US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Statement of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) At the HELP Committee Hearing: “Nomination of Dr. David Weil to Serve as Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Today I am very pleased to welcome Dr. David Weil as the nominee to administer the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor.  The Wage and Hour Division oversees some of the most fundamental protections for American workers: it ensures that people are paid fairly in accordance with our minimum wage and overtime laws.  It protects vulnerable children when our child labor laws are abused.  It ensures that workers can spend time with their families when a new baby is born or a health crisis is looming.  In short, this relatively unknown agency plays a huge role in how Americans experience their day-to-day working lives.

“However despite this important mission, this critical agency was unfortunately allowed to atrophy during the last Administration.  The agency took a backseat approach that relied almost exclusively on complaint-driven enforcement—relying on the questionable assumption that vulnerable workers know their rights and will approach the agency to report violations of the law—rather than taking a more proactive approach to educate workers and seek out industries and populations where abuses are likely to happen.  Furthermore, even this complaint-driven system was often poorly managed – the Government Accountability Office found that Wage and Hour “frequently responded inadequately” to those complaints that it did receive.

“The current administration has corrected these problems and beefed up enforcement, revitalizing this essential agency. It has improved the complaint process and encouraged “strategic enforcement” that is geared to efficiently using limited resources.  This is in large part due to the comprehensive guidance provided by the expert sitting before us today—Dr. Weil—as well as the dedication of the career staff in the division.

“The Department of Labor has long looked to Dr. Weil for expert advice.  And he has answered their call.  While he has never worked directly for the agency, he is intimately familiar with its structure and mission, as well as the challenges it faces.  

He has studied and written extensively on the most effective ways to use limited resources to most effectively increase compliance with critical workplace protections.  He has spearheaded new ways of thinking, including how to objectively determine the most effective ways to go about enforcement, particularly where investigations and enforcement actions will have the greatest impact and most sustainable, long-lasting results.  In a time of increasingly tight budgets, this sort of innovative thinking and strategic and efficient planning will be a tremendous asset to the agency.

“A group of Dr. Weil’s peers, respected academics at a variety of universities, have strongly endorsed his nomination, and have only the highest praise for him.  They note, ‘David is one of if not the nation’s leading expert on enforcement of safety and health, wage and hour, and other workplace regulations.  He has done extensive research on the effectiveness of different enforcement strategies and has worked intensively with Labor Department officials for many years to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the policies he will be entrusted to administer.’  The letter also notes his ‘long history of public service,’ including his work with current and former agency leadership on both the Democratic and Republican sides. 

“Dr. Weil brings unique perspective to these issues as well.  Dr. Weil has a wealth of experience in collaborating with many groups, often playing a role of mediator and advisor—skills that will be extremely appropriate to a role leading the Wage and Hour Division.  The Division works not just with workers, but also with businesses, to provide guidance on the law and how to comply.  Enforcing the law often does not simply mean conducting an investigation and assessing fines.  Often, the Wage and Hour Division works to reach agreements in the case of noncompliance, to both provide recourse to workers and prevent future violations, as well as to ensure that businesses are treated fairly and understand their responsibilities going forward. 

           

“Dr. Weil has received strong recommendations of his professionalism and fair-mindedness from past and current Deans of his business school, former colleagues and partners on a variety of projects who represent both management and labor, and former classmates who have remained in touch for decades.  They speak of him as ‘fair and balanced in his treatment of business as well as labor interests,’ ‘open to all points of view and…being a good listener to all perspectives,’ and ‘proficien[t] at getting to the root of problems, determining the requirements of both sides, and recommending solutions that benefit everyone.’ 

“For over two decades Dr. Weil has served as a professor of management at a business school, teaching a course on strategic decision-making for businesses.  This insight into businesses’ decision-making process will be invaluable to working at the Wage and Hour Division—both to understand businesses better and to work with them more effectively. 

“It is clear that Dr. Weil is an exemplary candidate to administer the Wage and Hour Division.  It is unfortunate that the Wage and Hour Division has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for many years now.  I am hopeful that we can work together to expeditiously move Dr. Weil’s nomination forward following today’s hearing.

“The Wage and Hour Division is a critical agency, responsible for protecting our nation’s tens of millions of workers.  Dr. Weil, I look forward to hearing more about your background and experience, and your plans for the Wage and Hour Division.”

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