Portia Wu

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Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration, Department of LaborBenjamin To / NBC News

Portia Wu

Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor

How did you get here?

I was nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate in April 2014 to be the Assistant Secretary. Before that I was a Special Assistant to the President for Labor and Workforce Issues working on the Domestic Policy Council in the White House.

Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?

The greatest influence on my career has been Senator Ted Kennedy. I worked for him for nearly seven years as a staffer on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and had the opportunity to see first hand how politics and policy intersect and learn from one of the greatest Senators in history. Senator Kennedy took the long view of social progress, always thinking about how to make progress now and lay the groundwork for future change. He also was a master at building bridges and finding common ground with people who sometimes had very divergent views. I’ve tried to let those principles guide me in my career.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment during the Obama administration?

At the Domestic Policy Council I had the privilege of being able to promote and advance policies that I had worked on for a very long time and see them bear fruit. One of the greatest moments I had there was when President Obama announced that the Department of Labor would be issuing a rule to provide certain home care workers with overtime protection. I had worked on that issue from the time I was a Senate staffer and then-Senator Obama co-sponsored legislation to make this change. When the President announced we would tackle this problem, he did so with a bunch of workers in the room, people who work long days caring for the sick and elderly, but who often were barely making enough to keep themselves above the poverty line. Seeing the President embrace those workers and pledge to change the rules so home care workers would be paid fairly for their work was one of the great moments that reminded why I came to Washington and why I have been so proud to serve in this Administration.

Can you describe your time working for the Obama administration in 10 words?

Forging a better, fairer America for working men and women.

Complete the sentence: “When I’m not working, I…”

I am spending time with my family! I recently had a baby and so we now have a full house, with three kids. It has been an adventure having a baby while running a federal agency. I have focused on work and family balance policies in my policy jobs so now I try to walk the walk as well as talk the talk—I feel very fortunate that Secretary Perez and this Administration are very supportive of working parents and work-family balance.

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