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• Information Date: 01/24/2002
• Presented To: National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives
• Speaker: Elaine L. Chao
• Status: Archived

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives
January 24, 2002

Thank you, Manuel Oliverez and Gilbert Sandate for your invitation to this important summit. I want to extend my appreciation to you, your board, and the entire NAHFE organization.

And let me say right off the bat, "we hear you" -- you are under-represented in the federal workforce and we will work harder to meet this challenge.

But we have made some significant gains here at the Department of Labor.

I'm delighted to announce that over 1,100 men and women of Hispanic-descent work at the Department -- out of a total of 17,000. This number puts us in among the top five executive departments, above the federal workforce average.

That's a good place to start, but you have my commitment that we can and will do better.

I also want to acknowledge Assistant to the President, Clay Johnson... Assistant Secretary Pat Pizzella... Tali Stepp... Ivonne Cervoni... and the many volunteers and staff.

I am especially delighted to recognize the Department of Labor's Senior Executive Service Hispanic representatives. And Jose Ralls, Assistant Inspector General for Office of Resource Management and Administration is a graduate of our SES Development Program.

I also want to thank Fred Juarbe -- the Assistant Secretary for VETS.

We also have Jorge Perez-Lopez, Deputy Undersecretary Director for ILAB here... Fred Azua, Regional Director for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs for the southwest region... and Manuel Villareal, Jr. -- the Regional Director for Wage and Hour in our Dallas office.

There are many others great Hispanic executives in the department -- helping ensure the workplace is safe, and training dislocated workers for the challenges of the 21st century.

(PAUSE)

The Department of Labor is honored to be chosen to host this event. After all, the Hispanic community is vital to this nation's success -- nearly 33 million people strong, pumping nearly a trillion dollars annually in the United States economy, with a population growing three times the national average.

Your future is our nation's future -- and the Labor Department has a tremendous stake in seeing that the entire Hispanic community is vibrant and prosperous and an integral part of the US workforce.

We want to help Hispanic workers climb the ladder of success. We want to create more jobs. We want to help you develop more skills and gain more experience -- and we're working on a number of initiatives to make this happen.

Let me state this clearly. Today I want to reaffirm both a personal and Department of Labor commitment to the OPM 9-point plan to bring more Hispanic Americans into the federal workforce.

In fact, I am not satisfied with the status quo -- I want to re-energize and go beyond that commitment.

I agree it's ambitious. It means working harder, reaching further, and challenging old ways of thinking.

But it is the right thing to do.

Yes, we're moving aggressively to reach out to all segments of the Hispanic community to recruit more employees. Yes, we're encouraging internships and partnerships with major organizations -- such as the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. And, yes, we're moving quickly in creating mentorship programs. Just ask Jose Ralls about his program with this Association.

But more needs to be done. We need to go beyond recruitment, retention, and career development for Hispanics in the federal workforce. We simply must do more for Hispanics in every workplace.

Take worker safety. It's a growing concern to members of the Hispanic community -- especially those in construction and industrial jobs. The fatality rate among Hispanic workers troubles me deeply. I am concerned that Hispanics are more likely than others to be injured on the job. It's less a question of job skills than language barriers.

We must tackle this problem head-on. That's why OSHA is working double time in reaching out to Hispanic workers, especially in construction and other trades.

For example, in Fort Worth, Texas, OSHA has developed a number of key initiatives -- they're holding construction safety courses in Spanish. They're developing a workplace safety billboard campaign in Spanish. And they're working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and translating many OSHA documents into Spanish to get the word out.

The there's our Wage and Hour Administration. They're on the frontlines to guarantee that all Americans are paid their wages -- regardless of immigration status.

We're beefing up investigator teams, particularly in the area of multi-lingual agents. And at the same time, we're expanding our outreach to employers - to help educate them about their obligations under the law.

I could go on for the next hour on what we're doing in the workplace, but I think you get the message. The entire Department of Labor -- from ESA to ETA to OSHA - every agency is committed to helping the Hispanic workforce realize its full potential in the 21st century economy.

And this commitment comes from the top. As you know, it is deeply shared by President Bush.

(PAUSE)

It's no secret that President Bush has a special and strong relationship with the Hispanic community. He is painfully aware that the "Bin Laden recession" has deeply affected Hispanic American families.

That's why he's working overtime to push his economy security package through the Senate. His plan would turbo-charge the economy and put Americans back to work and expand benefits to dislocated workers.

His concerns and his hopes for the Hispanic community are clearly evident in the fight he led to pass the new education bill. He believes that a first-class education is the first step toward success in life, and in the workplace.

You can also see the President's commitment in his emphasis on improving relations with Mexico and reforming the INS. We want to help rather than hinder safe, legal, and humane Hispanic migration.

If you want to gauge his commitment, just look at the president's administration and cabinet. President George W. Bush has appointed more Latinos to top positions in the government than any other administration in history.

There's Secretary of Housing Mel Martinez... U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin... Small Business Administration head Hector Barreto... EEOC Chair Cari Dominguez... White House Intergovernmental Affairs Reuben Barrales... and White House Counselor Alberto Gonzales.

If anyone exemplifies the Hispanic success story it's truly Secretary Martinez. He came to this country alone as a child, a refugee from Cuba, speaking no English. Yet today he stands before us as a key member of the president's cabinet. It is a privilege to serve with him. He's an embodiment of the American dream. As so many of you are.

Your love of family and faith. Your pride in freedom and hard work. And your devotion to community and country help define America's greatness.

These attributes are at the heart of the Hispanic community. And through your contributions you have enriched our nation beyond measure.

I hope this summit will set in motion new ideas, new opportunities to welcome more Hispanic leaders into the highest levels of our government.

Our country needs you talents and skills.

You have a friend at the Department of Labor.

Thank you all.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


Speeches - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents