U.S. Department of Labor 

 DOL Mission

The U.S. Department of Labor is charged with preparing the American workforce 
for new and better jobs, and ensuring the adequacy of America's workplaces. It 
is responsible for the administration and enforcement of over 180 federal 
statutes. These legislative mandates and the regulations produced to implement 
them cover a wide variety of workplace activities for nearly 10 million 
employers and well over 100 million workers, including protecting workers' 
wages, health and safety, employment and pension rights; promoting equal 
employment opportunity; administering job training, unemployment insurance and 
workers' compensation programs; strengthening free collective bargaining and 
collecting, analyzing and publishing labor and economic statistics. 

The U.S. Department of Labor was created by Congress in 1913 "to foster, promote 
and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, 
and to enhance their opportunities for profitable employment." 
Initially, the department consisted of four bureaus transferred from the old 
Department of Commerce and Labor: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of 
Immigration, Bureau of Naturalization and Children's Bureau. A conciliation 
service was added to mediate labor disputes. By 1915, a small employment service 
began operating and soon grew into a national network, placing millions of 
workers in jobs during World War I. 
From there, the department's role and size changed according to the needs of 
workers in an ever-changing economy. Many early concerns -- about workers' 
wages, hours, working conditions and employment opportunities; employment 
discrimination; cooperative labor-management relations and labor's role in the 
nation's industrial productivity -- continue to be the focus of department 
activities today. 
The department helped develop numerous landmark laws protecting wage earners. It 
became not only a key economic and social policy-making arm of government but a 
principal regulatory and enforcement agency.
World War I provided a strong stimulus for the department's growth, as adequate 
industrial production and labor peace became top national priorities. In 1918, 
the secretary of labor was placed in charge of the new War Labor Administration 
(WLA), which began mobilizing millions of workers for agriculture, shipbuilding 
and defense plants. The WLA set policies on wages, hours and working conditions; 
recruited women and minority-group members for work in defense industries; 
encouraged better race relations in the workplace; promoted worker safety and 
health and addressed other employment-related problems that might hinder the war 
production effort. 
Much had been done to raise living standards and improve working conditions by 
the war's end. The WLA's initiatives provided ideas and experience that would be 
used in New-Deal and other federal programs in years to come. 
The Versailles Treaty, which ended the war, created the International Labor 
Organization (ILO). Chaired by the secretary of labor, the ILO held its first 
conference in Washington, D.C. in 1919. Since then, the department has engaged 
in many international labor activities. 
In the 1920s, the department continued to operate an employment service in 
cooperation with the states and sought to assist groups with special employment 
problems. For example, it promoted vocational training for youth and helped 
migrant farm workers get jobs in labor-short areas. The department carried out 
immigration laws of 1921 and 1924, which changed the U.S. free-immigration 
policy to a quota system. Also in this decade, the Women's Bureau was founded to 
promote the status and employment opportunities of women.
By the early 1930s, the employment service had grown to more than 150 placement 
offices, and the department devoted much of its resources to coping with the 
high unemployment of the Depression. The Davis-Bacon Act was passed to prevent 
wage-cutting on federal construction projects. 
In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins to be secretary 
of labor. Perkins was the first woman named to a cabinet post and served longer 
(1933-45) than any labor secretary to date. 
Perkins was responsible for many New Deal-era reform and relief programs that 
still help and protect working people today: minimum wage, overtime and child 
labor standards contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act; unemployment 
insurance and a considerably expanded public employment service. She chaired the 
committee that developed the Social Security program. 
The department underwent many organizational changes in the post-war years of 
the 1940s. Immigration responsibilities were transferred to the Department of 
Justice. Conciliation functions were transferred to the National Labor Relations 
Board. An international labor affairs office was established to promote the 
exchange of labor information among nations. Veterans' reemployment rights 
became the department's responsibility. 
The department's interest in worker safety and health dated to World War I, but 
it acquired its first safety and health enforcement role in 1958, when a law was 
passed requiring the secretary of labor to set standards protecting dock and 
harbor workers from the many hazards of their occupations. This enforcement role 
expanded dramatically in 1970 with passage of the landmark Occupational Safety 
and Health Act and again in 1978 when responsibility for mine safety and health 
was transferred to the Labor Department.
The department's regulatory responsibilities increased further as labor 
racketeering and employer mishandling of employee benefit plans led to passage 
of the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act in 1958 and the Labor-Management 
Reporting and Disclosure Act in 1959. In 1974 the Employee Retirement Income 
Security Act gave the department vastly increased authority to protect the 
assets of millions of workers and beneficiaries participating in private pension 
and welfare plans. 
Growing concern in the 1950s about the need to assure an adequate supply of 
well-trained workers and eliminate employment discrimination against women, 
minority-group members and workers with disabilities resulted in a variety of 
programs over the next several decades. These included the Manpower Development 
and Training Act of 1962, Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973, Job 
Training Partnership Act of 1982, and equal employment opportunity measures such 
as the Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Rehabilitation 
The Department's creation in 1913 was a promise to workers that their interests 
and concerns would receive full and fair consideration at the highest level of 
government. That promise has resulted in progress for wage earners and for the