The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

Elaine L. Chao
Secretary of Labor

Elaine L. Chao is the Nation’s 24th Secretary of Labor and the first Asian American woman appointed to a President's cabinet in U.S. history. Arriving at the age of eight from Asia speaking no English, Secretary Chao's experience transitioning to a new country inspired her to dedicate most of her professional life to ensuring that workers have access to opportunity and the chance to build better lives.

Since her confirmation by the United States Senate on January 29, 2001, she has been dedicated to carrying out the Department's mission of promoting and protecting the health, safety, retirement security, and competitiveness of the nation's workforce.

During her tenure, the Department updated the white collar overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which has been on the agenda of every Administration since 1977. The most significant regulatory tort reform of President Bush's first term, the new regulations provided millions of low-wage vulnerable workers with strengthened overtime protection. In 2003, the Department achieved the first major update of union financial disclosure regulations in more than 40 years, giving rank and file members enhanced information on how their hard-earned dues are spent. The Department has set new worker protection enforcement records, including recovering record back wages for vulnerable low wage immigrant workers. The Department has also launched comprehensive reform of the nation's publicly funded worker training programs, to better serve dislocated and unemployed workers. On August 17, 2006, President Bush signed the Pension Reform Act, which protects the 44 million workers whose retirement security rests upon private sector defined benefit pension plans.

Secretary Chao's career has spanned the public, private and non-profit sectors. As President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, she restored public trust and confidence in one of the nation's largest institutions of private charitable giving after it was tarnished by mismanagement and financial abuse. As Director of the Peace Corps, she established the first Peace Corps programs in the Baltic nations and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Her government service also includes serving as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Deputy Maritime Administrator in the U.S. Department of Transportation and White House Fellow. She has also worked in the private sector as Vice President of Syndications at BankAmerica Capital Markets Group and a banker with Citicorp. Prior to her nomination as Secretary, she was a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Secretary Chao received her M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and her undergraduate degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College. She also studied at M.I.T., Dartmouth College, and Columbia University. Active in many volunteer activities, Secretary Chao has received numerous awards for her professional accomplishments and community service. She is the recipient of 28 honorary doctoral degrees.

The first Kentuckian named to the President's cabinet since 1945, Secretary Chao is married to the United States Senate’s Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

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