The Trump administration has pledged to help “forgotten” Americans, especially those in the working class. The president has targeted regulations on coal, hoping to resuscitate the industry, and tried to convince manufacturers to locate in the United States, which could create more jobs.
But most workers aren’t in the coal or manufacturing industries, so another way to help the “forgotten” Americans may be to focus on improving the working lives of the more than 120 million other Americans who clock in to a job every day. One place to start that project is the Department of Labor, where 17,000 or so staffers and appointees administer and enforce laws protecting America’s workers.
The Department of Labor weighed in on a number of controversial issues during Obama’s time in office. During Obama’s presidency, Labor Secretaries Hilda Solis and Thomas Perez (now the head of the Democratic National Committee) stepped up enforcement and re-prioritized issues like wage-and-hour violations. The Department of Labor cracked down on employers misclassifying workers as independent contractors and worked with Obama to extend overtime eligibility to 4 million Americans.
These weren’t always popular policies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, filed a lawsuit over Obama’s overtime rule, arguing that the administration “went too far” and that the rule would reduce workers’ opportunities for career advancement. It was not the only time business interests objected to labor policies issued by the Obama administration.