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Thomas Perez delivers remarks after President Barack Obama announced Perez as his nominee for Labor Secretary, in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2013.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and President Barack Obama
In the three months since Labor Secretary Thomas Perez was confirmed—but not only because of him—the Obama administration has moved forward on a series of new rules to protect workers' safety and wages and promote hiring of veterans and disabled workers.

The rules that have been instituted include guidelines for government contractors that seven percent of new hires should be disabled people and eight percent should be veterans and the inclusion of home care workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act, entitling them to minimum wage and overtime protections starting in January 2015; a proposal to update silica dust regulations is in a public comment period.

While Perez has presided over the burst of activity, it's not that his predecessor, Hilda Solis, was any less committed to improving conditions for workers:

“What has changed is [the Office of Management and Budget] and [the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs],” [the AFL-CIO's Peg] Seminario said. “I think what this represents is Howard Shelanski coming in and making a determination that they’re going to do their job.”

Shelanski, a lawyer and economist, was recently confirmed as the administration’s regulatory czar after OIRA had been without an administrator for almost a year.

Roadblocks can be set up in so many different places, so confirming a high-profile job like labor secretary isn't the only thing that needs to happen to make the government function really well. Even with Shelanski's confirmation at OIRA and nearly five years of Obama-appointed labor secretaries, after decades of research and years of delay on the silica dust rule, its public comment period has been extended, with big business arguing furiously against the life-saving regulation. Those years of delay have let low-road businesses off the hook for investing in safety, but they've also killed a lot of workers. Hopefully Perez and the Department of Labor will be able to reduce the backlog of needed worker protections substantially more between now and 2016.
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Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 11:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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