Hilda Solis to Labor

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Dec 18, 2008 at 13:48

I did some interviews with the Labor Secretary to be a few, Hilda Solis, in August of 2007.  The video above is a discussion of the Progressive Caucus (forgive the shitty editing, I was experimenting).  Here's the other video I took, on on global warming and race.

I'm impressed with this pick.  Solis is an organizer within Congress, and has the smarts to build political coalitions among different constituency groups, including the netroots.  I could see Labor becoming a department that has to build its own power, since Obama's not exactly going to welcome that perspective to a seat at the table unless Solis forces her way in.  As an example, Obama has introduced his 'economic team' and met with it many times, without even having chosen a Labor Secretary, a clear sign that to him, the perspectives of organized labor are somewhat peripheral to his thinking on the economy.  In 1992, Clinton had Bob Reich as his Labor Secretary, but Reich was also a part of the President's economic team (though he did become marginalized fairly quickly).

This is a very good pick.  Solis might turn out to be an excellent ally.

Matt Stoller :: Hilda Solis to Labor

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but but but (1.33 / 3)
whatever happened to the Obama hates progressives stuff????

Well as much as I'd like to (4.00 / 1)
feel happy about this excellent pick, unfortunately the views and record of appointees don't matter: He sets the policy!


[ Parent ]
This will probebly be forgotten (4.00 / 3)
Just like the short props for Melody, Chu, Openly gay EPA cabinet member (first openly gay cabinet in US history btw, but warren matters much more!), the veterans guy (not 100% sure),the whole green team, Duncan, Rice, Holder, Janet and some others. Most of the rest are at least centrists (except gates and Jones).

When people are content on an item they over look it. Tomorrow no one will remember this since it wont get the same attention (watch how many comments it gets here for example). Alas that is human nature (or at least the culture today). I will bet you the next time obama makes a decision some blogger don't like people will be saying he doesn't appoint any left progressives to his cabinet.

[ Parent ]
oh don't worry (4.00 / 1)
It's clear Obama doesn't think highly of the Department of Labor enough to put its leader into his economic team.

[ Parent ]
i think (4.00 / 2)
you and your contemporaries just need to form a new party 'cause this is getting old and Obama hasn't even been inaugurated.  

[ Parent ]
Is it, Matt? (0.00 / 0)
It's not clear to me. What kind of sense would it make to even HAVE a Secretary of Labor who is not included in the economic team?  From here, it looks like you are pretty determined to downplay this appointment, which I think is an outstanding one.  It doesn't fit into your narrative.  Are you sure that's not the reason you are discounting it?

[ Parent ]
This IS An Excellent Choice (4.00 / 4)
Easily Obama's best so far, I'd say.  She's not just someone who understands labor, she understands how labor, community and environmental concerns all intersect on a very intimate level in people's lives.

The only downside is that D-Day recently wrote a post at Calitics--"California's Crisis of The Status Quo - And the Only Woman Who Can Fix It", arguing, well, his title says it all.  I would have written something similar myself, but my impression had been that she wasn't interested in leaving the House.  

Of course, Bercerra staying put meant there wasn't an open slot for her to move up into.  As it is, she's now positioned to one of the most high-profile progressives in the nation.  And she's not just generally progressive.  She's done very nitty-gritty policy work in the California Assembly before moving to Congress--and unseating a long-serving, but very passive incumbent by a landslide to do so.  

Still, California remains a political and economic disaster area.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Well (4.00 / 2)
Hopefully she can be a force at Labor for three or four years, and then either shoot for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat or the Governorship of the Golden State.

[ Parent ]
This seems confused. (4.00 / 3)
I could see Labor becoming a department that has to build its own power, since Obama's not exactly going to welcome that perspective to a seat at the table unless Solis forces her way in.

Except that Obama just welcomed that perspective to a seat at his table without being forced to do so. There are many less progressive choices he could have made.

The excerpted sentence is just incoherent. Moreover, it's a bit childish to demonize Obama's attitude on labor issues based on the sequence of his appointments, or to valorize Clinton's accommodation of Reich, who those with longer memories will recall wrote a book called Locked in the Cabinet and called himself the "loneliest liberal" in Clinton's Washington. And let's remember that Clinton's first appointment was Lloyd Bentsen to Treasury, and that at a much more sanguine time, "economy, stupid" notwithstanding.

