What Does the Department of Labor Do?


Quick Answer

According to its mission statement, the U.S. Department of Labor exists to "foster, promote and develop the welfare" of workers, those seeking employment and those who are retired. The Department of Labor is committed to doing this through the improvement of working conditions, creating work opportunities and overseeing the administration of workers' rights laws.

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What Does the Department of Labor Do?
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Full Answer

As of 2014, there are more than 180 federal laws in connection with employment conditions, wages and rights. The Department of Labor is charged with making sure that these laws are enforced in order to create fair and equitable working conditions.

The Bureau of Labor was established in 1913 by President William Howard Taft as a result of the Organic Act. Woodrow Wilson, the president who succeeded Taft, appointed John B. Wilson as the bureau's first secretary. John B. Wilson had helped found the United Mine Workers Union and was a supporter of eight-hour work days. He also supported employment opportunities for women.

In 1920, a special department within the Bureau of Labor was created for women's affairs. In 1927, the Bureau of Labor played a key role in passing laws that protected workers' jobs when they became ill. Under Secretary William Doak, the five-day work week was instituted. Secretary Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member, was one of the key people responsible for the U.S. Social Security Act. She was also key in establishing a federal minimum wage.

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