U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh today that she will work with the White House to support the Employee Free Choice Act and the right of American workers to join labor unions.
“Today unions are more important than ever. Workers are under assault and they need a voice on the job that unions will provide,’’ Solis told delegates and convention visitors. You can follow the convention live online here.
“That’s why I will work with the White House so together we make the strongest case possible for the Employee Free Choice Act.”
Quoting the president as saying the issue is about fairness and balance, Solis said she and President Obama support union free choice because unions build the middle class and support safety and security of all American workers.
“If you recall, the president said it best on Labor Day. He said labor is not the problem, labor is the solution, and when labor is strong America is strong,” Solis said. “And that is why my friends we support you in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act.”
Solis said she and the White House will encourage project labor agreements or efficiency pacts between multiple construction trade unions and contractors on specific construction sites.
“We know that they are win, win situations, good for workers, good for contractors and good for our economy,” Solis said. “Project labor agreements make good jobs for America.”
Solis was introduced by retiring AFL-CIO President John Sweeney as a new “sheriff in town,’’ who is “turning around the anti-labor department of the Bush years.”
Calling workplace safety a “moral obligation,” Solis said, “the Department of Labor will once again be back in the enforcement business.”
To show her commitment, Solis said she is adding 670 additional investigators, inspectors and other program staff to the Labor Department, returning worker projection forces back to levels not seen since 2001.
“Creating jobs and saving jobs is only one part of the agenda,” Solis said. “My philosophy is it’s not a god job unless it is a safe and secure job.”
Solis lauded the Obama administration’s economic recovery efforts, saying it has “kept America working” and has helped “to pull our economy back from the brink.”
She pledged government support for education, training and investment in good jobs of the future, including “green jobs” that lay a foundation for long-term competitiveness and reduce reliance on foreign oil. She promised to help women and people with disabilities move into higher paying jobs and to help military veterans get good training and opportunities once their service is over.
“What we have seen so far, the Recovery Act has kept Americans working. Now, our critics say we are wasting taxpayer money and jobs are not being created,” she said. “That is simply not true.”
Solis said she felt at home addressing the AFL-CIO convention, noting that her father was a Teamster who worked in a battery recycling facility and her mother was a Steelworker who toiled on her feet in toy assembly plant.
“Thank you Leo Gerard,’’ she added.
Solis said her parents “worked their bodies to the bone” to make sure she and her siblings could have a better life in the United States.
“I come from a home that showed me the value of a hard day’s work, a home that taught me to fight against the injustices of the workplace and a home that was proud to be union.”