U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh

U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh

Never bet against America’s workers

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By Marty Walsh

On Labor Day we honor the achievements of America’s workers, and in 2022 we have a historic victory to celebrate. Our nation’s working people have come all the way back from the depths of a global pandemic, regaining every job lost and more.

This milestone seemed impossible to reach on Labor Day two years ago. The pandemic was out of control. Millions of Americans were out of work, and economic forecasters said unemployment could remain elevated for years to come.

Some commentators even lost faith in our national work ethic. Even today, some still say Americans “don’t want to work anymore.”

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh

What nonsense. This sour view of workers seems rooted in the belief that they should be happy with whatever they get. A deadly pandemic exposed the limits – and the disrespect – of that attitude.

The truth is, Americans were eager and ready to get back to work. They just needed the right opportunities, the kind President Biden’s American Rescue Plan delivered. It got vaccines to the people, relief to families, and support for schools and businesses to reopen safely. With these conditions in place, America got back to work – and in a big way.

Since President Biden took office, we’ve added 9.5 million jobs to the economy. The unemployment rate has plunged to 3.5%, matching a 53-year low.

I visited Illinois last week and met with workers, business and union leaders, and elected officials to discuss progress vital to the state’s economy and well-being. I enjoyed the chance to visit Sugar Grove, Chicago and other Illinois locations where I talked with people who are seizing opportunities to take advantage of our nation’s growing economy, including trainees at Chicago Women in Trades who are building new careers for themselves and spearheading an industry movement.

It’s hardworking people like these who are helping to empower our economy and build a dedicated workforce that has lowered the state unemployment rate to 4.4%.

This job growth has been broad and widely shared. Some said construction would be slow to return. As of July, there were 82,000 more construction jobs than before the pandemic.

Healthcare workers battled bravely through the pandemic and, by this summer, nearly every single job in that vital sector was recovered.

Some said thinking we could restore America’s manufacturing was naïve. Well, manufacturing has more than fully recovered – and with the new CHIPS and Science Law, we are set to lead the world in the industries, and good jobs, of the future.

Ours is a remarkable story of resilience and recovery. I must say, as a former construction worker, I’m not surprised. Working people are proud of their work and who they are. That hasn’t changed.

As I travel the country as Labor Secretary, I talk to workers and jobseekers and – everywhere I go – Americans want a fair chance to earn decent wages, support their families, make meaningful contributions, and achieve financial security.

Consider the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It’s creating thousands of good-paying jobs that don’t need a college degree. America’s workers are doing what they do best – rebuilding their communities, revitalizing our industries and securing a healthy future for our children.

Another Biden-Harris administration effort, the American Rescue Plan contained many benefits for workers, including many who no longer need to worry about the security of the retirement benefits. At the Laborers’ International Union of North America’s Laborers Training Center in Chicago last week, I joined elected officials to discuss the President’s commitment to protecting the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.’s multiemployer insurance program. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we’ve ensured that millions of families who once faced benefit cuts will now receive the full benefits they earned, their retirement assets are protected and their futures are less uncertain.

We’re also reducing inequality. In this recovery, wages have gone up the fastest for workers of color and workers with less than a high school diploma. We are determined to continue this progress. To unlock the full potential in our economy, we must empower all of our nation’s workers, especially those who got shut out in the past.

We advance all our goals now from a position of strength. The Inflation Reduction Act will not only lower costs for working families; it’s also going to create good jobs for years to come. America’s workers – diverse and determined – are going to win our clean energy future.

Every recovery has a lesson to teach. Here’s one for this Labor Day: Never bet against America’s workers.

Martin J. Walsh was sworn in as the 29th Secretary of Labor on March 23, 2021.

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