Secretary of Labor: Frances Perkins and job clubs

Hilda L. Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor, writes about her predecessor Frances Perkins, now a “saint” in the Episcopal Church and job clubs in the Washington Post:

On a weekend shortly after I became the nation’s 25th secretary of labor, I was exploring my new Capitol Hill neighborhood. I came upon a small Episcopal church, St. Monica and St. James, just a few blocks from my home. I decided to check it out.

On my third visit, as the service ended, one of the ushers introduced himself and took my hand. He smiled warmly and said: “We know who you are. We’re so glad you are here. We knew you’d come.” I was taken aback.

It turns out, back when it was called just St. James, the church was the spiritual home of a predecessor and the most influential labor secretary in U.S. history, Frances Perkins. Appointed by Franklin Roosevelt, she was the first woman to serve in a president’s Cabinet. During her 12-year tenure, she was the heart and soul of the New Deal. She led the effort to create Social Security (some say she wrote the legislation in the St. James rectory). Unemployment insurance, minimum wage and overtime pay are just a few examples of her legacy. The federal building where I work is named after her, and her portrait hangs outside my office. She was a woman of great accomplishments and of great faith — a pioneer in what we now commonly refer to as social justice.

But most extraordinary: Frances Perkins is a saint in the Episcopal Church, welcomed into the calendar of lesser feasts and fasts in 2009. Her commemoration (or day) is May 13.


Since May 2011, the Labor Department’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has been working with job clubs in cities across the nation. We’re facilitating ways for them to share experiences in ways both high-touch (meetings) to high-tech (a Web portal: We’re helping new clubs get started and partnering them with our nearly 3,000 American Job Centers, a nationwide network of career shops.

Most important, job clubs are reporting back to us that people are finding jobs and training opportunities. And that’s really what it is all about.

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