The Complete Letter

Jim Norby to Elaine Chao Secretary of Labor
Re: DOL No Longer Represents Retirees

December 3, 2004

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao
Secretary of Labor
United States Department of Labor
Frances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20210

 Dear Secretary Chao:

As the President of the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN), an organization representing nearly two million retirees, I was surprised and perplexed to read a quote by a Department of Labor (DOL) spokesperson stating that retired workers “aren’t our constituents anymore” (Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2004).  The statement was made in relation to an article regarding the outrageous action by Rexam Inc. of suing a former employee in an effort to cut his healthcare benefit. 

The Department of Labor’s Mission Statement clearly outlines the Department’s jurisdiction as the following: 

The Department of Labor fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits…(Department of Labor Mission Statement, DOL website) 

To read of companies’ attacks on their former employees is horrific enough.  To then discover that the Department of Labor disavows any jurisdiction over issues relating to retirees is simply astounding.  Unless the Department’s Mission Statement has changed, I am assuming that the unnamed spokesperson was shamefully wrong in making the statement.  That leaves me very concerned about the culture at the Department of Labor, as it reflects a total disinterest and ignorance of the welfare of retirees and its very role in protecting that constituency. 

I respectfully ask that you consider these concerns and the troubling impact of this statement. 



A.J. (Jim) Norby