As director of the Office of Public Liaison, I have one of the best jobs at the Department of Labor (DOL). I am honored to lead a team whose mission is not only to deliver DOL’s policy messages to a diverse stakeholder community including trade associations, companies, think tanks, unions and faith-based organizations, but also to listen and provide responses to their labor issues. We sit down with more than a dozen groups each week and nothing is more professionally gratifying than to hear how the deregulatory efforts of President Trump and DOL have benefited both employers and employees.
Start with the DOL’s Office of Compliance Initiatives (OCI), an office created based on the premise that the vast majority of employers want to comply with the law and do right by their employees. It is great to point to OCI’s balanced approach reflected in its dual websites, employer.gov and worker.gov. DOL wants employers and employees to have information at their fingertips. If OCI’s philosophy were to be distilled to a bumper sticker, it would be to “educate rather than litigate.”
Additionally, DOL has embarked on an aggressive agenda to end the practice of “policy by pamphlet.” Rulemaking is “in” and sub-regulatory actions are “out.” Formal rulemaking with adequate notice, transparency and robust public comments equals good policy. The pervasive use of sub-regulatory guidance that hid the decision making process from the public that was prominent in the last Administration is no longer standard practice. DOL has successfully tackled job-killing, sub-regulatory actions related to joint employer and independent contractors.
The economic good news has come nearly every month. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there have been 17 straight months of the unemployment rate at or below 4%. Likewise, President Trump’s economic policies and DOL’s deregulatory actions contributed to the 5.7 million jobs created since January 2017.
Discussions with the business community invariably focus on the skills gap and their need for more skilled workers. There are nearly 1.4 million more open jobs than people to fill them. One thing DOL has done to address this problem is to propose the Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs Rule to enable businesses to more easily educate and train workers in high-demand fields.
Further, DOL is proud to support President Trump’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” which will benefit more than 13 million workers through work-based learning programs, continuing education, on-the-job-training, and re-skilling over the next 5 years.
Yet another recent pro-employee DOL rule is one that would help strengthen retirement security for many who work at small businesses. Through Association Retirement Plans (ARPs), small businesses would be able to band together to offer these retirement plans to employees.
I believe the aforementioned deregulatory actions by President Trump and DOL clearly show what benefits one side does not have to come at the expense of the other. We recognize the dignity of work that should accompany every job in every workplace in America. The Office of Public Liaison has an overabundance of good news to discuss with stakeholders across the Nation and we look forward to continue that engagement on behalf of DOL agencies.
Dean Heyl is the director of the Office of Public Liaison at the U.S. Department of Labor.