Solis Resignation a Loss for Labor
January 14, 2013
Summarizing the Obama administration’s accomplishments in remarks to the IBEW Convention in Vancouver, now-retired General Counsel Larry Cohen said:
We again have a Department of Labor that is a department for labor. It is no longer an anti-labor labor department, which it was throughout the Bush administration.
Rededicating a work force to its mission takes passion and leadership. That job fell to former California U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis, who was confirmed as Secretary of Labor in February 2009, after her nomination by President Barack Obama.
With the Jan. 9 announcement of her resignation, labor leaders and reporters recounted the record of Solis the daughter of a Teamster and a manufacturing worker. International President Edwin D. Hill said:
Secretary Solis was a true friend of our union. Whether she was visiting IBEW training centers to award grants for green energy training or throwing the book at nonunion contractors who were misclassifying and underpaying their workers—setting up unfair competition for our signatory contractors—Secretary Solis always honored and recognized the talents and worth of the men and women whom her department was designed to protect.
The U.S. Department of Labor includes the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. On Jan. 10, Brad Plummer, in anarticlein the Washington Post reported that the consensus of experts is that Solis was “far more aggressive” than her predecessor in enforcing safety regulations.
During Solis’ tenure, 1.7 million workers completed federal job-training programs. Despite Solis’ strong advocacy, writes the Post, many of her decisions have been “constrained,” like new safety rules limiting silica dust exposure for miners and construction workers which have been “bottled up by the Office of Management and Budget since 2011.” The Post article adds:
The department proposed a regulation that would bring 1.8 million home-care workers under federal minimum-wage and overtime rules. That has yet to be finalized … There’s plenty of work left for the next labor secretary.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
Under Secretary Solis, the Labor Department became a place of safety and support for workers. Secretary Solis’ Department of Labor talks tough and acts tough on enforcement, workplace safety, wage and hour violations and so many other vital services. Secretary Solis never lost sight of her own working-class roots, and she always put the values of working families at the center of everything she did. We hope that her successor will continue to be a powerful voice both within the Obama administration and across the country for all of America’s workers.
In her resignation announcement, Solis said:
Growing up in a large Mexican-American family in La Puente, California, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to serve in a president’s Cabinet, let alone in the service of such an incredible leader … Together we have achieved extraordinary things and I am so proud of our work on behalf of the nation’s working families.
As speculation deepens over who will replace Solis, International President Edwin D. Hill says:
We thank Secretary Solis for her dedication in the service of working families. And we urge President Obama to replace her with a secretary who carries equal passion and competence. We pledge to stand behind such a nominee against those in Congress who want to return the Department of Labor to a time when the foxes were guarding the hen houses.