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Published on September 6th, 2010 | by Editor

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Hilda Solis recognizes, respects and celebrates a workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively

On Labor Day it has become a tradition for Labor Secretaries to speak on the status of the American worker and to give a “State of the American Worker” report.

Hilda Solis was nominated by President Barack Obama as the 25th United States Secretary of Labor. She took office after being confirmed by the United States Senate in February 2009, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.

The following is the Secretary’s remarks at the occasion of Labor Day 2010, in which she clear clearly opposes cutbacks to worker training and on giving workers a voice in their workplace.

Remarks by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis

Hello, I’m Hilda Solis . . . your Secretary of Labor.  Thank you for “tuning in.”
I want to spend a few minutes today on the significance of this Labor Day.

For most people, Labor Day marks the end of summer . . . or back to school . . . or an election season.  For me, Labor Day has always been what it was originally intended to be: a day to celebrate the contributions that working men and women have made to the strength and prosperity of the country.

It’s become somewhat of a tradition for Labor Secretaries to use Labor Day to speak on the status of the American worker . . . to give a “State of the American Worker” report, if you will.

Some have made remarks from podiums or pulpits.  Others have testified on Capitol Hill.  Some have chosen to address think tanks, corporations, or labor unions.

Those are all important forums . . . but I wanted to talk directly to you – the American worker. I want to share with you what I’ve seen and heard from many of you in my travels across the country during the past year. 

Many of you have told me that you want an America that“produces things again.”  You want a nation that is strong, that leads the international marketplace in innovation and a commitment to quality. And you want a government that is responsive, pragmatic and understands your needs.

But more than anything else, no matter where I go and who I talk to, you’ve told me “we need jobs.”

So I want you—and every single working family across the nation—to know two things:
First, what this administration, and in particular, this Labor Department is doing on your behalf, and

And second, how we plan to move forward.

Right now, despite the fact that we have added private sector jobs to the economy for seven straight months, the nation’s unemployment rate hovers above nine percent.  For young people, people of color, and people in regions of the country hit hardest by the recession, the rate is much higher.

Look, I’m not an economist . . . so I don’t just deal in statistics.  But I do deal with real people, who have real needs and who are looking to government for real answers.  And, I’ve met many of the people these unemployment numbers represent.  I’ve heard their stories of hardship and success. 

In the cities and towns I’ve been to this past year, I’ve never once heard working people–or people who need and want work–demand special treatment.  Americans don’t want a hand out . . . they just want a level playing field with clear rules, an opportunity to work hard, and a fair chance to provide for their families and  get ahead. These are the people I think about every single day.  These are the people I work for, and the ones who constantly renew my faith in the American worker.

And you can be certain that, like the President, I will not stop working until every American is back on their feet—and we have fulfilled our mission to provide “good and safe jobs for everyone.” 

We are making important inroads towards that goal, so let me tell you—briefly—what we have done so far to get there.

First and foremost, we’ve reversed the dangerous trend of job loss in our country because just over a year ago, we were losing almost 700,000 jobs per month. We were on the verge of another Great Depression.  We took immediate action to stop the bleeding and create jobs. 

Now, instead of losing jobs, we have actually added them in the private sector every month.  We have averaged about 90,000 jobs for the last seven months.

But something else too . . . and this is important:  Our efforts, most notably the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, SAVED millions of American jobs in the auto manufacturing industry.  Those efforts also kept health care workers in clinics and community hospitals.  They kept hundreds of thousands of teachers in classrooms, and police and firefighters on the beat—where they should be. 

We’ve also focused on the engine of job creation, and that’s small businesses.   I’ve seen time and time again the big impact that small business hiring has on a local community. Access to capital is key, so we’ve expanded credit to small businesses.  Now, we are making it possible for American entrepreneurs to create and grow businesses that will put people to work.

We are taking actions that have meaning today and tomorrow.  One of those actions involves rebuilding our national infrastructure, which is so critical.  As a result of our quick and bold actions, millions of people are at work, building and rebuilding American roads, bridges, ports and high speed railways.

And we are also investing in a new American foundation and a whole new American industry and employer: and that’s clean energy.  We look at that investment two ways: advances in biofuels, wind and solar power, will not only reduce our dependence on foreign energy, but also reenergize the American manufacturing sector. 

I’ve long believed that green jobs can be great jobs, and jobs every American can take advantage of.  Green jobs can be a new and exciting pathway to the middle class and these jobs will not be outsourced.  

These jobs require skill and preparation… and hard work.  I’ve heard often in my travels that Americans want an America where hard work is rewarded.  As your Labor Secretary, I want that too. 

That’s why I am pleased that this Administration is making student loans more affordable and available to all young people.  At the Labor Department, we are ensuring the future success of workers at every age through job training opportunities that lead to real jobs in emerging industries like health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and of course, clean and green energy.  

Now, as we’ve done all that, we’ve also strengthened the safety net for America’s workers.  We’ve expanded unemployment insurance programs in nearly 40 states, so more people may receive benefits. And, after decades of failing to reign in the out-of-control health care system, our reforms will control costs, improve care, minimize fraud and provide security for millions of American families. 

These are important steps, but they are just part of the story.  The big question now is: What’s next?  So on this Labor Day, my message to you is this:  We have a lot of work to do. Together. 

In the weeks and months ahead, policy makers will be debating what should come next.  There are some who will suggest that when times are tough, it’s time to get tough on working people.  They’ll suggest that we cut back on worker training, to cut back on worker safety . . . and to cut back on giving workers a voice in their workplace. 
I totally disagree.

To those who say we can no longer afford to train, retool and educate our workforce, I say we cannot afford NOT to.

To those who want to cut corners and disregard safety in the workplace, I say:  Keeping workers safe matters far more than saving a few cents.
And to those who want to deny workers a voice in the workplace, let me be clear: This Secretary of Labor recognizes respects and celebrates a workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.

As individuals, and as a nation, we have very important choices to make, and each one merits careful and informed discussion.  So in the weeks and months ahead, I hope we can continue this conversation.  Each and every one of us has something at stake, and we simply cannot afford to make the wrong choices.

Thanks for watching and please know that your Labor Secretary wishes you a safe and happy Labor Day.

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