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Senate Confirms Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary

02.24.09

Senate Confirms Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary

by Mike Hall, Feb 24, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/02/24/senate-confirms-solis-as-labor-secretary/

Hilda Solis is the new secretary of labor. After Republicans backed away from an expected filibuster and agreed to stop their weeks of delaying tactics, the Senate this afternoon approved Solis’s nomination by an 80-17 vote.

Says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:

The confirmation of Rep. Hilda Solis is a huge victory: Finally, Americans will have a secretary of labor who represents working people, not wealthy CEO’s. It is also a historic moment as Rep. Solis becomes the first Hispanic secretary of labor.

The delay of Rep. Solis’s nomination for partisan and ideological reasons was overcome by the grassroots support of millions of Americans who are struggling and desperately need a secretary of labor who will be their voice.

In today’s vote, 56 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted for confirmation. All 17 votes against were cast by Republicans. Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) did not vote.

Solis, a Democratic member of the U.S. House from California, was announced in December as President Obama’s choice to lead the Department of Labor, and her confirmation hearing took place Jan. 9. However, Big Business groups and some far-right Republican senators loudly complained about Solis’s long record of support for working families and unions and delayed the confirmation vote until today.

After a scheduled Feb. 12 vote was postponed because of Republican objections, the union movement created a Facebook page, Americans for Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor to build some e-roots support for Solis. Nearly 2,000 people signed on.

During the floor debate today, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said Solis’s working family background—both her mom and dad were blue-collar union members—gives her a real connection to the problems and trials those families face—something those on Capitol Hill might not be as close to. Dodd said:

We may be aware, but do we really understand? None of us are facing losing our jobs, our homes, our retirement security….We need a secretary of labor who understands what working families are going though.

During the past eight years, the Department of Labor has moved away from protecting employees to protecting employers and weakened the right to organize….I don’t believe that’s its role, and neither does Congresswomen Solis. It is essential that the Department of Labor recommit itself to protecting the rights of workers.

Sweeney said:

She understands that the Employee Free Choice Act is critical to rebuilding our economy because working men and women deserve the freedom to choose whether to form a union without employer harassment and intimidation.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that in the past eight years, the voices of working families “haven’t been heard enough” and the voices of corporations and the powerful have been far too loud at the Labor Department.

President Obama, with the selection of Hilda Solis as secretary of labor, has given working families a voice back. Throughout her career, she has been a forceful advocate for working men and women.

In the U.S. House, Solis earned a 97 percent AFL-CIO working family voting record.

Before her election to Congress in 2000, Solis served in the California legislature, first in the Assembly and then in 1994 becoming the first Latina elected to the state Senate.

Solis’s confirmation is a boon for all of America’s workers and is supported by a range of groups nationwide. Says Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club:

Hilda Solis was a champion for workers’ rights, a champion for the environment and a tireless advocate for environmental justice during both her service in California and in the Congress.

In his statement, Sweeney added:

Rep. Solis is uniquely qualified to help struggling families through these difficult economic times because she knows firsthand what they are going through. She grew up in a working class family and understands what programs our nation’s workers need the most.

She will fight to improve skills development and job-creation programs, including development of “green collar” jobs. She will work to assure that workers get the pay they have earned and that they work in safe, healthy and fair workplaces. She’s ready to address the retirement security crisis and will work hard to protect every worker from job discrimination, regardless of race, sex, veteran status or disability.

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