Hilda Solis

First Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet

Solis, Hilda.jpg

"Hilda Solis is an American politician and a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for the 1st district. Solis previously served as the 25th United States Secretary of Labor from 2009 to 2013, as part of the administration of President Barack Obama. She is a member of the Democratic Party and served in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2009, representing the 31st and 32nd congressional districts of California that include East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

 

Solis was raised in La Puente, California, by immigrant parents from Nicaragua and Mexico. She earned degrees from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and the University of Southern California and worked for two federal agencies in Washington, D.C. Returning to her native state, she was elected to the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees in 1985, the California State Assembly in 1992, and the California State Senate in 1994. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the State Senate, and was reelected there in 1998. Solis sought to pass environmental justice legislation. She was the first female recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000.

 

Solis defeated a long-time Democratic incumbent as part of getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, where she focused mainly on labor causes and environmental work. She was reelected easily to four subsequent terms. In December 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Solis as the next U.S. Secretary of Labor. She took office after being confirmed by the United States Senate in February 2009, becoming the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Cabinet. There she focused on workplace safety issues and on strengthening compliance with wage and hour laws. In January 2013, Solis stepped down from her post as Labor Secretary.

 

Returning to the area of her upbringing, in April 2014, Solis formally announced a campaign for a seat on the non-partisan Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Solis won the seat outright in a June 3 election and was sworn in on December 1…

 

Returning to California, Solis became Director of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program in 1982, to help disadvantaged youth gain necessary preparation for college. In particular, she worked with the Whittier Union High School District. Friends urged her to try for elective office, and so in 1985, she ran for the Board of Trustees of the Rio Hondo Community College District. She campaigned hard and overtook an incumbent and one other better established candidate to become the top placer. She was reelected in 1989. During her time on the board, she worked towards improved vocational job training at the college and sought to increase the number of tenured faculty positions held by minorities and women. She joined several California chambers of commerce, women's organizations, and Latino organizations. She gained added political visibility in 1991 when she was named to the Los Angeles County Commission on Insurance by Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, a political mentor. Solis also served as chief of staff for State Senator Art Torres…

 

In the State Senate, Solis authored 17 bills to prevent domestic violence and championed labor, education, and health care issues. She described herself as "a big believer that government, if done right, can do a lot to improve the quality of people's lives". In 1995 she sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75; it was strongly opposed by business organizations and the restaurant industry. When Governor Pete Wilson vetoed it, she organized a successful drive to make the issue into a ballot initiative the next year, using $50,000 of her own campaign funds and rallying union support… She chaired the labor committee and established herself as loyal to labor interests, but made a point of establishing relationships with Republicans on the committee...

 

Solis was an environmental activist in the State Senate, due to concerns that stemmed from a childhood spent within smelling distance of the Puente Hills Landfill and making frequent visits to the San Gabriel Mountains. In 1997, she worked to pass environmental justice legislation with a law to protect low-income and minority communities from newly located landfills, pollution sources, and other environmental hazards in neighborhoods that already had such sites… Calling for "the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws", it represented the first legislation of its kind in the nation and is considered a landmark…

 

Due to her work in overcoming obstacles for environmental justice, in 2000 Solis was given the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and was praised as "a politician who hasn't shied away from challenging the old boy network both within and without the Latino community". She was the first woman to win the award, and gained appearances in George and People magazines and on the Today show. Art Torres, who had become California Democratic Party chair, said of Solis, "She's going to be a national star"...

 

Term limits would have prevented Solis from seeking reelection to the State Senate. After months of deliberation, she decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000 against 18-year incumbent Matthew G. Martínez in the 31st congressional district, which consisted largely of working class Hispanics and Asians. This action was criticized by Hispanics and others, and only two members of Congress, Barbara Boxer and Loretta Sanchez, supported her… Upon arriving in the House of Representatives, Solis was named freshman class whip, making her responsible for collecting votes from first-term Democrats. National Journal magazine named her one of its "Ten Freshmen to Watch", and said that her election "is a sign of things to come in California and a generational changing of the guard in the Hispanic Caucus".


 

As congresswoman, Solis was most known for her work on environmental issues as a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Natural Resources, and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. She made the promotion of green-collar jobs a priority and sponsored the Southern California portion of the California Wild Heritage Act, which would create or enlarge many wilderness areas. In 2003 she sponsored legislation that funded a National Park Service study to designate a large swath of the Angeles National Forest, the Puente and Chino Hills, and the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River, a National Recreation Area… Solis was not a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, but championed the Employee Free Choice Act and was the only member of Congress on the board of American Rights at Work, a pro-union organization that strongly supports the act, for whom she served as treasurer starting in 2004. On trade she voted against both the Dominican Republic–Central America trade agreement and the U.S.-Peru trade agreement, and also expressed opposition to a purposed bilateral U.S.-Colombia trade agreement, citing concerns about human rights violations. Solis opposed legislation that would soften job safety requirements. She received 100 percent ratings from several pro-labor groups for the years 2005 through 2007, and was a major recipient of union political donations. United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta is one of Solis's role models…

 

Solis supported legislation aimed at reducing the number of teen pregnancies within Latina and African American communities and sponsored a bill, that became law in 2003, that granted U.S. citizenship to immigrants after one year of military service instead of the previous three years…

 

Solis is Roman Catholic and pro-choice. Along with 47 other Catholic members of Congress, she sent a letter to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., in order to dissuade him from refusing them the sacraments because of their pro-choice legislative voting. Solis signed a "Statement of Principles," stating her commitment to her faith as well as her disagreement with the Roman Catholic Church on some issues. They stated that on those issues, such as abortion rights, they decided to follow their conscience instead of the Church teachings.

 

On December 18, 2008, sources close to the Obama transition team identified Solis as the President-elect's choice for U.S. Secretary of Labor, the last cabinet position yet to be filled… The official announcement was made by Obama on December 19… Solis became the first Hispanic woman to serve as a regular U.S. cabinet secretary and the first cabinet secretary with Central American descent. She also became the first Hispanic Secretary of Labor. Solis felt that under the George W. Bush administration, the department had become unimportant and lacking in power, and that its actions reflected a pro-business agenda. Accordingly, she hoped to reinvigorate it...

 

On January 9, 2013, Solis tendered her resignation as Secretary of Labor, becoming one of several Cabinet members deciding not to stay on for Obama's second term. Her last day in office was January 22, 2013…

 

In November 2013, Solis became a scholar-in-residence at her alma mater of Cal Poly Pomona. Her duties were to include guest lecturing in classes, mentoring students, and assisting in curriculum development, with a focus in political science…

 

On April 5, 2014, Solis formally announced the start of her campaign for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors seat, with the election to be held on June 3… Solis won the seat on June 4, 2014, garnering 70 percent of the vote against two other opponents." (1)

From Wikipedia