Hilda L. Solis stepped down as President Obama’s secretary of Labor Wednesday afternoon. In a letter to Labor Department employees, Solis, 55, said that after spending time with family over the holidays, she had decided to “begin a new future, and return to the people and places” she loves. Before joining Obama’s Cabinet, Solis served eight years as member of Congress and a California legislator.
After Solis’ announcement, Los Angeles labor leader Maria Elena Durazo said she would vigorously encourage her to run for the county Board of Supervisors. “She has been a champion for workers and has never been afraid of speaking out for workers, especially on health and safety and wage issues,” said Durazo, the powerful executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. For many Latinos in Los Angeles, Durazo said, it will be important to retain the seat. Solis has discussed a run with a number of political allies. “There’s so many things that the Board of Supervisors have yet to accomplish, and I think … she will do a magnificent job,” Durazo said. “Who knows — after that there’s a U.S. Senate seat, there’s statewide office. I think the door is wide open for her.” The White House was quick to state that three Cabinet members were staying: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Attorney General Eric Holder and Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Obama issued a statement Wednesday praising Solis as a “tireless champion for working families.” “Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class,” Obama said.
Solis been praised from labor unions for aggressive enforcement of wage and hour laws and job safety regulations. But business groups have criticized her as not taking a more cooperative approach. “Leaving the department is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, because I have taken our mission to heart,” Solis said. “As the daughter of parents who worked in factories, paid their union dues and achieved their goal of a middle-class life, and as the first Latina to head a major federal agency, it has been an incredible honor to serve.” Solis said she is proud that 1.7 million people have completed federally funded job training programs under her tenure. Her agency oversaw the spending of about $67 billion for unemployment insurance benefits, job training and other job placement and worker protection programs under Obama’s economic stimulus package.