Labor Dept. Accused of Straying From Enforcement
- By Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post
Labor activists say that focusing so closely on the concerns of employers shortchanges workers, and activists think that a shift in emphasis is long overdue. Under President Bush, they say, the pendulum has swung far away from enforcement, leaving workers vulnerable to dangerous workplaces and with little protection from exploitive employers.
In July, the Government Accountability Office issued a report alleging that the Labor Department did an inadequate job of investigating complaints by low-wage workers who alleged that their employers were stiffing them for overtime, or failing to pay the minimum wage. That report followed another that found troubling inconsistencies in how the department handled individual worker complaints. Department officials have disputed both reports, calling them inaccurate.
Still, they caught the attention of President-elect Barack Obama, who while campaigning in July fired off a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao expressing "serious concern" that the agency was not fulfilling its enforcement mission.