In 1913, when the Labor Department was founded, the U.S. workforce looked a lot different. Child labor was commonplace, and there were fewer opportunities for women and people of color. Plus, there were few safety laws and no minimum wage.
While the Labor Department has changed as the workforce we serve has changed, the principles guiding our work have never wavered. As my predecessor Frances Perkins once said, “A government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.” At the Labor Department, we aim to give people the best possible life by fostering the welfare and protecting the rights of workers, job seekers and retirees. That was the department’s mission for more than 100 years, and it will be for the next 100 as well.
That will be the case no matter how work evolves and what forms it takes. In recent years, remarkable technological, economic, and cultural changes have had a profound impact throughout the economy and the workforce, spawning new industries and revolutionizing old ones. We must encourage this innovation, at the same time that we do not compromise basic labor standards. We cannot get drawn into a false choice between the two.
On Dec. 10, we’ll gather business leaders, academics, workers, advocates and other thought leaders to discuss what these changes mean for America’s workers and the department’s mission. The conversation will be streaming live at www.dol.gov/live from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, so tune in to see what the future holds. And we want you to be part of the conversation, too.
You can tweet your ideas using #FutureOfWork, or tell us here: What do you think is the most important issue affecting the future of work?