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November 4, 2008    DOL Home > Newsroom > Speeches & Remarks   

Speeches by Secretary Elaine L. Chao

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Remarks Delivered by
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
19th Annual Labor Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Frances Perkins Building
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thank you all for joining us for this very special event — the 19th Induction Ceremony for the Department of Labor's Hall of Fame.

I want to welcome all of our special guests here today, including family members, colleagues, and friends of our honorees, William Wilson [first U.S. Secretary of Labor and former Secretary-Treasurer of the United States Mine Workers of America] and Adolphus Busch [Founder of Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company].

Let me give a special welcome to August A. Busch IV, [President and Chief Executive Officer of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.] and his wife, Kate;

and Robert Wilson [a great grandson of William B. Wilson] and the other members of the Wilson family.

And, let me welcome Cecil Roberts, [President, United Mine Workers of America.]

And I understand there are some people here from Secretary Wilson's hometown of Blossburg, Pennsylvania. Thank you all for coming!

Let me also recognize Richard Stickler, the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health;

And, finally, let me welcome the students and staff that are here from our local Job Corps Centers.

The Hall of Fame was founded in 1988 to honor the men and women whose distinctive contributions have enhanced the quality of life of America's workers.

The Hall of Fame recognizes the outstanding achievements of great innovators and entrepreneurs. And our history is filled with stories of tremendous success achieved from humble and meager beginnings.

The Hall of Fame also recognizes those individuals who have made notable contributions towards improving working conditions and workers' rights in the U.S. Great progress has been made over the years, but it has been a long road. Workers have faced tremendous challenges. And we are so grateful to the brave men and women who took a stand on their behalf and made a real difference.

Each of the honorees' stories is remarkable. And together, they represent the tremendous power of the human spirit to achieve great things, in the face of every conceivable obstacle. All of these individuals faced challenges in their pursuits. And some even suffered personal hardship. But, they persevered because they believed they could succeed and because they believed their cause was a just and noble one.

And, I think it is worth noting the diversity of this group. They sat on both sides of the political aisle. They built great organizations in different sectors, and championed a variety of causes. They came from all socio-economic backgrounds. And, while many were prominent public figures, others were everyday workers who saw an injustice and bravely chose to take a stand. They were, in many cases, very different people. But, what they all shared in common was an unwavering commitment to the American worker.

And today, we add two new members to this distinguished group.

Our first honoree is William Bauchop Wilson, the first U.S. Secretary of Labor and former Secretary-Treasurer of United Mine Workers of America. Mr. Wilson was born in Scotland, and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1870. The family settled in a little coal mining village in Pennsylvania. After less than two years of formal schooling, William joined his father in the mines, where he worked for seven years. By the time he was 14, he was secretary of the local union.

Even at that young age, Wilson began to correspond with labor leaders around the country who expanded his knowledge and understanding of the labor movement. Eventually, he was blacklisted in Tioga County for his union activism and traveled the country looking for work. Among the odd jobs, he dug ditches, worked as a lumber jack, wood chopper, bark peeler and log driver. And in 1883, he married the love of his life, Agnes Williamson and together they raised eleven children.

Over the years, Wilson traveled extensively assisting striking miners, establishing joint conferences between operators and miners, and organizing union locals. He convinced the executive board of the Knights of Labor to meet with the Progressive Union to fully unite. And when the United Mine Workers of America was formed in 1890, he was elected a member of the National Executive Board.

Over the years, Wilson was frequently jailed for his work, as were many of his colleagues at the time. Wilson advocated peaceful settlement of strikes, often interfering with militant workers' plans to use force to settle a labor dispute.

In May 1900, John Mitchell, the legendary president of the UMWA, appointed Wilson to the position of Secretary-Treasurer, a position he held for eight years. When Wilson took charge of the treasury it contained $16,000 in poorly kept accounts. When he turned it over to his successor it contained over $1 million. And by that time, the UMWA had grown to have a membership of over 300,000.

In 1906, William Wilson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for three terms. Then, in 1913, the Department of Labor was created by an act of Congress. Wilson, as chair of the Committee on Labor, was instrumental in its passage. And President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to be Secretary of the new department.

During his tenure, Wilson established many of the programs and activities still in effect today — including employment services, employment for women, retraining of veterans with disabilities, fair employment for minorities, and labor-management relations. And during World War I, Wilson quickly helped the war effort by coordinating the movement of 6 million workers from non-essential to essential war production industries.

