Labor Secretary Hilda Solis: A Champion for All Workers

After four years in President Obama’s Cabinet, Hilda Solis recently announced she’s stepping down from her position as Secretary of Labor. As those of us in California know, Secretary Solis is a lifelong champion for workers. As Secretary of Labor, she used her position to advance workers’ rights in many ways, never forgetting her humble roots as the daughter of a union family in Southern California.

In a letter to her colleagues at the Department of Labor, Secretary Solis wrote:

Growing up in a large Mexican-American family in La Puente, California, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to serve in a president’s Cabinet, let alone in the service of such an incredible leader. Because President Obama took very bold action, millions of Americans are back to work.  There is still much to do, but we are well on the road to recovery, and middle class Americans know the president is on their side…  As the daughter of parents who worked in factories, paid their union dues and achieved their goal of a middle class life, and as the first Latina to head a major federal agency, it has been an incredible honor to serve.        

Hilda Solis fought tirelessly for workers each and every day she served as Secretary of Labor. While her accomplishments as the head of the Department of Labor are too numerous to include in any one blog, here’s a brief summary of some of the major victories she achieved on behalf of workers.

Job Creation, Training and Unemployment Assistance

  • Following the Bush recession and loss of more than 4 million jobs by 2009, the Administration helped create 2.4 million private sector jobs to re-boot the economy.
  • By strengthening the federal unemployment insurance program, Secretary Solis’ Department of Labor helped dislocated workers stay afloat and receive job training and placement assistance.
  • Over the past four years, more than 1.7 million people completed federally-funded job training programs.
  • The Labor Department also invested in community colleges to provide local, flexible, employer-specific job training to millions of Americans.
  • Her department built programs for employers to hire returning military service members and help women and homeless veterans.  

Workplace Health and Safety

  • Secretary Solis’ crackdown on dangerous and deadly workplaces made 2011 one of the safest on record, with the fewest-ever mine fatalities, and industry and construction fatalities at historic lows.
  • Her department filed a record number of egregious health and safety cases and the first-ever enterprise-wide complaint to make sure that employers fix safety hazards at all locations at the same time.
  • Solis launched a nationwide outreach campaign to prevent heat related illnesses and fatalities among outdoor workers.
  • She also held major worker safety and health summits on the concerns of vulnerable Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander workers in low-wage, high hazard industries including manufacturing, health care, agriculture and construction.

Wage Protections and Labor Law Enforcement

  • Secretary Solis led nationwide enforcement initiatives in industries with persistent violations of federal wage and hour laws, such as agriculture, restaurants, construction, hotel/motels, garment, and health care.
  • Under Solis, the Labor Department engaged in the largest number of wage theft investigations in recent memory to recover back wages for affected workers and deter future violations. Since January 2009, the department collected over $478 million in back wages for approximately 580,000 workers denied their rightful pay, overtime or leave benefits (the most back wages ever collected in the history of the department). 
  • In addition, enforcement and informal resolution programs resulted in the recovery of almost $5 billion dollars for retirees and their families.
  • For the first time ever, significant resources are now devoted to combating the misclassification of workers to better protect employees and businesses who play by the rules.
  • Secretary Solis also played an important role in crafting regulatory actions to implement key aspects of the Affordable Care Act. 

(For a more comprehensive list of Secretary Solis' accomplishments, click here.)

As Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis made us proud. Thanks to her hard work and dedication, millions of working families are closer to achieving the American Dream. We extend our deep gratitude to Hilda for her service, and look forward to continuing our partnership with her in the future to build a better life for all workers.