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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
Meeting of APEC HRDWG
Washington, D.C.
March 7, 2011

Good morning everyone! Buenos dias!

And welcome to the United State and the 33rd meeting of the Human Resources Development Working Group.

I'm thrilled that the United States, under the leadership of President Obama, is hosting APEC this year.

And I am honored that the Department of Labor is co-hosting this meeting.

APEC is rich in diversity and rich in human resources. Its history spans four continents; 21 economies, and encompasses nearly two billion workers.

I applaud your commitment to spread the benefits of economic growth to the workers who make it possible. You know how much workers mean to economic prosperity, and I'm grateful for that.

And I know that even in the best of times, achieving meaningful economic growth can be difficult. In the aftermath of a terrible recession it is even more of a challenge.

But we've come a very long way since then. At that time, financial markets were in chaos and the economy was shrinking, with no bottom in sight. But thanks to swift leadership from the Obama administration, our financial markets are back on their feet and corporate profits are surging.

And while unemployment is still higher than it should be, we continue to see steady and continued job growth. And in 2010 alone, we added 1.1 million private sector jobs in the U.S. — all signs that we well on our way to recovery.

We have invested in programs that retrain unemployed, underemployed, and displaced workers and prepare new workers.

We have created pathways to 21st century jobs in emerging industries like clean and renewable energy, health care and information technology.

And our work doesn't end there. We will not be satisfied, until all those who seek employment can find it. “Good Jobs for Everyone” has been my motto since the first day I took office. Let me tell you what I mean by good jobs:

  • Jobs that support a family by increasing incomes and narrowing the wage gap;
  • Jobs that are safe and secure and give people a voice in the workplace through the right to organize and bargain collectively;
  • Jobs that are sustainable — like green jobs — that export products, not paychecks.
  • And jobs that rebuild a strong middle class.

Already, President Obama has taken action to deliver more good jobs to more Americans.

And in doing so, we are helping to close the income gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” in our societies. By investing in our workers, we can also fuel economic growth.

When workers earn enough to consume more of what they produce, ALL OF OUR ECONOMIES benefit.

We have a long way to go to accomplish our mission. Unemployment here in the U.S. remains unacceptably high at 9 percent. Indeed, in the United States, the recession has hit our most vulnerable the hardest.

Low-skilled workers, working families in underserved communities and other vulnerable groups are hurting.

The most recent unemployment data shows that the unemployment rate for teenagers is 25.7%. For African-Americans it's 15.7%. For Hispanics it's11.9%. And for workers without a high school diploma it's 14.2%.

These people are hurting the most. And they are the ones we are paying special attention to.
That's why we've invested in policies and programs that give these folks a fighting chance at skills and training they need to succeed in a 21st century economy.

And I am proud to say that over the past 18 months, our services have touched more than 9 million people, including minorities, youth, veterans, women, and workers with disabilities.

And as states grapple with their budgets, we'll get creative about how to do more. We will have to make hard choices. We will have to adjust to this new environment. But we will not do it on the backs of our nation's most vulnerable workers.

You and I share a common commitment — to level the playing field for all people and to make economic growth real and meaningful for EVERYONE.

That means setting and enforcing adequate minimum wages, strong safety and health standards, and workplace protections.

It means providing safety nets to protect the sick, injured, and unemployed.

It means providing workers with the education and skills they need to equip themselves for the jobs of the future.

And it means giving workers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their families. .

Times are tough — I get that. States are making tough choices about how to reduce spending and protect public employees all at the same time — the teachers, police officers, hospital workers and others who play such vital roles in our daily lives

We need to work together.

And in times when all of us are hurting, everyone will need to sacrifice. But workers should NOT have to give up all of their rights.

Collective bargaining is a cornerstone of our democracy — without it, workers are silenced, stripped of their identity, and robbed of their seat at the table.

Only if we work together can we find solutions that are practical, fair, and that respect the rights that generations of workers have fought to win and preserve.

We believe in promoting worker rights and good jobs, not only here in the United States, but around the world.

On Friday of this week the Department of Labor will sponsor a seminar on the role of labor organizations and conflict resolution in building equitable and inclusive growth.

The seminar will be led by Sandra Polaski, the Labor Department's head of international affairs, and Richard Freeman of Harvard University. You are all invited to attend.

We will continue to champion the rights and welfare of workers in other international settings, including the G20, the ILO, the OECD, and the Organization of American States.

We will build on bilateral programs, including labor dialogues.

Because, as many of you, these enable us to share best practices on issues ranging from safety and health to labor law, labor statistics, pensions, and industrial relations.

We will also support successful programs such as the ILO's Better Work Program. This is a unique factory monitoring program, first started in Cambodia about ten years ago, and now expanding to a number of other countries. It has proved to be an important tool to improve factory conditions for low paid workers.

And we will continue our longstanding commitment to combat the exploitation of children.

We are committed to getting rid of the worst forms of child labor, work that harms children's health, threatens their safety, denies them an education, and robs them of the chance for a better future.

Like APEC, we have set a bold agenda. And I am looking forward to working together.

We want to unleash the productive energy of our most valuable resource: our people.

By focusing on good jobs for all of our people, we can foster the best kind of economic growth -- growth of real wealth where EVERYONE reaps the benefits. Growth that makes our societies more just, and unlocks our people's potential, because it offers everyone a chance to succeed.

Today is an important next step. And I am confident that, together, we are on the right path.

Thank you for having me here today.