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

Remarks for Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Women Organize!
The White House
Monday, March 28, 2011

Good morning! Buenos dias everyone! And welcome to the White House!

This is an exciting day, and I'm delighted that all of you could join us here for this historic event.

I want to begin by thanking the White House for graciously hosting us here this morning.

And I'd like to recognize a few people here with us who are doing so much on behalf of working people across the country — Arlene Holt Baker, Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO; Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO; Chris Neff, International Vice President, UFCW; Sarita Gupta; Kim Freeman Brown; Aijen Poo; and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey from my home state of California.

And a big thank you also to those from the faith based community here today who do so much to support workers rights and economic justice.

I'd also like to recognize Daphne Pinkerson, the producer of the moving HBO documentary from which we just saw a brief piece.

Daphne, your film is helping to shed important light on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and the many who sacrificed then — and today — to improve conditions for working Americans.

I was just in New York to commemorate the event — only steps away from where the factory workers lost their lives in 1911.

And I can say with great confidence that your film has truly captured their spirit.

So, thank you Daphne for bringing this crucial part of our history to television screens.

And, of course most of all, I want to thank all of youthe courageous women and the few brave men in our audience today.

We are here — at the White House — to honor the lives of the Triangle garment workers;

To remember the high price they paid for the workplace protections we now have; and…

To underscore their legacy as it lives on in the work of today's women…and their collective action.

A century later, we reflect not only on the loss of 146 lives that tragic afternoon, but also on the movement they inspired and the commitment of those who carry on their call for reform and justice.

The triangle factory fire taught us that we must protect the most vulnerable among us; that we must provide safeguards and a safety net for all workers; and that we must ensure that every person has a voice on the job.

Today, we celebrate those lessons, and we focus on the unique role women have in organizing to create real change in their communities.

The workers at Triangle wanted the same rights that many workers still struggle for today.

And, like today's workers…in the face of great adversity the women of Triangle stood up and fought for those rights.

They fought for fair wages, for safe workplaces and for better working conditions. Together, they tried to form a union.

They understood — like we do — that when workers have a voice, their working conditions are better, their workplaces are safer, and their families are more secure.

And although their efforts were halted abruptly, they inspired our nation for generations to come.

In 2011, we move forward stronger because of them.

We know that their voices and their spirits live on in the actions and commitment of countless women who continue to fight for those same rights and for justice all across the nation.

And, in just a few minutes, we are going to hear from some of those courageous women -- from all walks of life, who traveled from everywhere in the country to be here.

They will tell us their stories and invite us into their struggles.

We will hear how each of them is organizing to make a difference in their workplaces, in the lives of their families, and in their communities.

But before we hear from them, I'd like to introduce another amazing woman, one chosen by our President to serve in this administration because she shares his heartfelt belief that working people deserve a voice and have a rightful place in this country.

A tireless advocate for America's working families, and for women everywhere, she serves as Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Barack Obama.

In her role, she chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls and oversees the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Office Public Engagement.

She is a true champion for justice, and I feel fortunate to call her a good friend.

Please join me in welcoming Mrs. Valerie Jarrett.