Thank you, Secretary Hilda Solis
When Hilda Solis was in high school, her guidance counselor told her that she wasn’t college material – that she should lower her sights and become a secretary. Lucky for us, Hilda didn’t lower her sights at all, and instead served as Secretary of Labor and the first Latina in a top cabinet position. As Hilda steps down from her post, we have a whole lot to thank her for.
During these rocky economic times, Secretary Solis’s leadership has had a profound effect on millions of Americans. The Department of Labor oversaw $67 billion for unemployment insurance benefits, job training and placement, and worker protection. More than 1.7 million people were able to complete federally-funded job training programs. And lives were quite literally saved: fatalities in general industry and construction are at historic lows, thanks to DOL enforcement.
As Hilda said herself: “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 […] In these recoveries, what may seem to some as ‘small change’ makes a huge difference for those who live paycheck-to-paycheck.”
Something else that made a huge difference? Secretary Solis’s work on pay equity, including identifying and eliminating gender-based discrimination by federal contractors, narrowing the wage gap, and reducing income inequality. We couldn’t agree more with Hilda: “Pay equity is not simply a question of fairness; it is an economic imperative with serious implications not just for women, but for communities and the nation's economic recovery.”
Solis put her money where her mouth is by investigating wage discrimination against female employees of a federal contractor called Green Bay Dressed Beef. Under her leadership, the DOL brought about a settlement of $1.65 million to nearly 1,000 employees who had suffered lost wages because of gender bias.
Hilda’s accomplishments at the helm of the Department of Labor drive home just how essential this work is to the lives of millions of women and families. The fact is, labor issues are women’s issues, and it’s critical for our Secretary of Labor to understand that – and act on it. Hilda Solis has been a trail-blazer, and as she moves on to the next chapter, there’s a great opportunity to nominate a woman to follow in her footsteps. Not as a secretary, but as Secretary of Labor.