Labor Secretary Resigns; Obama's Cabinet Increasingly White and Male

Hilda Solis is the first Latina to lead a cabinet-level office, and a friend to workers. Will Obama replace her with a woman of color, or continue his trend toward a pale, male brain trust?

Photo Credit: A.M. Stan

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis submitted her letter of resignation yesterday to the White House, to the regret of labor movement leaders, who found in Solis a kindred spirit. And feminists are likely chagrined by the fact that Solis' departure potentially means one less woman in a cabinet the president is increasingly stacking with white men.

Solis won plaudits from labor leaders for stepping up federal enforcement of labor standards. Before announcing her resignation, Solis proposed new regulations that would require employers to pay the federal minimum wage to home care workers. Solis' regulations would close an existing loophole that allows employers to pay domestic workers wages that all but ensure poverty. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, issued a statement urging President Barack Obama to follow through on Solis' initiative, writing:
 [T]here could be no greater tribute to the Secretary than finishing the important work she started in issuing proposed regulations last spring to close the exemption that denies federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s home care workers. Finalizing these regulations soon will keep a promise President Obama made a year ago,
The child of immigrants (her father came from Mexico; her mother from Nicaragua), Solis is also a child of the labor movement. From the statement she released yesterday:
As the daughter of parents who worked in factories, paid their union dues and achieved their goal of a middle class life, and as the first Latina to head a major federal agency, it has been an incredible honor to serve.
The AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka chimed in with a statement that was both an expression of appreciation, and a strong suggestion for the president:
Secretary Solis never lost sight of her own working-class roots, and she always put the values of working families at the center of everything she did. We hope that her successor will continue to be a powerful voice both within the Obama administration and across the country for all of America’s workers.


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Adele M. Stan is a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.