According to administration officials, the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau regional offices may not be cut from the 2003 fiscal year budget, though they could not guarantee their safety until the Bush Administration releases the budget to the public. Officials give credit to Elaine Chao for working with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to save the regional offices. The National Partnership for Women and Families learned last year that the Bush Administration had proposed to eliminate ten Women’s Bureau regional offices following recommendations from the ultra-conservative anti-women’s rights Heritage Foundation. In its “Budget for America,” the Heritage Foundation asked the White House to “Phase out the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, the Women’s Bureau, and the Civil Rights Office.”
The women’s movement’s response to the proposed move was swift and strong. Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), representing more than 100 organizations and over 6 million members, requested a meeting for her and other women’s leaders with the Department of Labor immediately. Emails and phone calls from across the nation were also directed at the Labor Department to protest such a cut. The Bureau offices represent only $3.7 million of the Department of Labor’s $11 billion-plus annual budget, and the Bureau itself is the sole federal agency serving the needs of wage-earning women in the public policy process.