On the Biden-Harris Administration’s 100-day mark, I reflected on how the president got America back on track and how the Department of Labor has reengaged with the workers and employers who are fueling our recovery. We’re building momentum thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s direct relief to workers. In the past week, I’ve met with workers, policymakers and stakeholders around the country, and those conversations leave no doubt about the critical role the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan will play in our continued recovery. Here are a few highlights:
Investing in registered apprenticeship programs
I kicked off my week by joining Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Gov. Ned Lamont, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Joe Courtney and Rep. Rosa DeLauro for a tour of the General Dynamics Electric Boat site in Groton, Connecticut, where I learned about how they’ve partnered with local unions to offer a registered apprenticeship program that’s training the next generation of submarine builders.
As I shared with a group of workers, employers and stakeholders during a roundtable discussion, apprenticeship programs like these are essential for driving an equitable recovery, and we have a unique and historic opportunity to strengthen, modernize and diversify them.
That’s why during these first 100 days, the department created new funding opportunities to ensure apprenticeship programs reach more women and people of color, and why I was thrilled to announce another important step: The re-launch of the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, which will help us grow programs that are effective, innovative and accessible to all.
Supporting a more inclusive recovery
I also joined Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff to visit the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center and an EduCARE childcare center in Memphis, Tennessee. From helping young adults complete their high school education to providing training opportunities to finding employment, Job Corps centers offer valuable support to young people — and are exactly the kind of programs we need to scale up as we build a more inclusive workforce.
But as I shared with Mayor Jim Strickland, Rep. Steve Cohen and center Director Rose Walker-Cook following my tour, we can’t build a more inclusive workforce without supporting the sectors that need immediate relief. Women, and especially women of color, have been hit hardest by the pandemic, with millions of women leaving the workforce or struggling to get back to work. This includes the 1.6 million mothers who left the workforce due largely to caregiving demands and lack of child care.
That’s why child tax credits in the American Rescue Plan are a critical lifeline for many, and why the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan are essential for getting women and people of color into good paying jobs, and for rebuilding the foundations of the middle class – education, health care and child care.
Honoring the workers who stood up for their rights
While in Memphis, I was honored to meet with workers at the AFSCME Local 1773 Union Hall, including Rev. Cleo Smith and Elmore Nickleberry, who were part of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike. It was humbling for me as a second-generation member of the Laborers Union — and as the United States Labor Secretary — to meet men who stood up for their rights against tremendous odds, and made labor history and Civil Rights history with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was also a reminder that civil rights and workers’ rights are deeply intertwined.
I believe good wages and worker protections are civil rights, and if people have an inclusive, equitable place to work, our nation will build back better. We have a lot of work left to do but we’re off to a strong start. I’m excited about what we can accomplish in the next 100 days and beyond.