Solis' Opening Remarks
Senate Confirmation Hearing

CQ Transcripts Wire
Friday, January 9, 2009 4:04 PM

REP. HILDA SOLIS (D-CALIF.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I, too, am delighted that you could preside over this particular hearing today.

Ranking Member Senator Enzi, who we had a great discussion the other day, thank you and also all the other distinguished members of the committee.

I believe I had a chance to speak with just about everyone with -- with the exception of Senator Alexander, but I'm sure we will take time after this -- this meeting and hopefully get a chance to talk and discuss what your concerns are.

Some I want to thank all of you. I am deeply honored and grateful that President-elect Obama has selected me to serve as his designee for secretary of labor.

If confirmed, I'm eager to serve the American people and lead the Department of Labor to improve the opportunities for hard-working families.

My vision of the Department of Labor is rooted in who I am. My father, as you know, worked hard as the Teamsters shop steward in a battery recycling plant for more than 20 years. His membership in the union helped my family have health and other benefits, even when times were tough. My mother immigrated from Central America, Nicaragua. She was a stay-at-home mom for most of the time that I was a child. But, like anything else, she later went to work at a toy factory to help make ends meet and became a member of the United Rubber Workers.

I'm proud to have been the first of my six brothers and sisters to graduate from college. I'm very proud of my siblings, including my two -- my sisters who are here, who you met earlier.

We could not have gone to college without federal financial aid like Pell grants. And I know Senator Pell was a member of this very distinguished committee, and I'm very grateful for the work that he provided for millions and millions of young people.

Before I became a public official, I worked as director of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program, a state-funded program, so that I could help others from similar backgrounds achieve the dream of higher education.

As a board member for the community college, Rio Hondo College, I had the opportunity to help implement workforce training programs, something that I have a very deep passionate about.

In 1992 I was elected to serve in the California state assembly and in 1994 I became the first Latina state senator in California. I'm proud to have served the people, the distinguished people of the 32nd congressional district for the last eight years, and I thank them for their confidence in reelecting me.

The fact that I'm sitting before you today as a child of an immigrant family, a working family, is proof that in America anything is possible.

Now more than ever, we must work together to ensure that all Americans have the same opportunities that I had. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of middle-class families, retirees and youth in America are losing their jobs, their homes and their retirement savings.

Data released this morning, as you know, show that unemployment has risen to 7.2 percent. Youth unemployment exceeds well over 20 percent. And more than 500,000 jobs were lost in December.

In my district alone, the city that I reside in, the city of El Monte, I believe the unemployment rate has gone above 11 percent.

Among those facing tough economic challenges happen to be women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women continue to make only $.77 for every one dollar earned by a man.

And minority women have even more cause to be concerned. Latinas earned just 57 cents, and African-American women just 68 cents for every dollar that a man earns.

Our returning servicemen and women are also facing tough challenges in these hard economic times. Increasing numbers of young veterans are returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with many disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries.

If confirmed, Senators, I will join President-elect's team as a voice for working families. I'm eager to work with you and believe we have an obligation to restore trust and hope for a better future for a better tomorrow.

I would like to highlight for areas that I would like to focus on, if confirmed.

First, the Department of Labor must help workers by prioritizing job training and assistance. Retooling our work force not only helps workers, but supports high-growth industries by ensuring they have the skilled workers that they need.

If confirmed, I will work with President-elect Obama, my colleagues in the Cabinet and you to reinvest in and restructure workforce development and ensure a strong unemployment insurance system.

This includes promoting what we now know as green collar jobs. These are jobs that will provide economic security for our middle- class families while reducing our nation's dependency on foreign oil and resources.

These are jobs that will also stay in the United States. My hope is that these jobs will not be outsourced.

Second, the Labor Department must ensure that American workers are paid what they deserve, are treated fairly, and have safe and healthy workplaces. We can accomplish this through enforcement, transparency, cooperation and balance.

Third, the crisis in retirement security demands action. We must expand retirement savings, ensure that existing pension plans are solvent, and provide retirees and workers with the information they need to make good decisions in how to invest for their retirement.

The Labor Department must assure that the door to opportunity is open to every American, regardless of race, sex, veteran status or disability.

If confirmed, Members, I would work to ensure that our sons and daughters returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are provided with the needed assistance that they deserve, including job training and reemployment assistance.

On the battlefields of war our soldiers pledge to leave no one behind. Together, we must pledge to leave no veteran behind.

Through these and other efforts, we can help strengthen America's greatest assets, its human resources.

In closing, Members, let me express my sincere hope that this is just the beginning of an open dialogue with you and other members of this committee. As a member of Congress, I value open communication, and if confirmed, my door will always be open to you.

I thank you for your time and this very, very wondrous occasion for me to be before you. And I thank you.

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