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January 23, 2009

January 23, 2009 | News Releases on Labor

Chao Returns to Heritage Foundation as Distinguished Fellow

WASHINGTON, January 23, 2009-Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao will return to The Heritage Foundation next month as a Distinguished Fellow. In 2001, Chao was serving as a Heritage Distinguished Fellow, specializing in U.S.-China relations and chairing the think tank's Asian Studies Center Advisory Council, when George W. Bush tabbed her to become the nation's 24th secretary of labor. She went on to become the longest serving Cabinet member since World War II.

"We are delighted to welcome Elaine back 'home' and have her counsel on critical policy issues once again," Heritage President Ed Feulner said

When Chao resumes her chair at Heritage, she will concentrate on international policy issues-especially U.S.-Asia relations-as well as labor policy. She will also do considerable public speaking on these topics.

During her tenure as labor secretary, the department updated the white collar overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which had been on the agenda of every administration since 1977. Under Chao's leadership, the department also set new worker protection enforcement records (including recovering record back wages for vulnerable, low-wage, immigrant workers) and achieved the first major update of union financial disclosure regulations in more than 40 years. In addition, Chao presided over the first major regulatory update of the Family and Medical Leave Act in more than a decade.

Chao's career has spanned the public, private and non-profit sectors. Before her first five-year stint with Heritage, she was president and chief and executive officer of United Way of America from 1992-1996. She also was director of the Peace Corps from 1991-1992. During that time, she established the first Peace Corps programs in the Baltic nations and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Chao also has been deputy transportation secretary (1989), chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission (1988-1989), and a White House fellow (1983).

Born in Taiwan, Chao immigrated to the United States at age 8. She received her bachelor's degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College in 1975 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1979. She also has studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, and has received 31 honorary doctoral degrees. She is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The Heritage Foundation is the nation's most broadly supported public policy research institute, with more than 400,000 individual, foundation and corporate donors. Founded in February 1973, Heritage today has a staff of 244 and an annual expense budget of more than $60 million.

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