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Ted Kennedy honored for labor efforts

Ted Kennedy in 2008. Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

WASHINGTON — The late Senator Edward Kennedy was inducted Thursday afternoon into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor to celebrate his career spent fighting for a higher minimum wage, workplace safety, and employee protections.

More than 200 visitors from Massachusetts, government employees, and labor leaders — many of whom once worked for Kennedy — packed into a ceremony at the Department of Labor.

Speakers included Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, former Labor secretaries William Brock, Alexis Herman, and Elaine Chao, and Kennedy’s sons, Edward Jr., a Connecticut state senator, and Patrick, a former US representative from Rhode Island.

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Durbin of Illinois, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota along with former representative John Tierney of Massachusetts also attended.


The ceremony felt like a family reunion of sorts. Almost half the attendees once worked for Kennedy.

The speakers recalled how Kennedy fought aggressively in the Senate for labor protections and helped shepherd the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Pension Protection Act, and two minimum wage increases through Congress. He was praised for his advocacy for working families and ability to reach across the aisle.

“There could be no more fitting place to honor Ted Kennedy than the Department of Labor,” said Brock, who was Labor secretary from 1985 to 1987 and a Republican senator from Tennessee from 1971 to 1977. “It was easy to work with a man like that: He listened, he cared, and I trusted him.”

Perez was an adviser to Kennedy from 1995-1998 and talked about the late senator’s influence beyond labor laws. He highlighted Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights through his work on immigration reform and vote against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Sylvan Lane

Sylvan Lane can be reached at sylvan.lane@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @SylvanLane.