Labor Secretary Solis: "Elections do matter"
February 26th, 2011
06:49 PM ET

Labor Secretary Solis: "Elections do matter"

WASHINGTON (CNN) – An impassioned Labor Secretary Hilda Solis rallied Democratic party members Saturday to tell voters "elections do matter" as she gave a detailed – and political – response to the Wisconsin union fight.

Solis delivered her remarks before the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, in the same hotel where conservative activists held their annual convention two weeks ago.  But the message was decidedly different, as Solis accused Republicans of turning back the clock on workers' rights.

The Labor Secretary told the crowd cuts in benefits isn't the issue in the dispute playing out in Wisconsin and other states.  "We know, we know that many states are facing tough budget decisions.  We know that there is room for shared sacrifice.  Shared sacrifice.  And we've seen our brothers and sisters in public employee unions willingly give up… fair share and to negotiate.  They have all offered to negotiate in good faith to help their states stay afloat, even in these tough times." 

But she claimed, "the governors in Wisconsin and Ohio aren't just asking workers to tighten their belts, they're demanding they give up their uniquely American rights as workers", Solis said, later adding public employees "want to be at the table.  But it's not what the other party wants."                                   

As she began her remarks on the union situation, Solis said, "People now have to be reminded, the American public needs to know, and we need to be out there reminding them, elections do matter.  They really do."                         

The political rallying cry came as some liberals and labor activists had questioned why President Obama hadn't visited protesters in Wisconsin, especially in light of a 2007 campaign line.  Then-candidate Obama told a crowd in South Carolina "understand this, if American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain, when I'm in the White House, I'll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I'll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America."

On Thursday White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked about why he wasn't making such a trip, said, the President has "an ability to be heard when he speaks, and he spoke to the situation in Wisconsin and his views on it last week. And I'll leave it at that."                                                                                 

It was a more personal message delivered by Solis to the DNC rally, noting she may be biased because her parents were union members when she was growing up, her mother working at a toy factory and her father becoming a shop steward.                                                                                                                      

"These are our neighbors and friends and family," she said. "They teach our kids, they risk their lives to keep us safe in our communities. And all they're asking for is to be treated with respect and dignity. And guess what, folks? All they're really asking for, these workers, is the opportunity to sit down at the table, like grown-ups, and to work together to solve problems. And that's what collective bargaining is all about."                                                                       

"The fight is on," she said in a closing line to encourage Democrats in campaign efforts, "We help the embattled states right now where public employees are under assault. And we work together and get going."               

Off mic as Democratic chairman Tim Kaine praised her speech, Solis could be heard saying, "I had to let it out."

Topics: Wisconsin

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soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Jason

    I support advertisers who support newspapers who give full attention to the Great Labor Rebellion of 2011.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  2. Don

    One serious difference between between public and private unions. Public unions can fire the boss through the ballot box.

    February 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  3. Michal Pankowski

    Mrs Hilda Solis,
    You are totally wrong.
    Don't you see the union together with Workers Compensation and Welfare system killing our Great America.
    High union wages cause shifting our economy to China and in this way China gain a big military power.
    You with all union are responsible for the disaster of our country.
    If there is any court trial i will be first to vote to jail you or whatever worst.

    Michal Pankowski

    February 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • madashell

      You are an Idiot! So NOW it is the unions huh? what was it before that? Banks bail out? what was it before that? deadbeat homeowners? WELL? which is it? Get AWAY from FOX In fact shut down your TV Period. They have the hooks into you soo deep you do not realize they have you snipe hunting. Since you enjoy hunting I hear tell the snipes are good in these locations, CAFTA, NAFTA, GATT.

      July 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  4. Granden

    Here is an affirmative action hire, who, as a congresswoman, failed to properly pay her taxes and then blamed her husband. Employee benefits specialists know that the DOL is run by staff and that Secretary Solis is clearly the worst Labor Secretary in the history of the US.

