In part two of our series on the 2022 Gubernatorial elections, we highlighted legislative actions taken by labor-backed governors to protect workers’ collective bargaining rights. However, a governor’s ability to protect workers extends beyond lawmaking.

Governors are also responsible for appointing their state’s Secretary of Labor. Labor secretaries manage their state’s Department of Labor (DOL) – or its equivalent – which administers a number of programs for workers, including unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, worker training and rehabilitation, vocational services for people with disabilities, and more.

Departments of Labor also play a vital role in enforcing and ensuring employers are accountable to various labor laws and safety standards.

A recent example comes from Pennsylvania, where labor secretary Jennifer Berrier announced the Commonwealth’s Department of Labor and Industry is launching an online registry of employers that violate state labor and workplace safety laws.

Joined by union members and lawmakers at IBEW Local 375 in Allentown, Berrier said, “If you’re applying for a job with an organization that’s on this list, maybe you want to think twice, because if they’re not upholding their legal responsibilities, how do you know you’re working for an employer who’s looking out for you?”

The agencies often rely on boards and councils to resolve issues and recommend legislative or policy changes to aid workers.

In Minnesota, Bob Ryan, a staff representative for USW District 11 and member of USW LU 264 (Westrock Paper in St. Paul), was appointed by former governor, Mark Dayton, to the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC). He has continued to serve under the current governor, Tim Walz.

In January, based on a recommendation from the WCAC, Governor Walz and pro-worker allies in the state legislature moved to extend workers’ compensation benefits to frontline health care workers who contract COVID through 2023.

This extension could help more than 183,000 frontline workers across Minnesota.

Governors Tom Wolf (PA) and Tim Walz (MN), along with former governor Mark Dayton, all earned the USW’s endorsement in previous years. Because of term limits, Wolf is not running for reelection.

Voters in both states will decide their next governor when they cast their ballot in November.