Happy 100th Birthday, Department of Labor!
Today marks the centennial anniversary of the U.S. Department of Labor, an institution that has done much to improve the lives of workers since 1913. Its primary mission: Aid job seekers, wage earners and retirees, administer laws that keep workers safe and adequately paid, and fight employment discrimination.
On March 4, 1913, Pres. William Howard Taft signed a bill creating the U.S. Department of Labor. It was the first time that workers gained a voice with a seat in the President’s Cabinet. Since then, it has been a defender of workers’ rights in a battle that continues today.
A proclamation by Pres. Barack Obama states:
“Over the course of a century, the Department of Labor has fought to secure strong safeguards for workers and their families. It helped lay the cornerstones of middle class security, from the 40-hour work week and the minimum wage to family leave and pensions.”
The DOL’s mission may be 100 years old, but the need to defend workers’ rights is one that must be recommitted to daily. Today, the right of collective bargaining – for better wages and working conditions – is under attack like never before. So-called “right-to-work” (for less) bills advocated by corporate-backed groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are spreading nationwide, threatening to undermine the very rights won during those 100 years.
Recently, in places like Indiana, Kansas and Ohio, the fight goes on. The DOL’s stated goal of “strengthening free collective bargaining” is a work in progress – one that AFSCME will continue to support with boots on the ground.
Learn more about the DOL. Check out the department’s centennial video, an interactive timeline, a collection of historical posters and newsletter vignettes, including an article on the DOL’s mission to protect the rights of union members with the creation of the Office of Labor-Management Standards.