President Obama continues to fill out his second-term team, adding to the recent confirmations of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and CIA Director John Brennan. Today, Thomas E. Perez, currently an Assistant Attorney General heading the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice has been nominated by the president to take over as the United States Secretary of Labor, replacing outgoing Secretary Hilda Solis. Perez, a Dominican-American civil rights lawyer and consumer advocate, is expected to maintain focus on discrimination and immigration issues and – much as he did as the POTUS’ civil rights chief – an expansion of the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Perez has travelled a long path to arrive at this day. During his first term, President Obama chose Mr. Perez to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division which he has held since 2009. It was widely known that Mr. Obama had been considering Mr. Perez to lead the Labor Department once Ms. Solis vacated the top position. As has often been the case with this president’s nominees, the road towards confirmation has been slow and/or littered with blocks from the loyal opposition. Perez’s nomination floundered for months as GOP senators questioned his stance on immigration. Additionally, after the Justice Department’s dismissed a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, controversy arose. Perez attained success in the use of federal law to block discriminatory voting practises, and his Civil Rights Division increased enforcement of human trafficking laws. By the time Perez was finally confirmed with a 72-22 vote by the United States Senate in October, 2009 only two Senators spoke out against the nomination: Tom Coburn (R-OK) and David Vitter (R-LA).
If confirmed, as the new Secretary of Labor Perez should have support from military veterans as they know he’s on their side; during his tenure in his current position, Perez undertook efforts to ensure that those who have served their country are allowed to keep their civilian jobs while serving in the military. Workers should see their efforts supported as well; another battle Perez is expected to fight is a prospective increase to the minimum wage, which was recently been struck down by House Republicans. During his nomination announcement, President Obama noted that Mr. Perez understands that the workers, the middle class, needs security in order to thrive and help build the nation’s economy.