The United States Department of Labor (DOL) is one of the executive departments of the U.S. federal government. It is responsible for the administration of federal laws governing occupational safety and health, wage and hour standards, unemployment benefits, reemployment services, and occasionally, economic statistics. It is headed by the Secretary of Labor, who reports directly to the President of the United States and is a member of the president's Cabinet.
The Frances Perkins Building, which serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Labor
|Formed||March 4, 1913|
|Jurisdiction||U.S. federal government|
|Headquarters||Frances Perkins Building|
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Annual budget||$14.6 billion (FY2023)|
The purpose of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the well being of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. In carrying out this mission, the Department of Labor administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws and thousands of federal regulations. These mandates and the regulations that implement them cover many workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. Julie Su is currently serving as acting secretary since March 11, 2023 following the resignation of Marty Walsh.
In 1884, the U.S. Congress first established a Bureau of Labor Statistics with the Bureau of Labor Act, to collect information about labor and employment. This bureau was under the Department of the Interior. The Bureau started collecting economic data in 1884, and published their first report in 1886. Later, in 1888, the Bureau of Labor became an independent Department of Labor, but lacked executive rank.
In February 1903, it became a bureau again when the Department of Commerce and Labor was established.
United States President William Howard Taft signed the March 4, 1913, bill (the last day of his presidency), establishing the Department of Labor as its own Cabinet-level department. William B. Wilson was appointed as the first Secretary of Labor on March 5, 1913, by President Wilson. As part of this action, the United States Conciliation Service was created as an agency within the department; its purpose was to provide mediation for labor disputes. In October 1919, Secretary Wilson chaired the first meeting of the International Labour Organization even though the U.S. was not yet a member.
In September 1916, the Federal Employees' Compensation Act introduced benefits to workers who are injured or contract illnesses in the workplace. The act established an agency responsible for federal workers' compensation, which was transferred to the Labor Department in the 1940s and has become known as the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.
Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member, was appointed to be Secretary of Labor by President Roosevelt on March 4, 1933. Perkins served for 12 years, and became the longest-serving Secretary of Labor.
The passage of the Taft–Hartley Act in 1947 led to the end of the U.S. Conciliation Service, which was reconstituted outside the department as a new independent agency, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
During the John F. Kennedy Administration, planning was undertaken to consolidate most of the department's offices, then scattered around more than 20 locations. In the mid‑1960s, construction on the "New Labor Building" began and construction was finished in 1975. In 1980, it was named in honor of Frances Perkins.
He argued that the two departments had similar goals and that they would have more efficient channels of communication in a single department. However, Congress never acted on it.
In 1978, the Department of Labor created the Philip Arnow Award, intended to recognize outstanding career employees such as the eponymous Philip Arnow. In the same year, Carin Clauss became the department's first female solicitor of the department.
In 2010, a local of the American Federation of Government Employees stated their unhappiness that a longstanding flextime program reduced under the George W. Bush administration had not been restored under the Obama administration. Department officials said the program was modern and fair and that it was part of ongoing contract negotiations with the local.
In March 2013, the department began commemorating its centennial.
In July 2013, Tom Perez was confirmed as Secretary of Labor. According to remarks by Perez at his swearing-in ceremony, "Boiled down to its essence, the Department of Labor is the department of opportunity."
In April 2017, Alexander Acosta was confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor. In July 2019, Acosta resigned due to a scandal involving his role in the plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein. He was succeeded on September 30, 2019, by Eugene Scalia. Scalia served until the beginning of the Biden administration on January 20, 2021. Marty Walsh was confirmed as secretary on March 22, 2021. He resigned on March 11, 2023 and was succeeded by deputy secretary Julie Su who is currently serving in an acting position.