Obama's Secretary of Labor Choice: Sí se puede!

U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis with Rep. George Miller and Rep. John Spratt at the introduction of The Human Dignity Act.  Photo by Wendy L. Doromal ©July 2006

December 18, 2008

My friend, Dennis Greenia (dengre) called today to share the exciting news that Rep. Hilda Solis was just picked by President-elect Obama to serve as his Secretary of Labor. This is great news for all who work on U.S. soil whether citizens or foreign workers.  It is news that is being hailed by human and labor rights advocates, union members, immigrants, and workers from every corner of the nation.  President-elect Obama is making it clear that labor and immigration issues will be high on his agenda. Every guest worker in the CNMI should celebrate this selection!

The first time I saw Rep. Solis was in July 2003 in New Orleans at the National Educator's Association (NEA) Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner. She was honored with the César Chávez Acción y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Award for her work in social and environmental justice and labor activism. 

As California's first Hispanic woman elected to the state senate, Ms. Solis introduced legislation to increase California's minimum wage. After the bill was defeated, she worked with labor groups to organize a statewide ballot initiative, which passed.  The minimum wage was increased from $4.25 to $5.75. 

After she was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2000, Rep. Solis fought to maintain the legacy of César Chávez and the farm worker movement through her introduction of the César E. Chávez Study Act.  Coincidentally, it was included in the Consolidated Resources Act, PL 110-229 which was signed into law May 8, 2008.  It allows the National Park Service to erect historical markers throughout the West memorializing the saga of the farm workers. Rep. Solis spoke in support of the bill in July 2007:
It is my hope that through this legislation, future generations can understand who Cesar Chavez was, and why the work that he did was so important, know that they too can be courageous and work toward the betterment of all mankind.
I was able to speak to Rep. Solis and several of her staff members in June 2006.  She joined Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. John Spratt (D-SC ) to announce the introduction of H.R. 5550, United States-Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Human Dignity Act.  I flew to Washington to do an interview for NPR, and to be attend the bill's formal announcement. Dennis Greenia was there, as was Nousher Jaheti, former victim of human trafficking who lived in Saipan.  Rep. Solis expressed concerns for the guest workers of the CNMI and especially took an interest in issues concerning women and human trafficking victims.

The Washington Post reports:
Labor unions hailed the choice. "We're thrilled at the prospect of having Rep. Hilda Solis as our nation's next labor secretary," said AFL-CIO president John Sweeney in a statement that also noted that Solis has overwhelmingly pro-labor voting record. "We're confident that she will return to the labor department one of its core missions - - to defend workers' basic rights in our nation's workplaces."
Rep. Solis was born in Los Angeles and served in the Carter White House in the Office of Hispanic Affairs.  I share the congresswoman's views on immigration reform.  In a January 2006 interview with The Nation Rep. Solis stated:
It is time to implement a plan that grants legal status to hardworking and taxpaying immigrant workers already established in this country. Immigrant students should be given legal permanent residence, and full and equal access to fair college tuition rates and financial aid. Immigrant families should have a clear, efficient path to reunifying. Immigrant workers should be documented, allowing them to enjoy the rights and to exercise the responsibilities of US citizens.
We can heighten national security while bringing millions of hard-working immigrants out of the shadows and into full citizenship. But first we have to give up the illusion that enforcement alone can solve our immigration crisis.
Rep. Solis is very familiar with issues relating to the CNMI. She served on the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources with Rep. George Miller who has pushed the cause of the CNMI guest workers in the U.S. House since the early 1990's.  USA Today reports:
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, called Solis a strong champion of working families.

"Her record in the California legislature as a leader on labor issues and her excellent work in Congress on behalf our of nation's working men and women will restore the Department of Labor as an advocate for hard-working Americans," Miller said in a prepared statement released through his office.

"I look forward to working with her and the Obama administration to move the country forward on expanding health care, improving worker safety, strengthening retirement security and rebuilding our middle class,? he said.
I will be sending Rep. Solis an updated status report and recommendations for policies and regulations relating to PL 110-229 next week. 

Congratulations to Representative Solis! Today is truly a victory for every working American.


chamberonomics said...

She is well known and well liked among union leaders.

