Hilda Solis was the most pro-worker secretary in the history of the Department of Labor, wrote Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large at The American Prospect.

Who Will Fill Solis' Shoes?

The now-departed secretary was a true friend of organized labor. ASSE President Richard Pollock says OSHA was "a positive partner" under her leadership.

Secretary of Labor is the post in a U.S. president's cabinet that always goes to a woman. At least, that's been the case since 1997, when Secretary Robert Reich left the job. He is the only male secretary among the past seven people who have filled this post. Now that three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit have thrown the president's appointment power into serious jeopardy (their decision in Noel Canning v. NLRB was issued Jan. 25), there may not be a Senate-confirmed Labor secretary in place for quite some time, meaning Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris could be in charge for a significant period.

Regardless, there is considerable speculation about whom President Obama will appoint to replace Hilda Solis, the labor secretary who stepped down in January 2013, possibly to re-enter California politics.

American Society of Safety Engineers President Richard A. Pollock, CSP, issued a statement praising Solis when she announced her plan to resign after four years as secretary:

"On the announcement of her resignation, ASSE thanks and congratulates Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis for her service to the nation. We are pleased that, under her leadership, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been a positive partner in the discussion about how to energize and move forward this nation's commitment to occupational safety and health. While ASSE and its members may not agree on every direction the current OSHA has taken, we do appreciate that under her leadership there has been willingness at OSHA to share ideas and listen to what our members have to say about the best ways to protect this nation’s workers on the job. Secretary Solis should be given credit for supporting that environment. We have no doubt that Secretary Solis will provide similar positive leadership in her future endeavors and wish her good luck. As we do with every Administration's choices to lead the Department of Labor and OSHA, ASSE looks forward to working with a new Secretary of Labor who we trust will continue to provide thoughtful, cooperative leadership at the Department of Labor."

Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large at The American Prospect and a columnist for The Washington Post, wrote a Jan. 10 article predicting Solis may seek a statewide post in California or could run to fill a seat on the powerful L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Calling her the most pro-worker secretary in the history of the Department of Labor, Meyerson said Solis was confronting "an Obama White House inner circle that she, like many of her fellow cabinet members, never really permeated." (Similar words were written about EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson when she announced Dec. 27, 2012, she would resign from her post.)

Meyerson reported Obama might tap Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, or Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. Others the president might consider include UAW President Bob King and former SEIU leaders Andy Stern and Anna Burger, Meyerson wrote.

Aaron Trippler, government affairs director for the American Industrial Hygiene Association, said others whose names have surfaced as possible replacements for Solis are Maria Echaveste, former deputy chief of staff for President Clinton, and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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