    February 27, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  5. Gaylon Barrow

    "Elections do matter", Another of Obama's bright birds. WOW!

    February 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  6. frank

    Republicans will pay for this in Nov 2012.

    February 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  7. Sue

    The WI Republicans (and all Republicans?) don't want collective bargaining period. They don't want collective anything. Collective means include all in the process and results. They only want their way. Indeed, Walker himself stated in that phone call with Mr. "Koch" that he would not negotiate. Republicans: My way or the highway. Like kids in a sandbox, yet with real-world money and power.

    February 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  8. Confused

    I don't get it. Do elections matter to her fellow Democrats in WI who are fleeing from their duties because they lost elections?

    If anything, i think Democrats are showing that they don't believe elections matter at all.

    February 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  9. TEW

    It's just as Prez Clinton said.... Decisions that are made when you are upset will be regretted 90% of the time. Americans went to the polls angry and are now regretting their actions. The Republicans bamboozled, hoodwinked and tricked the American people into thinking things would improve on their watch. The only people who will prosper are rich corporate America all others will fall futher into poverty. Republicans have an arrogant over inflated sense of superiority which will do nothing to better the country and its citizens. Someone pleeze wake up those folks in "middle-America" and tell them to see past the lies of the republican party. The south is lost as these folks in GA, TSC, TX, MS, AL, TN, KY will not vote for Obama or the Dems because the president is African American. If the Republicans are successful at breaking up unions the next step will be to attack Military pensions and benefits.

    February 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  10. valwayne

    I'll bet the Sec Solis didn't mention that FDR was totally opposed to collective bargaining for public employee unions. FDR new it would lead to massive corruption, and he was right. The democrats know that what is at stake is the billions of dollars that public employee unions spend to elect democrats so that democrats can raise taxes and spend hundreds of billions paying off the public employee unions for their support. Exactly the corruption that FDR opposed, but no it has the full endorsement and support of Obama and his administration. After all we know that public employee unions helped put Obama in office, and he has been funneling hundreds of billions to them despite the fact he has to borrow the money and plunge the nation in debt. Obama now expect them to spend billions to get him reelected, and will fight to keep the corruption going!!!!

    February 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  11. annie s

    I for one want to hear more from my President on this – I want him to get "fired up" and angry, and I want him to make sure the middle class in this country understands the repercussions of Republican rule. Secretary Soltis is actually underplaying the seriousness of the attack on worker's rights being played out in Wisconsin and Ohio, with other states to come. This is nothing more than class warfare. Kill the unions and they win on two fronts – they dry up political contributions to the Democrats, who benefit mostly from organized labor, and they weaken worker's rights in order to strengthen the rights of the corporations. If we stand by and say nothing, the middle class will eventually disappear in America, replaced by the rapidly arriving haves and have-nots.

    February 27, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  12. jenn, philadelphia

    It's time for the President and his Administration to realize when it comes to public sector unions, they are the boss. They need to remember that negotiating a fair working wage and benefits is fine, but they and we taxpayers can't afford to give away the shop any more. It's time to stop using taxpayer money to buy union votes.

    February 27, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  13. enough of obama

    elections do matter, thats why we voted NO against obama and his policies

    February 27, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • KatR

      Best leave out the word 'we' as it doesn't represent the majority of Americans. I am one of millions who believe Pres. Obama is making all the right moves to bring this country back from the ditch that the GOP governing ideology of limited government threw us all into. As much as he has always sought unity and compromise (as our founders did) it may be time for him and Democrats to fight harder against a fascist takeover of America.

      February 28, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  14. Gaylon Barrow

    Annie – I'm shore glad he's your President because this wod of lack of brains is shore not mine. To all you people who say Palin is not qualified but your guy was. What are you basing that judgement on. The scales in a cotton field.

