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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Elected Leaders Roundtable — Jobs and the Economy
Washington
, D.C.
September 16, 2010

Good afternoon.

Thank you Calvin for that kind introduction.

It's truly a pleasure to be here.

I want to thank the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for giving me the opportunity to speak with all of you... the elected leaders in our city halls, state legislatures, and in our Congress.

And I also want to thank my former House colleague Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her dedication and commitment to working families.

It's no secret that the last few years have been very difficult for millions of American families.

And this current economic crisis has made the problems in the communities of color much worse.

But we all know that these problems have been there for a long time.

Communities were struggling to catch up long before this economic storm came ashore.

And everyone in this room knows that African Americans continue to face challenges in the workforce.

The unemployment rate for African Americans stands at 16.3%

This is not acceptable to President Obama or to me.

And this kind of inequality is unacceptable in the United States of America.

The President and I have been working hard to make sure that the recession does not further disadvantage African American workers.

And as we recover from these difficult economic times, I will work to make sure that no one is left behind.

But before we can talk about the future, we must remember where we were when this Administration took office.

When President Obama took office our economy was shedding 750,000 jobs every single month — more than the entire population of Baltimore losing work every month.

The loss of jobs during this Great Recession was the equivalent of adding together the recessions of 1969, 1973, 1980 and 1983 — four recessions rolled into one.

Our entire financial system was poised on the brink of collapse with many fearing that what has been called the Great Recession would become another Great Depression.

You remember that.

That's why we acted boldly... that's why we acted swiftly to put in place a Recovery Act that was passed with the help of members of Congress here in this room, and that's being carried out with help from governors, mayors, city council members, and state legislators here as well.

We are no longer talking about the next Great Depression.

We are now talking about the pace of the recovery.

We stopped the job loss in the private sector within nine months of taking office.

The 2001 recession led to 30 months of job loss in the private sector by comparison.

Now, instead of losing jobs, we have actually added them in the private sector every month in 2010.

We have averaged about 90,000 jobs for the last eight months; however, we are not satisfied with the pace of job creation.

By generating 700,000 private sector jobs since last October, we have now equaled the net gain of private sector jobs created in the eight years from January 2001 to January 2009.

And at the Department of Labor, we are focused on getting Americans back to work by linking job seekers with employers looking for new or replacement hires, providing education and training opportunities to job seekers looking to upgrade their skills, and strengthening the safety net to support those workers who've lost their job.

We have made historic investments — to the tune of $720 million — in the careers of the 21st Century, in sectors such as health care, information technology, and clean and renewable energy — green jobs.

We have invested over $200 million in youth employment, job training for ex-offenders, and communities with rates of poverty because we believe that everyone — not just a select few — should benefit from the recovery.

And since January 2009, the Department has ensured that 29 million Americans received the unemployment benefits they earned.

And because of the modernization efforts in the Recovery Act, an estimated 100,000 unemployed Americans received benefits they would not otherwise received.

I targeted the Recovery Act training funds to go directly to local communities hit hardest by the downturn, and to have grantees reach out to Community Based organizations and labor unions in their local areas.

For example, in California we have provided over $600 million to cities and counties with grants to provide workers affected by layoffs with on-the-job training opportunities, job search support, health insurance assistance and wage supplements, so that they can learn while they earn.

In Alabama we have awarded close to $4 million to provide workers with technical and occupational skills necessary to obtain industry-recognized credentials in the green economy and to support statewide energy efficiency strategies.

In Florida and North Carolina, we have invested over $20 million to train disadvantaged populations find ways out of poverty and into economic self-sufficiency through employment in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

In Michigan we have provided over $218 million to help retrain the skilled workforce of auto workers for careers in green jobs, allied health, and information technology, while providing job counseling and on-the-job training.

And I'm proud to say that many of partners are organizations that have long-standing commitments to the African-American community — for example the Urban League and many others.

And in cities and towns across the country, we are working with Youth Build USA and the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps to work with young adult offenders to acquire GED's or high school diplomas and enter post-secondary education and training.

These young people will be prepared for employment and build better futures for themselves and their families.

Many of you know that my vision for the Department is "Good and Safe Jobs for Everyone."

And that means that everyone has the right to a job that supports their family and one that is sustainable.

Everyone has the right to safe and health workplace.

Everyone has the right to a job that has benefits and a pension.

And everyone has the right to organize.

That is the mission that drives me and everything we do at the Department of Labor.

Times are tough. We all know this.

But know also that this administration is looking out for you, and looking forward for the nation.

We are working night and day to help all working families get back on their feet and charging into a solid economic future.

We are committed to achieving that goal, and we see your success — along with that of an entire American nation — just beyond the horizon.

Thank you.