Remarks as Prepared for Delivery White House Policy Breifing With Latino Leaders

By:  Hilda Solis
Date: Sept. 15, 2010
Location: Washington, DC

Good morning everyone!

Buenos dias a todos!

Thank you Cecilia (Muñoz) for your kind introduction...

I just want to remind you how fortunate we are to have you as one of the highest ranking Latinas in the administration.

I know you are a valued member of the President's senior staff.

You are very much engaged in everyday policies being discussed. and you deal with issues from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to health care and many other issues.

We all know this administration is facing many challenges. We are fighting two wars, the economy -- which includes slow growth and continues to leave many Americans looking for work -- immigration and many other problems we are working to resolve.

As head of the U.S. Labor Department, let me share with you, what we are doing to help our nation recover.

We are focused on two things: on the engine of job creation and enforcing safety guidelines at the workplace.

From March 2009 to March 2010, the Department of Labor has served 39.4 million Americans through our Employment and Training Administration programs.

Along with our programs, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided the funds to save or create approximately 3 million jobs nationwide.

You may recall, as the last administration was leaving, our country was facing a loss of more than 700,000 jobs a month.

Before President Obama had even taken office, we had lost 4 million jobs.

Today, we are heading in the opposite direction; it may be slower than what we want, but progress is being made.

Reality is that we are adding about 90,000 jobs each month.

Just this past August, the economy gained 67,000 jobs in the private sector.

The auto industry has now increased employment; so has the health care industry; and the mining sector; professional and business services too; and some construction jobs have also been added.

While we are pleased with this progress, we are not satisfied.

Many families continue to struggle, which is why we cannot disregard the millions of people of who depend on unemployment benefits.

Since January 2009, the Department has ensured that 29 million people received their earned benefits.

This relief to many American families is critical to getting them and our economy back on track.

While we need to pick up the pace of recovery, erase the job losses and get Americans back to work, we see encouraging signs that we are headed in the right direction.

So as our economy rebounds, at the Department of Labor, we are preparing the next wave of workers.

The Recovery Act funds are allowing us to provide grants for 21st century career training that will lead to real jobs in emerging industries:

Like health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and of course, clean and renewable energy.

Our One Stop Centers and Job Corps Education Centers throughout the country are offering the training programs I just mentioned.

I'm especially proud that we've partnered with private businesses, labor, educational institutions, and community based organizations to provide the training needed to help people get back to work.

And we are making sure people with different backgrounds take advantage of the programs.

From veterans, to youth, to people with low-incomes and to communities of color, we want to make sure that everyone shares in the recovery of our economy.

Businesses are also priority for us.

The Hiring Incentive to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act for instance has provided tax breaks for small businesses.

And I am optimistic that more is to come as soon as the Small Business Jobs Act pending in the Senate passes.

Bottom line, businesses need workers and workers need business.

By bringing the two together, our economy will thrive once again.

Therefore, job seekers not only need to train for a job, but they also need to know how to find work and how to communicate with potential employers.

With that in mind, this past Labor Day we launched a new online tool: www.myskillsmyfuture.org.

At this site, those looking for work can see real job postings in their area and learn what skills and training they need for a particular position.

They can also find local job training centers and education providers.

But aside from being focused on job creation and providing help to businesses, as the second largest federal enforcement agency the Department of Labor is also focused on protecting the rights of all workers.

Regardless of gender, religion or ethnic background, we are here to protect you.

Our Department operates under the following phrase: "Good and safe jobs for everyone."

And I mean everyone.

That's why as soon as I took the oath as Labor Secretary, I made sure to begin hiring hundreds of bilingual investigators.

I asked my team to enforce the laws already in place to protect workers from discrimination in pay and in the workplace.

We launched a campaign called We Can Help (Podemos Ayudar) -- to encourage workers and the community to report wage violations.

We have recovered more than $130 million in back wages for approximately 175,000 workers nationwide.

We also enforce the right to work in a healthy environment -- free of physical or mental abuse, rape, or other crimes.

Soon, we will be certifying applications for U Visas, which are intended to encourage immigrant victims to report violent crimes at work.

This would allow the victims to cooperate with law enforcement officers without the fear of being deported.

And for the first time in our nation's history, the Department of Labor is holding bilingual summits to inform Latinos about their federal right to work in a safe and healthy environment.

I will not tolerate the loss of lives at work, especially, when it could be prevented!

I believe there is no price to a person's life; every worker should be able to go home at the end of the day's shift.

Furthermore, we are also ramping up our enforcement in the agriculture sector by increasing the penalties when children are abused in the fields.

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor issued a final regulation on the H-2A program.

This ensures fair pay for foreign agricultural workers and it expands job opportunities for U.S. farm workers.

We also granted $87 million to migrant seasonal farm-working programs and in the 2011 budget, we're asking for a $2.8 million increase from last year.

We have many other important projects, such as partnering with other countries to stop child labor from Afghanistan to Nicaragua.

The challenges facing workers in our country and around the world are enormous, but we are working with our colleagues to help and provide assistance.

Here at home, I am hopeful that our nation will be even stronger after passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Like President Obama, and countless Americans, I believe that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a complete solution that secures our border, enforces our laws, and reaffirms our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

We need common-sense comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of security, responsibility and accountability.

And a part of this common-sense reform is rooted under the DREAM Act.

I am pleased to share wit hall of you that that Sen. Harry Reid has announced he will include the Dream Act as part of the Defense Authorization Bill, which the Senate will consider next week.

The DREAM Act will provide qualified students with the opportunity to go to college and become productive members of our society. It also provides them with the opportunity to enter the workforce, providing the U.S. with young and innovative minds.

Many of us understand that the contributions of immigrants have been and will continue to be beneficial to our economy, our country, and to their individual communities.

Secretary Napolitano said it clearly recently, "Your voice, is Your vote!"

I know this Administration has been ready to move forward with immigration reform, the Latino community is ready to move forward and I want to move forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot of work ahead! Working together can only make us stronger.

Yes We Can! Si Se Puede!

Thank you.