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October 6, 2008    DOL Home > Newsroom > Speeches & Remarks   

Speeches by Secretary Elaine L. Chao

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Remarks Prepared for Delivery By
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
Atlanta Regional Awards Ceremony
Atlanta, Georgia
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thank you, Stan [Keen, Atlanta Region Solicitor of U.S. Department of Labor]. This is a great opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our valued Atlanta Region team!

Let me thank the Atlanta Regional Executive Committee for putting together this 95th annual awards program.

Before I help recognize today's awardees, I'd like to share some thoughts on this special tribute and how the Atlanta Region has pulled together to bring about record accomplishments the entire Department can be proud of.

As you may have heard from our national kickoff celebration, 288 awards were presented to 2225 colleagues in our Department.

All of the awardees were selected for their outstanding contributions to the Department and for their service to America's workforce. But, this annual tradition also honors very special members of the DOL team, who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

At our national celebration in April, we honored two heroic members of our DOL team who were called upon to face challenges that few of us will ever have to confront. One of them is Gary Jensen — known as "Gibb" Jensen to his friends and colleagues — who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life trying to rescue others. The other is Frank Markosek, who was seriously injured in the same mission trying to rescue miners who were trapped. Gibb and Frank are shining examples of the courageous professionals who have served in this Department over the years. They care deeply about their mission. I sense the same spirit of selflessness and dedication among today's award winners — and, among their supporters and friends joining us.

As we continue with this ceremony, let me also note others in the Department who are being, or have been, recognized this year. 299 individuals throughout the Department are being recognized with Length of Service Awards for 35, 40, and 45 years of federal service! In fact, one of our colleagues, Edward C. Pratt from BLS, celebrated a remarkable 55 years of federal service.

As I look back on the past seven and a half years, we have accomplished so much together. But there is always more to do. As our nation becomes part of a worldwide economy, the rapid pace of change has hit some workers disproportionately harder than others. So our mission of protecting and promoting the health, safety, retirement security and competitiveness of America's workforce takes on a new urgency. Each of you has a role to play in the critical mission of helping and empowering others. And I can think of no more rewarding mission!

Let me share with you just a few of the milestones that we have achieved together on behalf of America's workers in the last year alone:

  • The Department recovered a record $220 million for 341,000 workers who did not receive the wages they were due. This represents a 67 percentincrease since 2001.
  • The Department also posted record results in enforcing equal opportunity rights for individuals working for federal contractors — with an increase in financial recoveries of 78 percent since 2001.
  • And since FY 2001, the Department achieved monetary results of more than $10 billion for retirees' and workers' health, retirement, and other benefit plans.
  • The Department's multi-pronged approach has reduced workplace fatality and serious injury and illness rates to record lows. Since 2002, the overall injury and illness rate has declined by 17 percent. And since 2001, worker fatalities have dropped by 7 percent. Most notable is the reduction in fatalities among Hispanic workers of 17 percent since 2001.
  • Since 2001, the Department has paid over $3 billion in compensation and medical benefits to nuclear weapons workers and their survivors.
  • VETS launched the national HireVetsFirst campaign to help our servicemen and women transition to civilian life. In 2004, the Department created REALifelines to provide individualized job training, counseling, and reemployment and mentoring services to each and every soldier who was seriously injured or wounded in the War on Terror.
  • In FY 2007, the Department continued to be a good steward of the taxpayer's money by meeting or exceeding the goals of the President's Management Agenda. The Department received its 11th unqualified audit opinion and our seventh consecutive Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Report Program Award.

There are so many more achievements, these are just a sampling. And our Atlanta Region colleagues have worked so hard to help achieve these great results for America's workers. In particular, I'd like to single out the career managers and team members who have worked so hard to move forward the agenda we created together.

So thank you again for all that you do to help our country and our workforce. It has been a joy to work with the dedicated professionals at the Department for more than seven and a half years, and I shall miss you very much!

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