'm going to close by—you know we should always quote the experts—so I'm going to quote a story I heard about a mayor, who was sitting at a meeting, everybody was arguing, and the mayor interrupted and said, "Spare me your sermons, and I will fix your sewers."


That's right! You've all said some version of that. Let's stop talking about stuff and let's get it done.

And I love that. It sums up how local leaders roll up your sleeves and get to work, to solve real problems and to get real results. And it's what this organization has been doing now for a century.

So we celebrate that progress, and I know we have a lot of work to do. The Biden-Harris administration is investing in your communities to do transformative things, and in your ability to do transformative things, to turn possibility into real opportunity. And we can't slow down now. 

As you all look at the next century, I'm going to leave you with a challenge and a promise.

The challenge is to make sure that the jobs that are coming to your cities are good jobs, where workers can make a real living, where they don't have to work two to three jobs just to survive, where they have a real voice, where they can go home healthy and safe at the end of every work day, and where they can retire with dignity at the end of a career. And then, build the infrastructure to connect all communities to those jobs, especially those who have been left out in the past.

And my promise to you is that we are committed to doing our part. President Biden is all in. I am all in. As you continue to roll up your sleeves and fix the real problems that you see every single day to do the real work of the American people, I promise you that we are doing that too.

And the Biden-Harris Administration has your back.

So thank you so much for what you're doing to improve the lives of all of the people across this country every single day. And I look forward to seeing you in your city very soon. Thank you so much!

Delivered By
Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su