Our Hilda Solis

Posted on June 12, 2011 by

Los Angeles union leaders and activists were thrilled when President Obama picked Hilda Solis to head the Labor Department. 

The El Monte democrat had spent eight years in the U.S. house and was a great union ally and a true friend of workers.  As a state senator in 1996 she spearheaded a very successful voter campaign to raise the California minimum wage.

Though roughed up a little by republicans during senate hearings, she was confirmed in February 2009. 

DOL, as it’s called, administers some very high-profile federal programs including wage and hour laws, pension guarantees, union financial reporting requirements, the family leave act and workplace and mine health and safety. 

Republican presidents appoint secretaries, deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries who tend to weaken enforcement and undermine unions.  (Labor Secretary under George W. Bush, Elaine Chao was groomed for the job at the conservative Heritage Foundation and served all eight years). 

By all accounts, Secretary Solis has guided DOL back to its mission, giving union leaders a seat at the table and jobs to democrats who at least believe in the laws they’re supposed to enforce. 

But many labor insiders are discouraged by her lack of visibility and advocacy. 

Performing official duties, she hits the right notes, but attracts almost no media attention (compare to the administration’s top-tier cabinet officers: Clinton at State, Holder at Justice, Geithner at Treasury, Gates / Panetta at Defense). 

It’s possible that as the 2012 election nears, Solis will take on a bigger public role.  Obviously, the unions need some healing after its disappointments with this administration. 

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to see the Obama team make a real connection with American workers?

Led by someone who truly shares their roots and understands their struggle.

Comments (2)


  1. I was a delegate to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor when the question was put to the delegates as to whether or not to endorse Hilda Solis for Congress in the Democratic Primary against incumbent Matty Martinez in the 32nd District. This is the story of how we got that endorsement through:


  2. Greg II says:

    I think the visibility of Ms Solis has to do with the threading of the needle that the administration has to do in terms of creating the environment where she can actually get work done as she has. I can almost guarantee you that she wouldn’t have been able to be nearly as successful if her profile had been higher. But yes, I think sometime within the next year her profile should and will be raised in order to reconnect. And after that, if we are fortunate to win, and I think we will, her profile can remain high if we don’t lose anymore of congress but especially if we gain.

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