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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
Working Mother Media's Awards Luncheon
Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hello everyone! Good afternoon! Buenas Tardes!

And thank you, Carol for that wonderful introduction! It's great to see you!

Thank you for inviting me to be here this afternoon and thank you for 20 YEARS of teaching working women how to do it! and how to do it right!

Carol has been a close friend of ours at the Labor Department for quite some time...

And I've heard her speak a few times now.

In fact, she kicked off our Women's Bureau's 90th anniversary celebration last year.

And in every speech she gives she never fails to promote the importance and necessity of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Thank you, Carol!

Before I get started, let me praise and thank the 12 of you for your groundbreaking efforts...

In workplaces across the nation, you're fostering flexible schedules and, providing childcare and livable wages...

You're affording those oh so important life skills with financial and computer literacy training...

And your companies are not only providing formal education opportunities — but you're paying for them, too!

You're transforming the way we do work in this country ... you're making us better... in many ways, you're making history.

So, for leading by example and for making a difference in the lives of countless working women and their families... on behalf of President Obama, and from the bottom my heart, Thank you so much and congratulations!

For those of you who have read Carol's book, you know there's a different story about a different mom on almost every page.

So today, I'd like to tell you another story — about my mom, Juana Solis.

A woman who immigrated to this country from Nicaragua long before microwaves or cell phones had made their debut.

She was a different kind of supermom.

With seven children, she sewed, cooked and cleaned in the morning, and worked at a local toy factory at night.

And I had to help. I remember helping her cook, clean and even change diapers for my siblings. In many ways, I was her "deputy."

Balancing work and family wasn't something she thought about or debated — She just did it.

And I'm sure if you asked her about it today, she'd say that raising us wasn't easy— believe me it wasn't.

But she'd also say that it was at least made possible because of the benefits her union could provide — benefits like a fair wage and health insurance yes, but so much more, too.

Because of her, I was able to focus on school, graduate, and even run for office.

And there's no question in my mind: It is because of her that I can proudly stand in front of you today as the United States Secretary of Labor.

But as special as she is, my mom shares a similar story with countless working mothers — and fathers — trying to provide a better life for their families today.

There was a time in our country's history when working mothers were the exception, not the rule.

But women have become important participants in our labor markets—nearly half of all workers today are women.

That's why it so important to highlight businesses like all of yours that are breaking the mold.

But it's also important to highlight the continuing need for business and government to create policies and programs that help families.

That's why, tomorrow, the Department of Labor will be announcing its report on how women have fared in the recent recovery...

Half of all moms working full-time with children under age 18 make under $667 a week.

This is 72 cents on the dollar compared to the earnings of full-time working dads.

Unequal pay affects all women — but it is especially devastating for moms that work by the hour, who aren't making much to begin with and can't afford to take time to get to the doctor, or care for a sick kid.

For these women — Just like my mom— workplace flexibility initiatives aren't niceties, they're necessities.

For employers, they're not just the right thing to do; they're the smart thing to do.

These initiatives improve productivity; they improve morale and retention; and most importantly — they increase profits!

Simply put: when workers live better, they work better, too.

Being a working mom isn't easy.

And all too often working mothers are forced to make an impossible choice:

That of caring for their families, or keeping their job.

In this economy, we need to make sure they can do both.

So whether they're working in an office building by day or mopping its floors by night ...

Whether moms are running a school or serving food in its cafeteria — Every working mom should have the tools she needs to succeed!

That's why this administration is working to provide those tools.

It's why we support the Healthy Families Act to give workers up to 56 hours per year of paid sick time.

And it's why President Obama's 2012 budget would support a $23 million fund that will help states launch paid leave programs.

At the Department of Labor, we're doing our part, too.

Our Women's Bureau has hosted several national dialogues on workplace flexibility.

We are bringing together stakeholders from the private sector, the public sector and organized labor so that these initiatives can take root.

For nursing mothers, our Wage and Hour Division is enforcing the new "break time" law.

The law ensures that women who choose to breastfeed their infants have the ability — and privacy — to do so after they return to work.

We've also clarified the definition of what it means to be a "son or daughter" under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

This allows grandparents, same-sex couples, and other primary caregivers to give critical attention to children who need them.

Finally, we're providing skills training to help women climb the 21st century career ladder.

Our Women's Bureau has been instrumental in this effort by helping to connect women to green jobs training programs.

These are just some of the many ways we are helping working moms — and dads — succeed at home and on the job.

But we're not done yet.

We still have a lot of work to do in putting this country back to work.

And, as part of that mission, we want to make sure that people are going to back to work in good jobs...

Jobs that give all moms a fighting chance at a better future, for themselves and for their families...

A chance like the one my mom had in raising me.

And like my mom, working mothers today aren't expecting the process to be easy... it never is. They're just expecting it to be possible.

And, in so many important ways, the 12 companies we honor today are living up to that expectation.

That's why we need to make sure that these 12 turn into 20, and that those 20 to turn into 50, and so on and so on!

We need to create the next generation of best companies!

The future of all working moms — and that of our country — depends on it.

Congratulations to all of the winning companies and thank you for having me here!