DOL Salutes 'New Freedom Initiative' Awardees

The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday recognized eight winners of the 7th annual New Freedom Initiative Award for their outstanding efforts to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The awards ceremony took place at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C.

At the event, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said, "The examples and best practices that we highlight today will hopefully provide insight and ideas for different strategies to help Americans with disabilities become fulfilled, contributing members of our workforce."

On behalf of Chao, Deputy Secretary Howard M. Radzely also awarded two SPIRIT (Strength, Perseverance, Integrity, Role-model, Independence, Trailblazer) Awards. One was presented to Jim Abbott, former Major League Baseball pitcher for the California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, and New York Yankees. Abbott retired from baseball in 1988, but is still using his talent to help raise awareness about the value people with disabilities bring to Americas businesses. Abbott serves as the spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labors Office of Disability Employment Policys (ODEP) PITCH (Proving Individuals with Talent Can Help) campaign.

The other SPIRIT Awardee of 2008 is Steve A. Burd, chairman, president, and CEO of Safeway Inc., in Pleasanton, Calif. Under his leadership, the company has committed to creating an inclusive workplace and currently employs nearly 10,000 people with disabilities. With Burd at the helm, OSHA said Safeway is delivering on its commitment to be a model corporate citizen by making communities in which it operates better places for all people, including those with disabilities, to live and work.

To learn more about the award winners, go to www.dol.gov/odep.

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