At the U.S. Department of Labor, we’ve been taking a whole-of-department approach to advancing equity for underserved communities since President Biden issued the executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities on his first day in office. Our approach has involved working with every agency at the department — from the Bureau of International Labor Affairs to the Women’s Bureau. You can read more about the early results of this approach in our Equity Action Plan, available here.
Here are three numbers that summarize several important steps that we’ve already taken to advance equity for underserved workers:
4,793: As we describe in our Equity Action Plan, outreach and public engagement with workers, employers, and community organizations is critical to DOL’s approach to ensuring all workers, and especially vulnerable and underserved workers, can exercise their workplace rights. As part of those efforts, our worker protection agencies have been conducting events across the country. For instance, the Wage and Hour Division’s Essential Workers, Essential Protections initiative has focused on outreach to workers who perform essential work, especially targeting low-paid workers, women, immigrants, and workers of color in industries like food service, agriculture, and health care. Through this initiative, Wage and Hour has conducted over 4,700 outreach events and reached over 179,000 participants in fiscal year 2021 alone.
235: One of the first steps we took in implementing the equity executive order was to organize a national online dialogue, in which members of the public across every sector could weigh in with their ideas for which populations the department should focus on and the barriers different populations face when accessing our programs. In all, 1,389 individuals joined the dialogue and submitted 235 ideas. Many of these ideas — including proposals for improving the demographic data we collect, incorporating user-centered design into all workforce systems and creating more partnerships with non-profit community-based organizations — were ultimately included in our Equity Action Plan.
44: Data and evidence are critical central to understanding which workers face barriers in access to critical services and then designing potential interventions to address those gaps. Equity is a cross-cutting theme throughout the department’s Evidence Building Plan, which lays out 44 new projects we will undertake over the next four years to build knowledge that can inform action to reach underserved workers and communities. For example, our Chief Evaluation Office will work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to study how partnerships with trade and professional associations, labor unions, community and faith-based groups, and other organizations can help spread information to keep workers safe on the job, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable workers.
We’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far and eager to continue the hard — but important — work to ensure that we deliver for all workers, and especially those who have experienced marginalization, discrimination and exclusion. We’re committed to raising working standards — and economic opportunity — for all workers.
Alex Hertel-Fernandez is deputy assistant secretary for research and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Labor and has led coordination of the equity executive order at the department.