Labor, United States Department of, federal executive department established in 1913 and charged with administering and enforcing statutes that promote the welfare of U.S. wage earners, improve their working conditions, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment. Before gaining separate cabinet status in 1913, labor had been represented by various federal agencies. The first such agency was established in 1884 as the Bureau of Labor within the Dept. of the Interior. In 1888 an independent department was created, but in 1903 labor was placed in the new Dept. of Commerce and Labor, which was reorganized as two cabinet-level departments in 1913.
The Dept. of Labor has eight major specialized divisions: the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, the Employment and Training Administration, the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, the Employment Standards Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Veterans' Employment and Training Service. A ninth division, the Office of the American Workplace, established in 1993, was terminated when congress failed to provide the necessary appropriations. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs deals with the interaction among U.S. foreign policy, foreign labor developments, and U.S. labor developments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a direct descendant of the 1884 Bureau of Labor, gathers data in the field of labor economics. The agencies of the Employment Standards Administration administer federal labor legislation and the administration conducts research to support their programs; the agencies (and the legislation they administer) include the Wage and Hour Division (minimum wage and fringe benefits) and the Office of Worker's Compensation Programs (compensation for job-related injuries). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for ensuring the best possible U.S. working conditions in terms of safety and health. The Women's Bureau promotes the employment, efficiency, and welfare of wage-earning women.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.