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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
LULAC Latina's Luncheon Remarks
Puerto Rico
Friday, July 17, 2009

Buenas tardes a todos.

Gracias por invitarme a este evento tan importante.

Quiero dar las gracias a Regla Gonzalez por la introducción.

Su dedicación a la comunidad Latina y a LULAC es un ejemplo para todos nosotros.

I want to thank Regla Gonzalez for that kind introduction, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment and leadership for the Latino community and LULAC.

Tambien quiero reconocer a Rosa Rosales por todo su esfuerzo y su liderazgo de ser presidente de LULAC.

I also want to say how much of an honor it is to be with Zuma Rasario and to be with one of my personal heroes and role models — Dolores Huerta.

It's always a pleasure to be in Puerto Rico, en la Isla del Encanto, with so many friends, and I am truly honored to be here today.

Like all of you, I am proud to be Latina — proud of where I've come from, and grateful to those who made it possible for a young Latina, raised in a working class suburb of Los Angeles, to get an education.

I am proud to be standing here before you serving my community and serving my country as the Secretary of Labor.

But my story is no different than many of yours.

Many of us in this room were born to parents who struggled everyday to make ends meet and to provide our families with better opportunities that were afforded to them.

I grew up in an era when graduating from high school was an accomplishment, and college was not an option, but a distant dream. For these reasons and many others, I entered public life to improve opportunities for families like mine — hard-working families eager to realize their dreams.

We are facing an array of challenges on a scale unseen in our time.

We are waging two wars.

We are battling a deep recession.

Our economy — and our nation — are endangered by problems we have kicked down the road for far too long: spiraling health care costs; inadequate schools; a dependence on foreign oil; and an immigration system that doesn't work.

Meeting these extraordinary challenges will require an extraordinary effort on our part. But we are all going to have to pitch in.

It is time to lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity. Prosperity for American families is especially difficult to come by these days.

Our overall unemployment rate has increased to 9.5%, and women of all walks of life are feeling the pinch.

Nuestras familias siguen sufriendo en esta economía!

To help working families, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, and the Department of Labor continues to play an important role in helping American families get back on their feet.

Through the Recovery Act and additional investments, the Department of Labor is investing more than $100 million to help meet the needs of workers in Puerto Rico. This includes:

  • $42.5 million for Workforce Investment Act youth activities, including summer youth employment,
  • $20.1 million for Workforce Investment Act Adult activities,
  • $29.5 million for Workforce Investment Act dislocated worker activities,
  • $2.9 million for administrative support for unemployment compensation,
  • $4.6 million for Wagner-Peyser Act services, and
  • The Recovery Act will create nearly 6,000 jobs on the island from generated transportation, infrastructure and housing projects.

We are continuing to work to ensure that the money and programs developed from the Recovery Act hit all communities, especially hard-to-reach communities.

Las inversiones que estamos haciendo en Puerto Rico por parte de la Ley de Reinversion y Recuperación Americana va a ayudar crear trabajos y a transformar nuestra comunidad.

The Recovery Act's focus on saving or creating 3.5 million jobs is particularly important to Latinos, whose unemployment rate has jumped to 12.2 %. The Recovery Act will create jobs by investing in rebuilding roads and bridges, retrofitting government buildings, and helping prepare job seekers for the 21st century economy with job training for new "green jobs" and other emerging industries.

As we know, Latino workers will continue to drive the growth of the labor force in the coming decades — Latinos will account for 60% of the nation's population growth between now and 2050. So you can see that how Latinos recover from this recession is of both immediate and long-term importance to our economy.

We must ensure that everyone continues to have opportunities to plan for their future and provide for their families, especially those women who are becoming the primary bread-winners for their families.

Today, 59% of low-wage workers are women, and women make up 67% of the part-time workforce.

69% of married mothers and 77% of unmarried mothers are employed outside of the home.

And Latinas earn just 59 cents for every $1 earned by a man.

Esto no es justo y como la Secretaria de Trabajo voy a luchar para que nuestras mamas, hermanas, y hijas tengan las protecciones para avanzar en su trabajo!

As Secretary of Labor, I will work to restore basic protections against pay discrimination and promote programs to advance women in the workforce.

It's an honor to be working with a president who is making investments in women and girls a priority for his presidency. He created the White House Council for Women and Girls, and I am proud to be a member of the Council.

The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. I will continue to work with the President to improve women's economic security and help build healthy families, including addressing work-life balance.

Healthy families and healthcare are also a priority of this Administration! In the first days of this Administration, we passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program — a program that would cover 4 million additional children. And states have the option to provide Medicaid and SCHIP coverage to legal immigrant children and pregnant women - something the Latino community urged for nearly a decade.

However, we must do more to keep families healthy.

Access to quality, affordable health care is a major priority for the Latino community. Much of the Latino community is disconnected from and cannot afford our health care system. Latinos compose an increasingly substantial part of the nation and our future workforce.

Today, one in three Latinos lack health insurance, and Latino children make up almost 40% of the estimated 8.6 million children in the United States who lack health coverage. Because many people who rely on their healthcare through their employers are losing their jobs, access to quality healthcare is an even greater concern. The President is committed to providing everyone in our country with affordable, quality healthcare.

Another issue which the President is committed to addressing that will ensure the health of our families and stability of our economy is ending our dependence on foreign oil.

For decades, we've seen that dependence grow. We've seen our reliance on fossil fuels jeopardize our national security. We've seen it pollute the air we breathe and endanger our planet.

Congress recently passed a bill that will create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation of our economy. It will spur the development of cleaner energy, but also provide energy savings for families by lowering overall costs. And, most importantly, it will make possible the creation of millions of new jobs.

A clean energy economy will lead to the creation of new businesses and entire new industries. And that will lead to American jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

Clean energy and the jobs it creates will be absolutely critical to that new foundation to create a stronger economy, and something that the Latino community will be a part of.

As you can see, President Obama and the rest of his Administration are carrying out a bold and aggressive agenda. In carrying out this work, the President has made a conscious effort to ensure that the Latino community and women of color are represented within the White House and throughout his Cabinet. The President has made sure that our community is at the table with respect to all issues — not just immigration, but issues such as job creation, healthcare, regulatory reform, education and energy policy.

I am proud that this administration has appointed a significantly higher proportion of Latinos and women of color in the first 100 days than previous administrations. More importantly, while we have made the strongest start in history in this area, we also know that we have more opportunities in the coming months, and we will continue to count on LULAC and other organizations to help identify more potential candidates for openings as we continue to move forward.

And as we move forward to ensuring Latino's have a voice in the Obama Administration, I think we were all happy when President Obama selected Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Make no mistake - her appointment is not about racial politics, but appointing the most qualified person for the job. If she is confirmed, she will be one of the most qualified and experienced Justices sitting on the Supreme Court.

If I can, for just a moment, address the young Latina women here today.

You are living in a time when you can truly shape history. As we are talking about transitioning to a green economy and making drastic economic changes from Wall Street to Main Street, we want to make sure women have a voice. You must be included in the green revolution, and you must take part in this change both on the policy-making side and by participating in the jobs being created. We need your enthusiasm, energy, passion and your creativity. We need determined women, like the many that are here at this conference, to break the barriers that confront women everyday.

With your help, we can face this economic challenge with the same spirit of innovation and resilience that has characterized us in the past.

We can build a stronger, more prosperous, and more equitable nation for all Americans.

Muchas gracias por su apoyo y si se puede!

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