    February 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  15. greg in jax

    Gaylon Barrow

    Annie – I'm shore glad he's your President because this wod of lack of brains is shore not mine. To all you people who say Palin is not qualified but your guy was. What are you basing that judgement on. The scales in a cotton field


    Seriously, wtf are you thinking. Also since you opened the book with the "lack of brains" , I wanted to be the first to tell you, it's not spelled "shore" it's "sure". Maybe you should at least go back and get the basic education degree and then maybe you can continue your education and get the Constitional Law degree that the President of the United States of America, Barak Hussein Obama. You know, the guy who can spell the word "sure".

    "ignorance is very unbecoming"

    February 27, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  16. Henkv

    Elections do matter. Oh, you meant something completely different. Your union buddies in Wisconsin would not have their current problem if more voters would have voted democrat in Wisconsin. Agreed.
    But, like you said, elections matter. The duly elected governor of the state is doing the job he was ELECTED to do. Elections matter.

    February 27, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  17. D W

    I support the WI Democrat senators mobile filibuster of the tyrant Walker's assault on the unions, and I hope they keep it up until Walker is forced to back off. Certainly the republicans have not hesitated to employ the filibuster when they had the opportunity. I support the unions. The corporate looter class needs to be opposed on all fronts and the unions are one of the most effective sources of resistance. The republicans want to turn our democracy into a kleptocracy and we must resist.

    February 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  18. J.V.Hodgson

    I fail to see in argumentsor worse stillideology both sides ofreasonable discussion on this topic,why to get cost reduction from Public employees it is intrinsically essential to remove Union negotiating rights??
    Also again I thought Republicans were touting a return to strict interpretation of the constitution? If so
    What about my individual right to freedom, my right to assembly in any form even if it is to be a "union" member.
    That said let's say that salaries and benefits are $10,000 to high. I'm reasonably sure as I believe the Wisconsin public unions did that they would agree to cuts in salary or higher benefit contributions but not the removal of
    union negotiating rights or the impairment thereof. So drop the latter.
    Finally, a little statistic. The rich tax increase proposed by Obama would have yielded $70bn p.a. Now divide that by $10,000 and you need 70,000,000 public employees!? (me thinks not that many.) As opposed to the 2% of the working population earning over over $ 250 K which would have affected 3m people!!
    I might only be one independent vote but they just lost mine because of this Union bashing and not facing reality of budget deficits and debt these are separte but related issues are the reason.To deal with either of those.
    Budget deficits are easy to fix when the economy grows and unemployment declines as tax revenue rises very quickly stateand federally.
    That balances the budget and debt does not increase. Then the task is to get debt down to around 60 % of GDP = around $9tnnoneed for any nation to pay off all its debt, just have manageable Mortgage like most families do.

    February 28, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Jay in NC

      I think that most Republicans do support your right to assembly in any form even a union. However they also support the individual that does not want to join your union. Participation should not be mandatory. This would be like saying that all teachers had to join the NRA or any other group.

      February 28, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  19. tom beebe st louis

    Let's resolve this where it belongs; with the voters who are also the taxpayers and the "customers" of the public employees/ Schedule contracts to expire shortly after elections, and put union demands and politicians' counter-offers on the ballot. Make it a referendum on which the taxpayers vote. Who's afraid of that? If the politicians' counter-offers are thought to be too generous, their names will be on the ballot too ! Power to the people ! (Not the corrupted or incompetent politicians who are supposed to be serving us.)

    February 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  20. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I'm one of them too, KatR! Good comment! @Gaylon Barrow; 'scales in a cotton field' huh? I've been reading your hate-based posts, smothered in a gravy of political rhetoric, for a while now, and just decided this time to address your bigotry. You are just another hate-filled REPUG, who wants to see PRESIDENT OBAMA and his administration fail! I heard a minister say just this past SUNDAY something that was SO profound: THE TWO MOST DANGEROUS THINGS TO MANKIND; SINCERE INGNORANCE AND INTENTIONAL STUPIDITY!

    March 1, 2011 at 3:14 am |