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Seth  Harris

Seth Harris

Former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor and Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor

Seth Harris

Former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor and Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor


Praised as “one of the best orators to come out of government” by Bill Clinton, Seth Harris has advised the last two Democratic presidents and leadership on the issues that matter most to America’s workers, retirees, and employers. Now, Secretary Harris is one of the nation’s most sought-after analysts and commentators on work, workers, workplaces, and labor market issues, and a leading expert on labor and employment law and policy. The former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Obama offers unique and valuable insights into globalization and the role of technology, the future of work and retirement, the condition of America’s middle class and maximizing the performance level of organizations. As a former Cabinet Member, he also provides an insider’s knowledge of the inner workings of the White House and executive branch, providing powerful perspective into the highest levels of our government.

Secretary Harris brings decades of experience as a teacher and scholar, attorney and advisor, corporate board member, and policymaker at the highest levels of the U.S. government. From 2009-2014, he served as Acting U.S. Secretary and Deputy U.S. Secretary in the Obama Administration, building upon almost seven previous years of service in the Clinton Administration. He has co-authored three books, including Labor and Employment Law & Economics, and written dozens of scholarly articles and op-eds on labor, employment, and economics topics. Currently teaching at Cornell University’s Institute for Public Affairs and a Distinguished Scholar at Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations, Secretary Harris is a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, MSNBC, and Fox Business, as well as other media. He holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law and a BSILR from Cornell University, School of Industrial & Labor Relations.

Described by one client as an “exceptional, engaging and entertaining speaker---emphasis on entertaining,” Seth Harris’s charismatic and substantive speaking style is pointed, practiced, passionate and smartly seasoned with notes of humor. He is also known for working with clients to tailor his presentations to their specific content needs and for leaving audiences informed, entertained and with new perspectives, fresh ideas and a clearer understanding of complex issues and challenges.

Speaker Videos

President Clinton Recognizing Deputy Secretary Harr

NAWB Forum 2013 Keynote Address

Speech Topics

The Future of Work

It’s not your grandfather’s—or even your father’s and mother’s—work world any more. Technology, globalization, alternative work arrangements, increased diversity, and a new mix of jobs and skills have combined to change work, workers, and the workplace in the American economy. And the changes have just begun! As robotics, autonomous vehicles, and new methods of work develop, and as global labor markets continue to open up, we’ll see change at an exponential rate. Public policy has lagged behind these economic developments and largely failed to address the stagnant wages, structural unemployment and underemployment, and displacement of workers and families that have resulted. Seth Harris, a former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor, senior federal policymaker and longtime labor and employment policy teacher and scholar, will diagnose where we are today, and where we are likely to be tomorrow. Building on his extensive experience at the senior levels of the U.S. government, he will suggest policies that would respond to the changes that have already arrived and prepare us for what’s down the road in the coming years and decades.

America’s Retirement Crisis: How You Can Survive It & We Can Solve It

Millions of Americans have no retirement savings. Millions more do not have enough money saved to support them for the rest of their lives. Too many are drawing on their retirement savings to address today’s needs rather than ensuring tomorrow’s security. In sum, America is in a retirement crisis. This slow-growing epidemic threatens to ruin lives, distract workers in the workplace, and weaken our economy. Former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris explains how this crisis developed. He also covers how America’s institutions— government, employers, the retirement industry, unions, and educational institutions—failed to prevent it and cannot seem to solve it. With a few tips for individuals about how to prepare for retirement, and an agenda for reforming our public policies, Secretary Harris will map a path to solutions for you, your business, and our country.

Government Can Perform & So Can You

In 2009, Seth Harris became the Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Labor, an $85 billion, 17,000-employee federal Cabinet agency. He found a complex organization lacking leadership, direction, a plan, and effective accountability and management systems. Most important, the Labor Department too often failed the people it was supposed to serve, wasting taxpayers’ money in the process. Secretary Harris dedicated himself to turning around the Labor Department and its 23 operating units. Deploying strategic planning, performance management, and performance measurement, Harris transformed the Labor Department into a leader in data-driven, evidence-based management, recognized by the Government Accountability Office and others. Secretary Harris teaches critical lessons about performance excellence drawn from his experience in the Labor Department, and helps you maximize performance in your organization and your career.