What is the US Secretary of Labor?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The United States Secretary of Labor is the head of the Department of Labor, the American government agency which oversees issues pertaining to labor and employment in the United States. This agency has been in existence in 1913, when it was split from the Department of Commerce and Labor, although there have been proposals to reunite these two agencies, since they have very similar roles and duties, and it might be more efficient to have a single agency to handle commerce and labor issues.

The US Secretary of Labor in in charge of occupational safety.
The US Secretary of Labor in in charge of occupational safety.

The Department of Labor is a Cabinet level agency, making the US Secretary of Labor a member of the Presidential Cabinet. He or she is appointed by the President, and confirmed by Senate hearing. Unless the US Secretary Labor is a non-natural citizen or an acting official, he or she is 11th in the line of succession to the United States Presidency. An extremely unlikely series of events would need to occur in order for the Secretary of Labor to become the President of the United States.

As head of the Department of Labor, the US Secretary of Labor oversees labor policy in the United States, and supervises the collection of data about American workers and the economic environment. The Department of Labor also promotes legislation which designed to protect laborers and their families, and enforces labor law. Among other things, the US Secretary of Labor deals with: job retraining, benefits packages, unemployment compensation, occupational safety, and standards for hours and wages in the United States.

The US Secretary of Labor meets with the President and other Cabinet members to discuss issues which pertain to the American workforce. In addition to keeping the President updated about emerging issues which could affect the labor climate in the United States, the US Secretary of Labor also makes policy recommendations, responds to concerns and questions from other members of the Cabinet, and works with other government agencies such as the Department of Commerce to resolve any issues which might arise.

Much of the work of the Department of Labor is focused on improving conditions in the American workforce. The agency supports job improvement training and retraining for people who wish to pursue different careers, along with a healthy business climate which supports the creation of new jobs and a stronger economy. Some labor secretaries have been accused of focusing on business, rather than the workforce, and ushering in laws which actually lead to a decline in working conditions for many Americans.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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