Obama Gives Labor Nod to Solis

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to tap U.S. Representative Hilda Solis (D-California) as the next Secretary of Labor, according to widespread media reports Thursday.

Solis, the daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants, who has been the only member of Congress of Central American descent, just won a fifth term representing heavily Hispanic portions of eastern Los Angeles County and eastern portions of Los Angeles.

She 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, according to the Washington Post.

According to the Post report, the next Labor Secretary will likely spend a good deal of time dealing with what is expected to be a particularly contentious battle over the Employee Free Choice Act. Supported by Obama, the measure would make it easier for unions to organize workers and is being actively opposed by business interests.

She the only member of Congress on the member of American Rights at Work, which the Post said was a pro-labor group run by former Congressman David Bonior.

Happy Unions

Labor unions hailed the Solis choice. “We’re thrilled at the prospect of having Representative Hilda Solis as our nation’s next labor secretary,” said AFL-CIO president John Sweeney in a statement that also noted that Solis has an overwhelmingly pro-labor voting record, according to the Post. “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.”

The Post report pointed out that Solis has pushed in Congress for more training for jobs that advance industries toward greater energy efficiency and that she successfully advocated in 1996 to increase California’s minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour, while serving in the California state Senate.

As for her own priorities, among those listed on her House Web site were expanding access to affordable health care and improving the lives of working families.

Her Background

Solis 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, the Post said.

She later worked as a management analyst with the Office of Management and Budget.

Her Congressional Web site is http://solis.house.gov/.