Barack Obama's pick for Labor Secretary


(Image: Hilda L. Solis, Flickr)

What do former Senator Elizabeth Dole and former Secretary of State George Shultz have in common? They were both Secretary of Labor, they also had Ivy League educations, and neither grew up in union households.

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They are in direct contrast to Barack Obama's pick for Secretary of Labor, California Congresswoman Hilda Solis. Not only does she come from a union family, that family had to deal with hazardous working conditions.

Now Hilda Solis will oversee the Occupational Safety and Health Agency, including mine safety, and enforce the nation's labor laws. She'll also put into action the Obama plan to train workers for the new, green economy. "Living on Earth's" Ingrid Lobet reports.

In Congress Solis introduced legislation to ease the cost of future climate change legislation on low-income people. She pushed for retraining for environmental jobs, for changes in how chemicals are regulated, and for limits on diesel soot from international shipping because of the impact on portside communities.

But when it came time for Congresswoman Solis to appear before the Senate Labor Committee as part of her confirmation, Senators didn't have these issues on their minds. Democrats wanted to know whether Solis would commit to supporting paid family leave, addressing the shortage of nurses and high unemployment among people who are disabled.

Republicans wanted her to promise to maintain a private voting process in workplace union elections, rather than just letting employees sign cards saying they want to join. They were not satisfied with Solis's answers to that question, nor to whether she agrees that employees in a union workplace should be able to opt out of that union.

Despite the concern over her labor background, it's expected that Hilda Solis, the Congresswoman from California's 32nd district, will soon be United States Secretary of Labor.

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Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth.