Wednesday, June 16


Gov. Blagojevich names new deputy chief of staff, new Department of Labor director

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[JUNE 16, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- On Tuesday Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Esther Lopez, who is currently the acting director of the Illinois Department of Labor, to the position of deputy chief of staff of labor and professional regulation. Lopez will oversee the Illinois Department of Labor, the Department of Employment Security and the proposed consolidation of four regulatory state agencies into one new department, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. She will also oversee outreach efforts to communities and local governmental entities. Labor leader Art Ludwig will take over as the director of the Illinois Department of Labor.

"Esther Lopez is a tireless advocate for Illinois working families. Her creativity and determination helped make the Department of Labor more efficient and more responsive to the needs of the people," Gov. Blagojevich said.

In 2003, the governor named Esther Lopez the assistant director of the Department of Labor. Just a week later, the director of the department resigned, elevating Lopez to the role of acting director. Lopez sought out alternative sources of funding, such as a federal grant to double the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration budget. She also streamlined and standardized the department, eliminating a layer of middle management. During her time leading the Department of Labor, Lopez made the rights of immigrant workers a top priority, creating multilingual presentations to ensure that every worker, from every country, understands that Illinois labor laws apply to everyone.

One of Lopez's most significant contributions at the Department of Labor was her role in launching the governor's campaign for equal pay awareness. The effort began in April and is an outreach and awareness program to help employers understand and follow equal pay laws and to inform women on how to file a complaint if the law is not being followed. Last year, Gov. Blagojevich signed the Equal Pay Act, which aims to eliminate the wage differential between men and women. The act protects an additional 330,000 Illinois workers, enhances enforcement of the statute by requiring employers to post a notice in their workplace summarizing workers' rights under the act and provides for stiffer penalties for those who violate the law.

As part of the awareness campaign, the Illinois Department of Labor, led by Lopez, and the governor's office are developing ways to equip employees and employers with a solid understanding of the law, as well as to inform the public about their rights under this law. The Illinois Department of Labor is conducting briefings across the state to educate employees, employers and advocacy groups about the Equal Pay Act of 2003.

Lopez begins her new role on July 5.


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Also July 5, Art Ludwig will begin at the Department of Labor, replacing Lopez. Ludwig is the business manager of Local Union 701, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He began his career in the electrical industry in 1972 when he was accepted into the DuPage County Joint Apprenticeship Training Program. He completed his four-year apprenticeship and was advanced to journeyman wireman in 1976. He continued his education by attending the Lighting Institute of Chicago in 1977, the George Meany Center for Labor Studies in 1991, attending management training at the University of Illinois Peoples Resource Center in Champaign in 1992, and then by taking numerous management training courses at the University of Wisconsin School for Workers in 1994.

Ludwig has years of management and budget analysis experience. He worked for several large electrical contractors as a project manager, estimator and general foreman and served as an apprenticeship instructor for 14 years. In 1989, he was chosen to be a business representative of the Local 701, and in 1991 he was named assistant business manager. He was then elevated to business manager in 1994. As manager he developed a drug-screening program for Local 701, and co-founded the Local 701 Labor Management Cooperation Committee.

Ludwig currently serves on the board of directors of Cisco, on the Electrical Inspectors Commission and is currently chairman of the DuPage County Joint Apprenticeship Board, as well as president of the Labor Management Cooperation Committee.

"Art Ludwig has a proven track record as a progressive leader and is an excellent addition to state government and the Illinois Department of Labor," Gov. Blagojevich said.

[News release from the governor's office]

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