- Former Democratic Member of Congress
- Former Member of the Progressive Caucus
- Worked in the White House Office of Hispanic Affairs during the Carter administration
- Was appointed U.S.Labor Secretary by President Barack Obama
Hilda Solis is the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Prior to being appointed to this post, she was a Democratic Member of Congress who represented California's 32nd District. Born in 1957 in Los Angeles, Solis is the daughter of a Teamsters Union shop steward from Mexico and an assembly-line worker from Nicaragua. She graduated from California State Polytechnic University in 1979 and earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1981.
In 1980 Solis was hired by President Jimmy Carter’s administration to work as an intern in the White House Office of Hispanic Affairs. In 1981 she worked briefly as an analyst for the Office of Management and Budget, but she left this post because of her distaste for the policies of the newly elected President, Ronald Reagan.
Thus Solis relocated from Washington, DC to the West coast, where she became Director of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program. In 1985 and again in 1989, she was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Rio Hondo Community College District. In 1991 she became Los Angeles County Insurance Commissioner, a politically appointed position. In 1992 she was elected to the California state legislature; two years later she won a seat in the state senate.
At a 1996 Latino voter-registration-project conference in Los Angeles, Solis stated, to loud applause, “We are all Americans, whether you are legalized or not.”
In 2000 Solis ran in the Democratic Primary against incumbent congressman Matthew Martinez, who, according to The Almanac of American Politics, had lost liberal feminist and labor support “by voting for a ban on late-term abortions and fast-track trade authority and helping to stall gun control.” Solis’ candidacy received strong support from such organizations as EMILY's List, the Sierra Club, and the California League of Conservation Voters. She was further backed by organized labor and by political heavyweights like U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Hispanic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Consequently, Solis won the Primary by a wide margin and, in a solidly Democratic district, easily won the general election. She was subsequently reelected by comfortable margins in 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.
Throughout Solis' tenure in Congress, labor unions--most notably the Teamsters Union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Laborers’ International Union of North America--were responsible for nearly 60 percent of her Political Action Committee (PAC) donations. Another major contributor was the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America).
Solis became an officer of the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. As a reward for her ideological and political loyalty, fellow Progressive Caucus member and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave Solis a seat on the powerful Energy & Commerce Committee and made her the ranking Democrat on its Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee.
In June 2008, Solis sent a caseworker from her East Los Angeles office, Elana Henry, to represent her at a workers’ rights forum organized by Socialist International, which has close ties to the Democratic Socialists of America and bills itself as the worldwide organization of social democratic, socialist and labor parties. On a previous occasion twelve years earlier, Solis had sent another representative (Antonio Aguilar) to serve as a presenter at a major Communist Party USA event.
In 2008 Solis avidly supported Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. When Clinton’s effort fell short, Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama aggressively sought Solis’ support in an effort to strengthen his appeal to Hispanic voters.
In December 2008, President-elect Obama announced his intention to nominate Solis for U.S. Secretary of Labor in his forthcoming administration.
Following is an overview of Solis’ congressional voting record from 2001 through 2008, as per key pieces of legislation covering a wide array of issues.
Taxes and Government Spending
In May 2001 Solis voted against President George W. Bush’s 11-year, $958.2 billion tax cut plan.
In May 2003 she voted against a $350 billion tax cut.
In April 2005 she voted against a proposal to permanently repeal the estate tax.
In November 2005 she voted against a bill calling for a $49.91 billion reduction in federal spending over a five-year period.
In May 2006 she voted against $69.96 billion in tax cuts and credits through 2010, including reductions on capital gains taxes and dividends taxes.
In June 2006 she voted against a proposal to reduce estate taxes beginning in 2010.
Energy and Fossil Fuels
In August 2001 Solis voted to prohibit drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In October 2005 she voted against the construction of new oil refineries.
In May 2006 she voted against a proposal to provide funds for offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf; instead, she favored a continuation of President Clinton's 1998 moratorium on oil drilling.
Counter-Terrorism & Homeland Security
In October 2001 Solis voted against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, which proposed to ease restrictions on government wiretap and surveillance operations; to permit government officials to share with one another the information they obtain from such surveillance operations; to strengthen security along the U.S./Canadian border; and to deny U.S. visas to suspected money-launderers.
In July 2002 she voted against a bill permitting airline pilots to carry firearms for the purpose of defending their aircraft against acts of violence or terrorism.
In October 2002 she voted against a joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action against Iraq.
In September 2006 she voted against an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978; this amendment called for allowing the government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives.
That same month, she voted against a bill authorizing the President to establish military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror. In her view, such tribunals trample on the civil rights and liberties of defendants who, she contends, should be entitled to all the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal court system.
In August 2007 she voted against a bill permitting the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to monitor foreign electronic communications which were routed through the United States—provided that the purpose of such monitoring was to obtain "foreign intelligence information" about suspected terrorists.
Iraq War / War on Terror
In June 2006 Solis voted against a resolution which stated that it was not in America's national security interest to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, and that a better course of action would be to withdraw the troops only upon the "completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq."
In February 2007 she voted to disapprove of President Bush's decision to move ahead with the so-called troop "surge"—the deployment of some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgency in Iraq.
In May 2007 she voted in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners currently being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
In July 2007 she voted to begin dramatically reducing the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq by April 1, 2008.
In May 2004 Solis voted "No" on requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment.
In February 2005 she voted against the Real ID Act, which proposed to set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards.
In December 2005 and September 2006, she voted against bills authorizing the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing between the U.S. and Mexico.
In September 2006, she voted against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants.
Michelle Malkin writes:
"While in Congress, [Solis] opposed strengthening the border fence, supported expansion of illegal alien benefits (including driver’s licenses and in-state tuition discounts), embraced sanctuary cities that refused to cooperate with federal homeland security officials to enforce immigration laws, and aggressively championed a mass amnesty. Solis was steeped in the pro-illegal alien worker organizing movement in Southern California and was buoyed by amnesty-supporting Big Labor groups led by the Service Employees International Union."
Through 2007, Solis had compiled a lifetime “liberal quotient” rating of 100 percent from the left-leaning Americans for Democratic Action, and a lifetime 2 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.
According to Solis, "Every worker in America has a right to be paid fairly, whether documented or not." In June 2010, Solis initiated a taxpayer-funded advertising and outreach campaign to illegal aliens regarding fair wages. In a video pitch, Solis said:
“I’m here to tell you that your president, your secretary of labor and this department will not allow anyone to be denied his or her rightful pay — especially when so many in our nation are working long, hard and often dangerous hours. We can help, and we will help. If you work in this country, you are protected by our laws. And you can count on the U.S. Department of Labor to see to it that those protections work for you.”
Also in June 2010, Solis indicated that the Labor Department would protect illegal immigrant laborers who were participating in efforts to clean up the beaches affected by the disastrous BP Oil spill that had started on April 20. involved in cleanup efforts. “My purpose is to assist the workers with respect to safety and protection,” she said. “We’re protecting all workers regardless of migration status because that’s the federal law.”
On April 5, 2012, Solis delivered a speech at Al Sharpton's National Action Network, where she stated that imposing higher taxes on the wealthy was justified: “It’s about fairness,” she said. “It’s about fairness in the workplace; it’s about fairness in education; and it’s about fairness in terms of what services are provided by government.... [T]hose that can afford it, the billionaires and millionaires ... want to pay more because they know it’s their obligation!”