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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
Boston Regional Awards Ceremony
Boston, Massachusetts
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thank you, Frank [Frank McDermott, Boston Regional Solicitor and REC Chair]. I'd also like to thank the Job Corps Cadet's Color Guard for being here, and the Federal Choral Group for leading us in the National Anthem.

It's great to be here today to celebrate the accomplishments of the Boston Regional team! Let me thank the Boston 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.

All of the awardees were selected for their outstanding contributions to the Department and for their service to America's workforce. At our national celebration in April, we honored and remembered Gary Jensen and Frank Markosek for their courageous actions in the Crandall Canyon rescue effort. We remember Gibb Jensen's widow, Lola, and their children, as well as Frank's wife, Trude, and their daughter.

As we look back on the past seven and a half years, there's so much that we've accomplished together. We have been given a unique opportunity to create a new paradigm for the Department that reflects 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. Skilled trade jobs today require more than a superficial knowledge of technology. 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, because that's the best way to protect workers, and by emphasizing collaborative efforts between workers and employers to strengthen a 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 our time together.

The Department has:

  • Recovered, in FY 2007 alone, a record $220 million for 341,000 workers who did not receive the wages they were due. This includes the $9.5 million recovered for 6600 workers here in Region I. Overall, this represents a 67 percent increase in recoveries since 2001.
  • We've posted record results in enforcing equal opportunity rights for individuals working for federal contractors — with an increase in financial recoveries of 78 percent.
  • We've achieved monetary results of more than $10 billion for retirees' and workers' health, retirement, and other benefit plans, including the investigation into UNUM Provident that was initiated in this region.
  • We've reduced workplace fatality and serious injury and illness rates to record lows, including a reported 30 percent drop in fatalities in this region compared to the prior year. From 2001 to 2006, the nation's overall injury and illness rate has declined by 22 percent. And during that time, worker fatalities dropped by 7 percent. Most notable is the 17 percent reduction in fatalities among Hispanic workers.
  • We've paid almost $4 billion in compensation and medical benefits to nuclear weapons workers and their survivors.
  • 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 soldiers seriously injured in the War on Terror.

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. And the Boston Region deserves credit for helping to achieve these results for America's workers. 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.

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.

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. I hope you'll continue 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.

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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