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November 4, 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
Philadelphia Regional Awards Ceremony
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Friday, July 11, 2008

Thank you, Pat [Patrick J. Marano, Philadelphia Regional Representative]. I'd also like to thank the Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base, Willow Grove Color Guard for being here, and the Mintones for leading us in the National Anthem.

I am so pleased to be here today to celebrate the accomplishments of the Philadelphia Regional team! Let me thank the Philadelphia Regional Executive Committee for putting together this annual awards program.

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

As I look back on the past seven and a half years, we have accomplished so much together. We have been given a unique opportunity to create a new paradigm for the Department that reflects the new century — the 21st century.

Today, our nation is rapidly becoming part of a worldwide economy, and it is transitioning to a knowledge based economy, as well. Technology has transformed the way everyone works and has accelerated the pace of change. Even jobs that are characterized as skilled trades today require a knowledge of technology. So helping workers prepare for this changing environment is critical to ensuring that our nation remains strong and competitive in the 21st century.

That's why, in everything that we have done together over the past seven and a half years, the focus has been on empowering the individual worker with the tools needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We have completed major regulatory reforms reflecting 21st century workplace realities. We have created innovative new programs to expand worker access to relevant post secondary education that will prepare workers for careers in the 21st economy. And we have ramped up enforcement by focusing on bad actors and by emphasizing collaboration between workers and employers to strengthen our nation's culture of safety in the 21st century workplace.

Let me share 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 percent increase since 2001.
  • 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.
  • Achieved monetary results of more than $10 billion for retirees' and workers' health, retirement, and other benefit plans since FY 2001.
  • Reduced workplace fatality and serious injury and illness rates to record lows. From 2001 to 2006, the overall injury and illness rate has declined by 22 percent. And during that time, worker fatalities dropped by 7 percent. Most notable is the reduction in fatalities among Hispanic workers of 17 percent from 2001 to 2006.
  • Paid almost $4 billion in compensation and medical benefits to nuclear weapons workers and their survivors since 2001.

In addition, 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.

And 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 eighth consecutive Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Report Program Award.

There are so many more achievements, these are just a sampling. And the Philadelphia Region deserves credit for helping to achieve these results for America's workers. In particular, let me single out the career managers and team members who have worked so hard to move forward the agenda we created together.

One of the most important changes we have made over the past seven and a half years is to institute a results-driven management system that establishes clear goals and focuses on measurable achievements. I'm very proud of the fact that the Department of Labor is the first cabinet Department to get to green on all five major criteria of the President's management agenda, and that we remain there.

Together, we have made a real difference for America's workers by focusing forward and empowering the individual — and our Department — to meet the unique challenges of the 21st century. This is a strong foundation. But it is just a start. Your challenge is to keep your focus on the future, and to continue to create innovative new programs that empower America's workers so that they remain the healthiest, safest, most secure and competitive in the world.

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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