Secretary Elaine Chao


Departing Chief Fends Off Critics

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, the only member of President Bush’s cabinet to serve a full eight years, has heard a flood of criticisms that her department favored business and was lax on enforcement and worker safety.

But in an interview, Ms. Chao laid into her critics, asserting that the Bush Labor Department deserved to be praised, not damned. To make her case, she noted that occupational fatalities fell to a record low last year, as did mining fatalities. Moreover, the rate of workplace injuries has declined to record lows, she said, while the department has helped workers win a record amount of back pay for minimum wage and overtime violations.

All this is the result of smart enforcement, Ms. Chao asserted, saying that her critics, usually from labor unions, were often unfair and inflammatory.

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