Obama will tap CA Dem to helm Labor

The President-elect plans to nominate Democratic Congresswoman Hilda Solis of California to become the secretary of labor.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- President-elect Barack Obama has selected California Rep. Hilda Solis to serve as secretary of labor, a Washington-based labor official for a major union told CNN's John King on Thursday.

Solis, a four-term Democrat from Los Angeles, is considered to be one of the most liberal members of the House. She served eight years in the California legislature, and had worked in President Jimmy Carter's administration.

A Los Angeles native, Solis unseated former Rep. Matthew Martinez in a bitter Democratic primary in 2000 to represent a district that includes portions of East Los Angeles and that, according to Solis' Web site, is 63% Latino.

According to the Web site, Solis is the first Latina to serve on the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and she was the first Latina elected to the California state Senate.

The child of immigrants from Central America, Solis worked in the Carter White House Office of Hispanic Affairs in the 1970s.

Her priorities in Congress have been "expanding access to affordable health care, protecting the environment, and improving the lives of working families," according to her Web site.

Solis recently criticized actions in the Bush administration Labor Department that would affect foreign farm workers.

The changes in the guest worker program that allows farmers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis when there are no American workers to fill jobs were touted by the Bush administration as reducing red tape for employers. But advocates for workers contend the changes would lead to reduced wages and worse conditions for workers.

Solis released a statement last Friday on the changes, saying, "This recent action by the Bush administration is just the latest example of how out of touch the president is with working families, especially with Latino families that make up a large portion of the farm workers in this country."

In apparently an unintentional foreshadowing of her nomination as Labor secretary, Solis added, "There is no question that the guest worker program needs significant overhaul but slashing wages and reducing basic rights for the most vulnerable workers in our country, especially hardworking Latino farm workers, is not the answer.

"I look forward to working with the Obama administration and the Democratic majority to find the best solutions to strengthen this workforce and protections afforded to them."

In 2005, Solis was one of several Democratic congressmen who drew media attention by holding a rally in front of the White House to deliver over 500,000 signatures on petitions calling for an end to the war in Iraq. To top of page

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