Could it be that Obama chose his economic advisers first because the US is in economic meltdown? Compared to most previous administrations, choosing a secretary of labor before Xmas would constitute an early pick.

um (4.00 / 1)
The point is that labor IS an economic position.  He downgraded the dept of labor.

[ Parent ]
Or (0.00 / 0)
Took his time in choosing it.

[ Parent ]
And (0.00 / 0)
Not necessarily downgraded it I should have added, where is your evidence that he downgraded it other than timing? Also not sure if labor has been part of the economic team to begin with in the past.

[ Parent ]
his evidence is that (0.00 / 0)
that would make Obama look bad and is therefore true.

[ Parent ]
That's because you can't./don't read (0.00 / 0)
Let me quote for you:

"In 1992, Clinton had Bob Reich as his Labor Secretary, but Reich was also a part of the President's economic team"

That would appear to be fairly unambiguous, no?

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Did you ever stop to think (0.00 / 0)
that he's been pushed into releasing all of his picks, especially economic, a lot quicker than is normal?  You don't know what vetting has gone on by the transition team or what the delay was in regards to Labor.  But we do know he wasn't given the luxury to delay his economic team announcement until the whole group was gathered together.  

We'll see if she's part of the economic team (0.00 / 0)
What's been frustrating thus far, and I think the point of the original post, is that workers have not had a voice in Obama's economic team thus far.  The litmus test for good economic policy needs to include whether it's good for workers, the current team might ask that, but their constituency is bankers and CEO's, so there's no voice at the table.    

This is a good appointment, but if the main table excludes Solis it shows where Obama's priorities are.  

[ Parent ]
What does Rep. Hilda Solis, Barack Obama's selection for secretary of labor, bring to the job? Only a record of passionate commitment to working people, a high level of political smarts, and some genuine displays of raw guts that could make her a star of American liberalism.

In 1996, when she was a back-bencher (and the first Latina) in the California State Senate, Hilda Solis did something that no other political figure I known of had done before, or has done since: She took money out of her own political account to fund a social justice campaign. Under California law, the state minimum wage is set by the gubernatorially-appointed Industrial Welfare Commission, and California's governors for the preceding 14 years, Republicans George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, hadn't exactly appointed members inclined to raise that wage. So Solis dipped into her own campaign treasury and came up with the money to fund the signature-gatherers to put a minimum wage hike initiative on the California ballot. The signature gatherers gathered the signatures, the measure was placed on the ballot, it passed handily in the next election, and California's low-wage janitors and gardeners and fry and taco cooks, and millions like them, got a significant raise.

While in the legislature, Solis also became the chief proponent in state government for the environmental justice movement that was bubbling up in various working-class communities around the state, steering to passage bills that reduced airborne carcinogens in industrial areas and that created parkland alongside the rivers that run through some of Los Angeles' poorest neighborhoods. She took a leading role in promoting domestic violence awareness in the state's communities of color.

And in 2000, she did something liberals always talk about doing and almost never do: she challenged an incumbent Democratic congressman with a piss-poor record in that Spring's Democratic primary, and defeated him soundly. Marty Martinez, a 9-term incumbent seeking his 10th, had voted for NAFTA, opposed gun controls and abortion rights, and backed the extension of a freeway into a residential area -- managing to estrange labor, enviros, feminists and liberals of all descriptions. Still, Democrats virtually never run against incumbents, from the left or from anyplace. But Solis, with the encouragement of L.A. County AFL-CIO chieftain Miguel Contreras, did just that. She not only won, but defeated Matinez by a whopping 69 percent to 31 percent margin.

In the House, Solis has continued to champion labor causes, immigrants' rights, women's health and environmental protections. She also worked closely with Rahm Emanuel in recruiting Democratic House candidates from the Southwest and Latino-dominated districts, so she brings to her new job a strong relationship with Obama's incoming chief-of-staff. Now, she's in the key position to promote the Employee Free Choice Act, which seems likely to be the most contentious issue on Obama's agenda. But Solis has never been deterred by controversy.

--Harold Meyerson



Matthew Martinez became a Republican right after he lost in the Primaries to Solis. (0.00 / 0)
He left Congress without being a lobbyist  


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