Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks for Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the
Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Good evening everyone.
Thank you for that warm welcome.
Thank you President (William) Hite for those kind words and thank you for all the work that you do on behalf of the working men and women of your organization.
I want to thank Assistant General President Steve Kelly and of course my many friends from California.
I also want to thank the men and women of the UA for your work to promote and highlight green jobs and the clean energy economy.
And I want to thank all of you for your dedication to your craft.
The skills you and your members show every day on the job shows that we have the most highly-skilled workforce anywhere... and I am proud of what you do!
It is truly a pleasure to be here because I feel right at home.
You see, my father was a teamster; my mother was a member of the Steeleworkers.
I come from a home that showed me the value of a hard day's work... .a home that taught me to fight against injustices in the workplace... .and a home that was proud to be union.
I am proud to be the daughter of a Teamster and a Steel Worker.
I am proud to have walked the picket line.
I am proud to have fought for workers rights, women's rights, and civil rights.
And I am proud and humbled to be your Labor Secretary.
Everyone in this room, and Americans all across the country, know that we are facing unprecedented economic challenges today.
In many respects your organization is planting the seeds for major gains.
And that is exactly what this Administration is doing as well.
This Administration is focused on jobs and job creation every day.
Last November, I reported an unemployment rate of 10.1% the highest rate we had seen since 1983.
I remember that day because it had seemed that we had hit rock bottom.
Today, the unemployment rate is 9.6%.
We are nowhere close to being satisfied, but it is clear that the action we taken and the policies we have put in place are helping to grow our economy and create jobs.
I think it's important to remember that before the President took office we lost nearly 4 million jobs.
And even though the Recovery Act was passed shortly after the President was sworn in, we still lost 3 million jobs between March and December of 2009.
So, I am proud to say that not only has this Administration lowered unemployment by half a point, but we have seen more than 1.1 million private sector jobs created in the last 10 months.
That's an average of 110,000 jobs per month!
This is not by accident!
This is the result of hard work and policies that place American workers ahead of special interests and political agendas.
And at the Department of Labor we are working to ensure that my vision of "Good and Safe Jobs for Everyone" is fundamental in everything that we do.
And let me tell you what I mean by "good jobs":
- Jobs that support a family by increasing incomes and narrowing the wage gap;
- Jobs that are safe and secure, and give people a voice in the workplace through the right to organize and bargain collectively;
- Jobs that are sustainable like green jobs that export products, not paychecks.
- And jobs that rebuild a strong middle class.
In this economy, that's a tall order.
But, that's what our President is all about. And that's what I'm about.
This is why we moved immediately to protect workers who lost their jobs.
At the same time, we are providing new worker training opportunities for those looking to upgrade their skills.
Now, as we help workers through these challenging times, our real focus is investing in their future.
We've made $220 million available to help dislocated workers transition into new high-growth sectors like allied health and information technology.
We're providing $500 million for green job training, which is something that I know many of you are embracing.
The transition to a clean energy economy reduces our dependence on foreign energy, enhances our national security, and will provide new jobs for American workers.
We have invested in 189 green jobs training programs to make careers in solar, wind, biofuels and other clean energy sources available to Americans throughout the United States.
This is the first concerted federal green job training program, and we're continuing to work to make green jobs a part of our nation's overall job training programs.
I want to commend the UA for being recognized by the United States Green Building Council as having your UA Green Systems Awareness Program seen as one of the best in the country.
That is why it is critical that the Labor Department work with organizations like yours in order to make Green Jobs a reality for everyone.
And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.
And I want to be very clear on this point; I am personally making sure that funds go to the right places so that communities of color, youth, veterans, workers with disabilities, and women, participate in these opportunities.
Because I firmly believe that Green Jobs will provide American workers with not only a job, but a career with a future.
A future to provide for themselves and their families.
But creating and maintaining jobs is only part of my agenda.
My philosophy is: It's not a good job unless it's a safe and secure job.
And I know the UA stands with me when I say that workplace enforcement and safety is not only our responsibility, it's our moral obligation.
Which means the Department of Labor is once again back in the enforcement business.
I have hired over 670 additional enforcement staff and we have collected nearly $259 million in back wages for workers.
No one should have to die to earn a paycheck and we will not tolerate employers who cheat their workers out of their pay, especially during tough economic times.
The Department of Labor is taking action to stop reckless employers from skirting the system and endangering their employees.
And while we are working with businesses to ensure employee safety, we are also working with them to strongly consider Project Labor Agreements.
We are glad to be working with you on the President's Executive Order encouraging the use of PLA's
We know PLA's can contribute to economy and efficiency of large construction projects.
We are very interested in learning from your experience in the private sector and how we can get some of those advantages in federal construction.
We know that PLA'S are a win-win: good for workers and for contractors.
And doing right by workers is why all of you are here.
I'm encouraged to see not only top-level UA leadership in attendance, but also business owners and contractors as well.
I want to commend all of you for your commitment to labor management partnerships.
Because of your commitment you understand the benefits that labor management partnerships provide to the bottom line and to workers.
The UA and its business partners can help provide us with a road map to success and I look forward to working with all of you on this.
I am proud of what we have done in the last two years.
But, I know we have much more work to do.
It takes a while to get some of these big pieces done to undo the damage from the previous administration and it takes awhile because we need to get it right but that's exactly what this Administration is doing.
As you've heard me say it before a job is about more than a paycheck.
It's about dignity and respect.
And at the end of the day we don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear... we can change it... .we can shape our future!
And shape it we have and shape it we will.
Thank you all for your work.
Thank you for your support.
And may God bless you all.