Secretary Elaine Chao

 
 
 

Rewarding Labor

THE FRANCES PERKINS BUILDING near Judiciary Square is a perfect home for the vast bureaucracy of the U.S. Department of Labor. The long gray rectangular structure is a singular achievement in bland government architecture. The interior hallways look as if they were painted in the 1970s, when the building was completed. The atmosphere is very cozy for bureaucrats, but not terribly inviting to conservatives.
Since January 2001, however, conservatives have been making themselves at home there. Under the leadership of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the Department of Labor has become one of Washington’s rare enclaves of common sense. It has also been the source of some of the Bush administration’s most notable domestic policy achievements, something worth thinking about as such success stories become harder to find—and Republicans set out to regain their credibility as a governing party.
Overtime regulations that had been unchanged since 1949 were modernized. Union financial disclosure requirements have been better enforced than at any time since Congress enacted them in 1959. Job training programs have been updated and made more flexible for modern workers. All this has been done while spending 3.4 percent less than in 2001. This year, the department submitted its lowest budget request since fiscal year 1996.

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