Calif. Congresswoman Solis Tapped to Head Labor
Updated 3:01 p.m.
By Alec MacGillis
Barack Obama has selected Los Angeles congresswoman Hilda Solis to run his Labor Department, a labor source confirmed today.
Elected to Congress in 2000, she previously served two years in the California Assembly and six in the State Senate, where she was the first female Hispanic state senator. She attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California, beginning her career in the Carter White House Office of Hispanic Affairs. She later worked as a management analyst with the Office of Management and Budget.
Solis has pushed in Congress for more training for so-called green-collar jobs -- jobs that advance industries toward greater energy officials. In the California state Senate, she successfully advocated in 1996 to increase the state's minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour. She the only member of Congress on the board of American Rights at Work, a pro-labor group helmed by David Bonior.
In Congress, Solis sits on the House Energy and Commerce committee, the Natural Resources committee, the select committee on energy independence and global warming and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. She has also been outspoken against domestic violence.
Solis, who was born in Los Angeles in 1957, will be the third Hispanic in the Cabinet (in addition to Bill Richardson and Ken Salazar), and the fifth woman (in addition to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Susan Rice, Janet Napolitano and Lisa Jackson), should she win Senate confirmation. She is also yet another Obama pick who originally supported Clinton in the primaries. Solis was an avid supporter of Clinton but was then aggressively courted by Obama as the primaries ended as part of his push to win over Hispanic voters.
Other individuals who had been mentioned for the Labor post include: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken, and labor activist Mary Beth Maxwell, who is the executive director of American Rights at Work.
In all likelihood, the next secretary will spend much of her time contending with the looming battle over the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation supported by Obama that would make it much easier for unions to organize workers but which is opposed by business interests.
Labor unions hailed the choice. "We're thrilled at the prospect of having Rep. Hilda Solis as our nation's next labor secretary," said AFL-CIO president John Sweeney in a statement that also noted that Solis has overwhelmingly pro-labor voting record. "We're confident that she will return to the labor department one of its core missions - - to defend workers' basic rights in our nation's workplaces."