Recent Pro-Worker Initiatives by the Department of Labor
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After the pro-management years of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is once again focused on protecting America’s workers. Headed by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, the DOL has not only recouped millions of dollars for workers, but it has also implemented a number of pro-worker initiatives aimed at improving the lives of working people across the country.
The Good Jobs Initiative
In January 2022, the DOL launched the Good Jobs Initiative which is described by the department as an “initiative that provides critical information to workers, employers, and government agencies as they work to improve job quality and create access to good jobs free from discrimination and harassment for all working people.”
As CNN White House reporter Maegan Vazquez explains, the Good Jobs Initiative essentially establishes a “broad framework across the federal government to inform workers of their rights — including their right to collectively bargain, engage employers in improving jobs to retain workers and deploy federal agencies to bolster the plan.”
As part of this effort, the DOL hosted the Good Jobs Summit in June 2022 where it, along with the Department of Commerce, released the Good Jobs Principles. The principles outline the essential elements of a high-quality job, prioritizing equal access to good jobs, and provide a framework for a shared vision of quality jobs.
“The departments of Commerce and Labor have formed an unprecedented partnership to ensure workers and businesses both benefit from high-quality, good paying jobs and [these] Good Jobs Principles will continue to help guide these efforts,” says Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
Maternal Health Series
According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are steadily increasing and are higher than those of any other industrialized nation. The study also notes that the U.S. is the only country without federal legislation to guarantee access to provider home visits or paid parental leave in the postpartum period, which means many working mothers are often forced to choose between their health and their jobs.
In an effort to address this issue and to help expectant and new mothers in the workplace, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division and the Women’s Bureau launched a year-long Maternal Health Series in August 2022. The webinars and events are dedicated to ensuring “workers, worker advocates, health care providers and employers understand the workplace rights of new and expectant parents as well as employer responsibilities.”
“Pregnant and nursing workers should never be forced to choose between their health – or that of their child – and their job,” says Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon. “By enforcing federal labor standards and ensuring workers know their rights, we help ensure more equitable workplaces for women, including staying connected to their job and vital supports like health insurance during a critical time for their families.”
Apprenticeship Building America Grants
In an effort to strengthen the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), the DOL awarded more than $121 million in grants to 30 grantees through its Apprenticeship Building America (ABA) program.
As Kelly Vedi, senior policy analyst at New America, reports, the goals of the ABA program are to:
- Modernize state apprenticeship systems.
- Expand youth opportunities in RAP.
- Improve access to the RAP for underrepresented communities.
- Diversify the industries that utilize RAP.
In accomplishing these goals, the ABA program will give all workers equal opportunity to succeed in their careers.
“The Apprenticeship Building America grants will develop new pathways to good-quality jobs and provide America’s workers with opportunities to access and succeed in those pathways,” says Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “The intentional focus on equity partnerships and pre-apprenticeship activities will create opportunities for underrepresented and underserved communities.”
These pro-worker initiatives, and many others, indicate that the Department of Labor is prioritizing the needs and rights of workers. Labor unions have an essential role to play in that they can inform workers of such initiatives to keep them engaged. Using a tool like UnionTrack® ENGAGE® enables leaders to talk to their members to gain insights from them and share information about DOL efforts with them.
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