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U.S. Department of Labor 2019 Labor Day Celebration


HOST:
Please welcome the Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella.
(clapping) ACTING SECRETARY PIZZELLA: Wow. Good morning, Department of Labor. Look at you all. And Happy Birthday Labor Day. I’d like to thank you all for joining us
this morning for this special event. This Monday, we mark the 125th Anniversary
of Labor Day, a holiday that I think means just a little bit more at the U.S. Department
of Labor. This is a federal holiday that was created
out of appreciation and respect for the work done by the men and women of this country. Accordingly, this week we’re having this celebration
and our agency heads will be talking about Labor Day, and the dignity of work and the
importance of work. I would like to further recognize the thousands
of employees at the Department of Labor and the incredible work that is done on behalf
of America’s workforce, that you all represent here and our colleagues represent around the country. Some of those men and women stand behind me
today. They were selected by the heads of their agencies
to be recognized for their fine work on behalf of the American workforce. For some, serving America’s workforce by working at
the Department of Labor has been a life’s calling. I am very glad that the Department of Labor
has 13 employees who have served our federal government for 50 years or more as individuals. Some of them are seated in front of me and
will soon will join us for a special unveiling. Which brings us to why we are here this morning. Labor Day, the first Monday of September,
is America’s national tribute to the greatest workforce in the world, the American workforce. In the 19th Century, Labor Day was born out
of true federalism. Starting at the local level, rising through
the state legislatures, and finally, in 1894, becoming a federal law signed by
President Cleveland. Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the
Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of
Labor, is given credit for Labor Day’s origins. As a precursor to federal Labor Day, in New
York City in 1882, he called for workers to lead a festive parade on the first Monday
in September. More than 10,000 people joined him,
thus began a tradition. I think that we all can thank the carpenters
for this contribution but also for the wise proverb that I will attribute to them – that
we should “measure twice and cut once.” That’s a familiar – I see a lot of heads
nodding. Those are words to live by! Labor Day started as celebration of work in
the community – a day for picnics, friendship, relaxing and reflecting. Speeches came after the fact. As an aside, we may not have gotten to 125
years if the picnics did not come before politicians! Yet, at 125 years, we still celebrate and
remember the core meaning of Labor Day – celebrating the dignity of work. We honor work itself as a noble pursuit. All work. In hard work itself there is meaning,
there is calling, there is purpose. And we, as a culture, as a country, should
be recommitting ourselves to recognizing the dignity of work. Working is associated with a host of positive,
non-economic outcomes because in America the dignity of work facilitates community engagement
and civic participation, a sense of independence and freedom, and the shared experiences that
form many relationships. We reaffirm this Labor Day that all work should
be encouraged, protected, and celebrated. That is where our Department of Labor comes
in. Our Department of Labor mission is, as my colleagues
know, to foster, promote, and develop the welfare 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. It is as relevant as it was when President
Taft created this Department on his final day in office through Secretary Frances Perkins,
right up to a Labor Day proclamation under President Trump. The Department of Labor continues that tradition
and we support the strides made in the American economy. This Labor Day, this is the lowest unemployment
rate going into a Labor Day since 1969 at 3.7%. That continues the rate of unemployment
at or below 4% for 17 months in a row. In the last two years the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
one of our proud Department of Labor agencies, measures showed from them, that new and matched
record low unemployment rates have been achieved. For all Americans but for particularly for
African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, Americans with disabilities, and veterans. As President Kennedy once said, a rising tide
does lift all boats. So we have a lot to celebrate this Labor Day. In the last year that was reported, OSHA, another
one of our Department of Labor agencies, reported 43 fewer workplace fatalities and 45,800 fewer
injuries than the previous year. The Wage and Hour Division set new records
in recovering back wages with more than $304 million and at the same time held a record
number of outreach events. That number of $304 million in back wages
collected was the most back wages collected by the Wage and Hour Division in the 80-year
history of it. That is an accomplishment. In the carpenters’ spirit of “measuring
twice,” our agencies are working each day to follow the statutes that we enforce and
bring meaningful reform to workplaces so that economic growth can continue to see more job
opportunities without giving up safety. Yet, as we act decisively to see that change
enacted quickly, when we “cut once.” We will measure twice but we will only cut
once. This is our tradition here at the Department. The story of 125 years of labor and Labor
Day would fill many more books than are on the 2nd floor of our Willard Wirtz Library,
another former Secretary of Labor. It not always been easy. It has been an ever changing dynamic of how
the workplace impacts our lives. Before we conclude, in the spirit of Labor
Day, I would ask all of you to take a moment to reflect. We remember those who will be working this
Labor Day to protect and care for us including police officers, firefighters, health care
workers, members of the military, and many others. We also remember our history. When you return inside our building I hope
that you pause in the area that greets every visitor of the Department of Labor, the area
dedicated to the first woman Cabinet Secretary, Frances Perkins. Our most famous Secretary of Labor, the one
whom our headquarters is named after. It is a good opportunity to appreciate those
who have come before us and those who will follow us. I want to leave you with a quote from President
Theodore Roosevelt, when he celebrated Labor Day in 1903 in New York. I think it really
describes what we do here very well. He said, “Far and away the best prize that
life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” That is a statement that still resonates today. At this time, I would like to invite Ed Pratt
of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to the podium with me. And I want to tell you a little about Ed Pratt. He is a very special part of this event. Ed has 67 years of federal service, (clapping)
including 62 years here at the Department of Labor. How about that? Ed Pratt. And, I’m going to ask Ed Pratt to give a
thumbs up so that we can unveil and unfurl our celebratory banner on front of the Francis
Perkins Building. Ed? Give us a the thumbs up. There we go. (patriotic music plays as banners unfurl) Everybody, Happy 125th Labor Day. Enjoy your weekend!
(clapping) (patriotic music continues to play then fades)

Stephen Childs

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