August 30, 2013 at 12:15 PM EDT
A Labor Day Opportunity
Ed. note: This is crossposted from Work in Progress , the official blog of the Department of Labor.  See the original post here.   Learn more about the history of Labor Day , and the history of the U.S. Department of Labor .  Labor Day 2013 is special. This year marks the centennial of the U.S. Department of Labor – 100 years of working for America’s workers. And this past week, our nation reaffirmed the ideals of the 1963 March on Washington. This transformational event, exactly 50 years ago, was just as much about labor rights as it was about civil rights. For me, just like so many others then and now, these two movements are inextricably intertwined, their interests converging time and time again, their goals united in creating opportunity for all. Watch this video on YouTube For a guy like me who grew up in an immigrant family from Buffalo, the past few days have been pretty heady. At the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday, I couldn’t help but wonder if The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. ever imagined that half a century after he stood on these steps, another African-American man would stand there – as president? For a moment, I celebrated how far we have come. And then I remembered that we also have a long journey still to complete. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on at the Labor Department 50 years ago. What was my predecessor doing and thinking, as the March on Washington began right outside his office windows, and on the eve of Labor Day 1963? Well, it turns out, President Kennedy’s labor secretary, Willard Wirtz, was in the thick of it. Immediately after the march, Wirtz joined Kennedy and Vice President Johnson at an Oval Office meeting with Dr. King and other march leaders. A few days later, over Labor Day weekend, Wirtz was asked on a Sunday news talk show what was “most urgently on the minds” of the marchers. He replied: “Equality of opportunity in general, but the necessity particularly of equality of opportunity for work.” Opportunity. Then and now, it’s about opportunity. read more
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