A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the Bush Administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) failed in its mission to protect workers and enforce labor laws. The report concludes that “Labor has left thousands of actual victims of wage theft who sought federal government assistance with nowhere to turn. Unfortunately, far too often the result is unscrupulous employers’ taking advantage of our country’s low-wage workers.”
“Under the previous Administration, unscrupulous employers were given a long leash to break laws and undermine workers through lax enforcement,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “The Obama Administration and Congress are taking steps to undo the wrongs of the previous Administration, and place the Department of Labor’s priorities on protecting all workers. In addition to a new emphasis on worker protection, the Administration must put forward an immigration reform proposal that creates a level playing field for all workers.”
The report will be examined during a hearing held today at the House Education and Labor Committee chaired by George Miller (D-CA). Chairman Miller has been leading the charge against wage abuses, and has previously highlighted two separate investigations that have found that the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division has failed to take the necessary steps to investigate and eradicate violations of the law.
Today’s testimony comes on the heels of another recent GAO study that documented how Bush Administration immigration enforcement efforts were often directed at non-criminals instead of the truly bad actors, demonstrating the misplaced priorities of the previous administration. The White House is now charged with the responsibility of plotting a new course and re-evaluating their priorities moving forward.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has already pledged to reinvigorate the Wage and Hour Division in light of the GAO findings, saying “I am committed to ensuring that every worker is paid at least the minimum wage, that those who work overtime are properly compensated, that child labor laws are strictly enforced and that every worker is provided a safe and healthful environment.”
“I applaud President Obama, Secretary Solis, Chairman Miller and others working in the current Administration and Congress to improve accountability and enforcement of our nation’s labor laws,” said Sharry. ”They also know that we need comprehensive immigration reform to bring even more stability to the workforce, make sure all workers and employers are paying their fair share of taxes, and prove once again that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”
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