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

Remarks of Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Labor Advisory Committee Meeting
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good morning everyone.

Welcome back to the Department of Labor and the third meeting of the Labor Advisory Committee under the Obama Administration.

I'd like to extend a special welcome to the new members of the committee, congratulate new Presidents, and greet old friends.

Ambassador Kirk and I look forward to discussing with you some matters critical to workers here in the United States and around the world.

Secretary LaHood is also joining us today.

Thank you Secretary LaHood for joining us.

Our vision and mission continues to be "Good and safe Jobs for Everyone"

And I think that everyone here knows how hard we have been working at the Department of Labor to protect workers.

One of the Department's top priorities is to create more jobs so that the unemployed can get back to work.

We received some positive news on the employment front last week.

The unemployment rate decreased to 9.4% and we added over 1 million jobs in 2010.

But, there is a lot more work to do and we remain committed to putting America back to work.

One of the things we can do is to increase exports — and jobs in the export sectors.

I take my role as a member of the President's Export Promotion Cabinet very seriously.

We are committed to doubling U.S. exports over the next five years.

Increasing exports is a proven way to grow the economy and create more jobs.

Exporting sectors also tend to pay higher wages and that is good for U.S. workers.

Another thing we can do to improve jobs and wages in America is to do all that we can to increase domestic consumption by the working households of our trading partners.

If workers abroad earn more they can buy more of what they produce and what we produce.

This expands our exports and also levels the playing field.

When wages rise in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere it helps relieve downward pressure on American wages.

We have been engaging with the large emerging market economies — including China — to advocate for higher workers' wages, real collective bargaining rights, and safer working conditions.

This helps foreign and American workers at the same time.

We also have to ensure that our trading partners meet their commitments, including those related to labor standards.

In today's inter-connected global economy, if workers in one country are denied their rights, workers rights in all countries are weakened.

We want to ensure a level playing field for American workers while building a more prosperous global economy that benefits all workers.

I am particularly excited about our efforts this past year to expand the highly successful Better Work program to several countries, including Haiti, Lesotho and Nicaragua.

Better Work, as many of you know, is a factory monitoring program run by the ILO that has proven successful in improving wages and factory conditions for low paid workers in developing countries — particularly in the garment industry.

In July, I visited Nicaragua for the launch of that program.

And in December I announced a grant to establish a program in Bangladesh starting this year.

Bangladesh has the lowest wages and some of the most dangerous working conditions in the world.

If we can make a difference there we can help raise the global wage floor for workers everywhere.

In addition, we are working in partnership with other countries on programs to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

These projects target exploitive child labor in agriculture, mining, quarrying, seafood and shrimp processing sectors.

We also recently released our reports on child labor and forced labor around the world, including a list of goods that the Department believes are produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international labor standards.

Protecting children from exploitation is something that any decent adult wants to do.

At the same time, it is also essential to build a strong foundation for adults' wages, so their children do not have to participate in illegal or inappropriate work.

I appreciate your commitment to American workers and for taking the time to join us here today.

I look forward to hearing from you on how together we can strengthen our efforts to support America's working families.