The craziness has to end. GOP obstructionists are keeping a talented, passionate and much-needed pro-labor voice out of the Dept. of Labor...all for purely partisan, anti-worker reasons. This must stop.
In an op-ed today in La Opinion (the nation’s largest Spanish-language newspaper), PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell says it is long-past time to confirm Solis. You can read the Spanish-language version on La opinion or the English-version on PolicyLink's EquityBlog.
(Pssst: The English version is also just after the jump)
Solis Must Be Confirmed
By Angela Glover Blackwell
The Republican roadblocks preventing Rep. Hilda Solis from taking the reins as Labor Secretary should trouble all working Americans, especially the low-income Latinos and African-Americans on whose behalf she has fought her entire career.
Rep. Solis (D-Calif.) is a passionate and progressive advocate for the needs of working people. Her appointment was roundly cheered by labor advocates and people like myself who desire a more fair and inclusive America.
At a time of cascading unemployment, widening income inequality, and free-falling economy, the federal Department of Labor has perhaps never been more important. The department plays a vital role in many of the nation’s crucial job-training and apprenticeship programs. In addition, the department can serve as a powerful megaphone for organized labor and workforce rights.
Unfortunately, some Republican lawmakers have placed anonymous "holds" on Rep. Solis’s appointment, preventing the full Senate from conducting an up-or-down vote - which she is sure to win. Off-the-record, these legislators argue that Solis will be too "pro-labor."
Well, what’s wrong with that?
For the past eight years, unionized workers have been ignored, belittled and cast aside. It is long-past time that they had a high-profile and dedicated advocate in the federal government. Workers have gotten a raw deal even as executive pay and shareholder dividends have skyrocketed. Now that the bubble has burst, we must recommit our nation to helping spread opportunity and equity to all people. Unions are a critical tool in making that happen.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly four million black and Latino workers are represented by unions. And with concerted outreach from groups like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the ranks of the unionized with continue to swell with black and Latino workers.
Secretary Solis, working with pro-labor forces in the Congress, would likely make it easier for workers to join unions and for workplaces to become unionized. This expansion would be particularly important for Latinos working in sectors that too often go without union protections.
Bills like the Employee Free Choice Act promise to open up union opportunities to millions of Americans who need them. Hopefully, effective job-training and apprenticeship programs run by unions will finally get the federal support they need and deserve.
The 21st Century green economy will require a veritable army of newly trained workers, for jobs ranging from construction to engineering to operations. The Department of Labor is uniquely situated to harness the power and innovation of labor unions and bring their training ideas to scale. By working together with private sector leaders and legislators, labor forces can ensure America has a workforce that is ready, willing and able to compete in this global economy.
All that exciting progress remains just beyond the horizon, however. As long as the Department of Labor is kept rudderless by congressional critics who refuse to allow Rep. Solis a simple up-or-down confirmation vote, few of these next steps are possible.
It is time for the holds to end. It is time for America to enter a new era of workers’ rights and equal justice. It is time for Representative Solis to become Secretary Solis.
Angela Glover Blackwell is founder and CEO of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity.