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Thomas Perez
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez
Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, sworn in just last week, outlined a serious agenda in a speech to the AFL-CIO convention Tuesday. Pledging to work with President Obama on priorities such as immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, and implementing Obamacare effectively, Perez also forcefully linked the health of unions and labor rights with the health of the American middle class, saying that "direct relationship between the health of the middle class and the health of the labor movement is not speculation. It is historical fact," and:
We are not going to restore the American middle class if workers fear for jobs if they organize, if they face harassment and delays that make their legal rights a hollow promise. Workers' right to join together and form a union to improve their lives remains essential to a thriving middle class, and together we must defend that right….Strong unions reduce inequality and build the middle class.
Perez also identified ways the Department of Labor, specifically, could protect workers through "fair and aggressive enforcement of our wage and hour laws," such as taking action against companies violating the Davis-Bacon Act's prevailing wage requirements, and cracking down on misclassification of workers. He noted in an interview with Reuters that in 2012, the Labor Department collected a record $280 million in back wages for workers who had been cheated by their employers in one way or another, and said that he planned to continue that work.

The deck will remain stacked against workers given growing inequality and the weakness of the laws Perez has to enforce. But everything in his record and in this speech points to Perez continuing to be a forceful and effective advocate for working people.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 07:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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