January 11, 2013
Effective warrior for American workers
In a letter written to her colleagues at the Department of Labor, Secretary Hilda Solis announced this week that she will resign her post “to begin a new future, and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life.”
“Leaving the department is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, because I have taken our mission to heart. As the daughter of parents who worked in factories, paid their union dues and achieved their goal of a middle class life, and as the first Latina to head a major federal agency, it has been an incredible honor to serve.” — Hilda Solis, 1/9/13
During her time leading the Labor Department, Secretary Solis revived an agency that had become in many ways the ‘anti-Labor Department’ during the Bush Administration. After taking office in 2009 at the height of the jobs crisis, Solis took swift action to restore DOL’s role as advocate for American workers, beefing up enforcement of wage and hour and health and safety regulations, winning many victories along the way.
“Because of our work, more people are receiving the wages they are owed. Last year we conducted the largest number of investigations in recent memory, collecting the most back wages in our history (more than $280 million on behalf of more than 300,000 workers denied their rightful pay, overtime or leave benefits). In these recoveries, what may seem to some as “small change” makes a huge difference for those who live paycheck-to-paycheck. In addition, our enforcement and informal resolution programs resulted in the recovery of almost $5 billion dollars for retirees and their families.” — Hilda Solis, 1/9/13
Through these enforcement actions, giving the public tools to track violations, her annual Labor Day messages, marching with labor in Alabama, issuing new protections for farm workers, defending collective bargaining, and fighting for equal pay for women, Hilda Solis showed through her work that she ‘gets it’.
President Obama hailed Hilda Solis as a “tireless champion of working families”:
“Over her long career in public service – as an advocate for environmental justice in California, state legislator, member of Congress and Secretary of Labor – Hilda Solis has been a tireless champion for working families. Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class. Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work. I am grateful to Secretary Solis for her steadfast commitment and service not only to the Administration, but on behalf of the American people. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.” — President Obama, 1/9/13
Rich Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said Solis “never lost sight of her own working-class roots”:
“Labor Secretary Hilda Solis brought urgently needed change to the Department of Labor, putting the U.S. government firmly on the side of working families. Under Secretary Solis, the Labor Department became a place of safety and support for workers. Secretary Solis’s 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.” — Richard Trumka, 1/9/13
We join President Trumka in that hope, though we could not have asked for a better Secretary of Labor than Hilda Solis, who, with little fanfare or public spotlight, became the best friend working people in North Carolina and across the United States had in our government.
Secretary Solis, you will be missed, and we wish you all the best.