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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
National Action Network
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication Weekend Rally
Sylvan Theater / Washington, D.C.
Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thank you, Tom, for that introduction. Thank you, Reverend Al, for organizing this march and for uniting the labor movement, the civil rights movement and the faith movement on this special day.

And thanks to all of you for making history today! Are you fired up?

This weekend, we dedicate a memorial to a mountain of a man. But more importantly, we dedicate ourselves to the causes Dr. King spent his life — and gave his life — to advance: equality, justice and the dignity of work.

The work that President Obama began in 2008 continues today. The work Dr. King began a half-century ago continues today.

Families across this country are hurting right now, and it's in our power to help them. We know the gap between the haves and the have-nots has been growing wider for way too long. We know the attacks on collective bargaining are the wrong answer to the challenges before us.

Some politicians think the only way to balance our budgets is to turn back the clock. They say, "We can't afford unions." Here's what I say back: We can't afford to turn our back on the workers who clean our communities, drive our buses, teach our children, put out fires and patrol our streets. We can't afford to fall backward. Progress is made by marching forward!

What would Dr. King say about all this? We know exactly what he'd say. We heard him say it in Memphis, when he went on strike with the sanitation workers in the final crusade of his life. He said: "Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages."

President Obama agrees with Dr. King, and so does your Labor Secretary. We have no intention of letting our hard-won progress slip away. We've worked for everything we ever got, and our recovery will be no different. America is ready to work, and they're ready for Washington to work. It's time to make our leaders listen.

This week, one political party in the United States Senate blocked the American Jobs Act. They said "no" to adding nearly 2 million jobs to our economy. They said "no" to putting teachers back into the classroom, cops back on the beat and firefighters back in the station house. They said "no" to over 300,000 summer jobs for our youth. They said "no" to hiring workers to refurbish neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosure. They said "no" to modernizing schools in low-income areas so our children are ready for the 21st Century economy. They said "no" to unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who spend all day, every day, looking for work. They even said "no" to jobs for our veterans returning home from war.

Sometimes, it seems like "no" is the only word they know. But you and I know something, too. We know about the power of "yes." Yes, we can work together. Yes, we can care for one another. Yes, we can be our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper. Yes, what happens in Washington matters.

Dr. King knew that, too. It's why he marched his followers to this town and stood before Lincoln's statue and told us about his Dream. Government doesn't have all the answers, but we can bridge our differences and make his Dream come true.

Dr. King was many things — a reverend, a father, a civil rights leader, an inspirational figure. But first and foremost, he was a teacher. He taught African-Americans how to stand up and peacefully demand a better future. But he taught the Latino community, too. Not enough people talk about that. Dr. King taught all people of color to work together and fight together for equality and workplace justice.

Today is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month. I've been talking about one of my great heroes, Cesar Chavez, and how he inspired farm workers to rise up. Dr. King taught Cesar Chavez, too.

In 1966, Cesar Chavez was struggling to bring attention to the treatment of farm workers in California. Cesar received a letter from a friend who knew what it meant to stand up for justice.Dr. King wrote to him, "As brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and goodwill.We are with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized."

Brothers and sisters, it's time for our communities to lock hands once again and continue the struggle. By marching, by organizing, by mobilizing, by getting your neighbors off of the sidewalks and into the streets.

So, I have a question for you: Did you bring your marching shoes today? Are you ready to go to the mountaintop? I hope so, because we've got work to do!

We can't wait until next November for jobs. We need them now. We need to be on the doorstep of every congressional office. We have to ring every congressional phone. We have to email every congressional computer. And the message they will get is "We need jobs now." And we cannot take "no" for an answer.

So keep fighting. Keep working. Keep believing. Dr. King's Dream will never die. Muchismas gracias. Si se puede. God bless you. God bless, Dr. King. And God bless the United States of America.