week, Ministers of Labor of governments belonging to the
Organization of American States are meeting in Mexico City.
The goal of all the countries attending this Summit is the
same: how to create prosperity and improved standards of
living that is shared by all. President George W. Bush believes
that the best way to do this is through sound economic policies
that foster enterprise, entrepreneurship and the creation
of new jobs.
By following this model, the United States
has sustained growth and created millions of new jobs despite
some of the most difficult economic and political challenges
in recent history. Our nation’s unemployment rate
is 4.9 percent, lower than the average of the 1970s, 1980s
and 1990s. Economic growth in the first half of 2005 averaged
about 3.6 percent. The United States has enjoyed 27 consecutive
months of payroll expansion, adding 4.2 million net new
jobs to the economy since May 2003. In 2005, the U.S. economy
has created an average of 194,000 net new jobs per month,
In fact, more Americans are working than
ever before. Even the terrible devastation of Hurricane
Katrina will not displace the United States from its basic
path of economic growth. That’s due, in no small part,
to economic policies that have focused on eliminating the
excessive regulation, over taxation and abusive litigation
that stifles private sector growth and job creation.
The United States believes strongly that
Labor Ministries can play a role in encouraging the conditions
for growth and job creation. First, Labor Ministries can
help workers gain the skills they need to access new opportunities.
Many private sector employers in the United States provide
job training and apprenticeship programs for workers. But
the U.S. Department of Labor also invests in training and
education programs for workers. The Department trains workers
with relevant skills that are in demand in the workplace--
real skills for real jobs. The Department’s training
programs also link workers with employers who have real
jobs to offer.
Helping workers update their skills is especially
important in the U.S. economy because our workforce is so
mobile. The average American will have had 9 jobs by the
time he or she is 34 years old. Every year, one third of
our entire workforce of 149 million turns over because of
better economic opportunities. That’s a tribute to
the tremendous dynamism of our workforce and our economy.
Another major responsibility of Labor Ministries
is worker protections. In this area, the U.S. Department
of Labor has developed innovative approaches to better protect
workers. The Department does not have the resources to inspect
every workplace in America for labor law violations. So
the Department targets enforcement on industries with high
rates of injuries, fatalities and other health and safety
problems. In addition, there is an Enhanced Enforcement
Program, which targets enforcement on employers with bad
safety records who continually and frequently place their
workers at risk.
To better protect workers, the U.S. Department
of Labor implemented a new program called “Compliance
Assistance.” This is an outreach program to help educate
workers and employers about their responsibilities and rights.
This 3-part strategy has helped reduce worker injuries and
fatalities to record lows. And it has helped secure record
collections of back wages and benefits for workers, especially
Third, Labor Ministries can help encourage
transparency and accountability in public, private and non-profit
institutions. Maintaining public trust in public and private
institutions is essential in a democratic society. The U.S.
Department of Labor requires transparency and accountability
in the labor organizations and private health and benefit
plans that it regulates, so that workers are informed about
In summary, the United States believes that
Labor Ministries have an important role to play in promoting
the conditions for economic growth. Promoting a balance
between strong worker protections and a flexible and adaptable
workforce can benefit the workers of every nation. This
strategy encourages foreign investment that creates jobs
and is a tremendous incentive for domestic investment, as
The United States welcome the great
diversity in the Americas and recognizes that all nations
and cultures are unique. Each country bears the responsibility
for its own economic progress through good governance, sound
policies, and the rule of law. The Labor Ministers conference
in Mexico City, and the upcoming Summit of the Americas,
are wonderful opportunities to share our common values.
Working together, we can help create prosperity and brighter
futures for all the working men and women of the Americas.