The hotel workers here should organize at once, as they now have friends in Washington. Our hotels have underpaid workers for long enough, and enough is enough.

dengre said...

This is great news for workers everywhere.


Anonymous said...

Great. More illegal Mexicans, more gangs, more drugs, more murder. This has NOTHING to do with guest workers in the CNMI. Guest workers in the CNMI are not IMMIGRANTS, they are CONTRACT WORKERS. Quit dangling that carrot Wendy, it's annoying.

Saipan Writer said...

Thanks for the update.

And please keep us posted about the process on determining the regulations to implement PL 110-229. These will be very important.

I sincerely hope that she will be able to push for some permanent status for the many workers who have been here and worked in the CNMI, and who now face uncertainty about their continued employability and status.

wendy said...


You said, Great. More illegal Mexicans, more gangs, more drugs, more murder. This has NOTHING to do with guest workers in the CNMI. Guest workers in the CNMI are not IMMIGRANTS, they are CONTRACT WORKERS. Quit dangling that carrot Wendy, it's annoying.

What a truly inappropriate and racist comment. I have Mexican friends and I have taught English to non-speaking immigrants and migrant workers in adult-ed ESOL classes. The Mexicans I know are upstanding citizens, hard workers, family-centered, and some are community leaders. One of my good friends runs the Golden Rule Foundation in Florida which provides funds for character education and service. He is a Mexican. His sister is an author and lives in Miami and their father is a Mayan scholar.

The future Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis is the daughter of a Mexican father and a Nicaraguan mother. Her parents met in citizenship class.

The guest workers are immigrants and they are guest workers. If a person works and lives in a community for the length of time that many of the guest workers have, they are immigrants. Some of thm have lived in the CNMI longer than they have lived in their homelands. Many of them have US citizen children and some have US citizen grandchildren.

The Encarta World Dictionary defines immigrant:

1. somebody who has come to a country and settled there.

The long-term guest workers fit that description. It's not a carrot, it's a fact.

And yes, Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor has much to do with the guest workers in the CNMI. Rep. Hilda Solis supports the rights of the guest workers in the CNMI and everywhere on US soil. I heard her speak about the CNMI guest workers. I have personally talked to her about their situation. She will be heading an agency that will have some say in policy and regulations related to PL 110-229. This is very good news for the guest workers. She is a great woman and a great advocate for migrant workers and immigrants.

Anonymous said...

You need to stop being a bleeding heart Liberal Wendy.

The Philippines need to take care of their Filipinos, not US taxpayers. Same with Mexico. We are in a financial emergency. The CONTRACT WORKERS in the CNMI who overstay their contracts need to be brought up on charges and deported back to the Philippines ASAP. US taxpayers should be made aware that we might be forced to absorb these people, their children and their entire familia from the province. Think about your own country first, let the Philippines take care of their own.

wendy said...


I am not talking about overstayers or illegals. Think about humanity first...

US taxpayers should be informed of the waste in CUC, in other corrupt agencies, in the waste of funds on lawsuits,lobbyists,consultants, trips, and the inability of the CNMI to effectively run labor and immigration.

Anonymous said...

Humanity? Why do Filipinos on Saipan deserve to be US Citizens? How about Chinese women who give birth just to stay? If you are saying that it is a 'human right' to be an American, you need counseling. Those days are over. The PI, China, Bangladesh and all the others need to change and that's the only way we can stop the influx of illegals and the like.

So they are hard working, so what? So am I. Stop and consider your own country and Americans living in America. What about their plight?

wendy said...


Where a person is born is an accident of birth. How a nation treats the people who are invited to their country to work is a reflection of the character of that nation or in the CNMI's case, the islands.

No one gives birth to "stay" -giving birth does not guarantee a mother can stay.Having a child is a human right.

Anonymous said...

Recently, as you should be aware of, some organization where brought to light advertizing and collecting fees for the Korean (nad ) other nationality women to come to Saipan to have their babies on US soil, so the child could have a US Passport..Is that a human right? or a scam.
The Feds took over because from the early days thay warned about the number of contract workers outnumbering the locals and not returning back home in the time frame that was set out in the original agreement to be able to come to Saipan to work.