After a nearly two-month delay, Hilda Solis, a former U.S. Representative from California, has been confirmed as Secretary of Labor. The Feb. 24 Senate vote was 80-17. Solis says that her top priorities will include promoting "green-collar" jobs, helping get Americans back to work, ensuring that workers are "paid what they deserve...and have safe and healthy workplaces," and providing employment assistance to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
She also will oversee the development of a rule implementing President Obama’s executive order reversing a Bush administration directive that requires employers to notify workers of their right not to join a union.
Unions describe Solis as a strong ally and say she had a solidly pro-union voting record in the House, and before that, in the California Legislature. Her signature achievement in the House was the 2007 passage of a bill that authorized up to $125 million for training programs to promote green-collar jobs in construction and renewable-energy development.
Construction industry groups have been reluctant to criticize Solis openly and point to her long-standing support for renewable-energy projects and green jobs as positive signs.
Solis ran into trouble during her confirmation hearing before the Senate labor committee. Several Republicans on the panel complained that she was evasive in answering questions about controversial topics, such as the Employee Free Choice Act. That bill would make it easier for unions to organize by eliminating the need for a secret-ballot election process, and it is a top legislative priority for organized labor.
The labor committee’s ranking Republican, Michael Enzi (Wyo.), said just before the Feb. 11 committee vote that "errors and omissions" in the documents Solis filed with the panel committee had delayed a vote on her nomination.
Enzi also said he initially had questions about Solis’ role as an unpaid treasurer for a pro-union lobbying organization. But he added that Solis adequately addressed that issue with a sworn affidavit stating that she had no check-writing authority with the organization. Enzi ultimately supported her nomination.