Secretary Wilson dedicated his life to protecting the rights and advancing the causes of America's workers. As a labor advocate, union leader, Member of Congress, and Secretary of Labor, he championed some of today's most important rights and protections. And that is why I am so pleased today to induct him into the Labor Hall of Fame.

William's great grandson, Robert Wilson is here to accept this honor on the family's behalf.

And, now it is my pleasure to introduce Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America. He will present Secretary Wilson for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Our second honoree, Adolphus Busch was born in Germany in 1839 as the second-youngest of 22 children. At the age of 18, he moved to the America with his three brothers, settling in St. Louis, Missouri.

He began working as a clerk along the bustling Mississippi riverfront. And, by the age of 21, Adolphus was a partner in a brewing supply business. It was through that venture that he met many St. Louis area brewers — including a man named Eberhard Anheuser — the owner of the Bavarian Brewery.

In 1861, Adolphus married Anheuser's daughter — Lilly. Then, with the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the U.S. Army for 14 months. After returning home to St. Louis, Adolphus and Lilly eventually raised 13 children. And, it was in 1864 that Adolphus bought a share in the Bavarian brewery from his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser, and joined the company's management team.

Over the next few years, Adolphus took greater responsibility for brewery operations. He also spent a great amount of time studying the art of brewing and learning brewing techniques in both the U.S. and Europe. As a result, he introduced new technical developments, modernized business functions, and opened up new markets for his business. After Eberhard's death in 1880, Adolphus became president of the brewery. And under Adolphus' leadership, Anheuser-Busch grew rapidly in the 1880s and 1890s, emerging as an industry sales leader by the 1900s.

A highly-educated man, Adolphus spent years studying the art of brewing and learning brewing techniques. In fact, one of the keys to his success was his discovery of a method to pasteurize beer to keep it fresh. This made it possible to bottle the beer and ship it to new markets all over the country. In addition to the brewery, Adolphus started other companies, including the Manufacturers' Railroad, the Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Co., and the Geyser Ice Company.

In addition to his business pursuits, Adolphus Busch engaged in a great deal of philanthropy, donating to numerous colleges and universities. In 1906, his company was quick to provide substantial resources to aid the victims of the San Francisco earthquake and resulting fire. He even endowed his company with a sense of environmental responsibility, by recycling spent brewers grain for use as cattle feed — a practice that continues to this day. And Adolphus' generosity has carried on. Over the past decade alone, Anheuser-Busch and its charitable foundation have provided resources and aid to people and communities in times of need, and donated more than $360 million to charitable organizations.

Adolphus and his workers shared a great mutual respect for each other. He took the responsibility for their well-being very personally. And he established a strong relationship with the unions representing their interests, as well. Brewers and Maltsters Local #6 is the oldest union in continuous operation in the city of St. Louis. And Anheuser-Busch continues to share a relationship with them and the other unions in the International Union of the United Brewery Workmen of America. In fact, today, approximately one-third of the company's workers are unionized.

Today, Anheuser-Busch is our country's largest brewer with about half of the U.S. market in beer sales, the world's two largest selling beers — Budweiser and Bud Light, and $17 billion in revenues. The company employs over 30,000 workers. Anheuser-Busch is also one of the largest theme park operators in the U.S. — owning the Sea World and Busch Gardens parks. And, this year, Forbes Magazine recognized Anheuser-Busch as #1 in the beverage industry on both its list of the World's Most Admired Companies and America's Most Admired Companies. Congratulations!

Adolphus Busch came to the U.S. as a young immigrant — his is a true American success story. And through his dedication, hard work, and unrelenting spirit of entrepreneurship, he created the foundation for one of the most successful companies in the world, Anheuser-Busch Companies, Incorporated. Through his efforts, he greatly enhanced the lives of his employees, their families, and all those who have followed in their footsteps. Adolphus Busch built a company that, over the years, has created hundreds of thousands of jobs for America's workers. He showed a steadfast devotion to workers during a period in history when their welfare received little focus. Adolphus Busch was a man of great compassion, ingenuity, and foresight. And, we can all learn so much from his tremendous example.

With us is August A. Busch IV, great-great-grandson of Adolphus, and President and Chief Executive Officer of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. August is the fifth generation of his family to lead Anheuser-Busch.

Both William Wilson and Adolphus Busch were visionaries who achieved great success and advanced the causes of working men and women through their dedication, ingenuity and leadership. The Department of Labor is delighted to have these two leaders inducted in the Hall of Fame today. Their stories will be an inspiration to every visitor who walks these halls and to generations of men and women looking to emulate the best our country has to offer.

So thank you again for joining us today.

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