Hilda Solis: Former Secretary of Labor

Hilda Solis served as the United States Secretary of Labor from 2009 through 2013. She is currently a scholar in residence at her alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona.
Harvard Political Review: The Wall Street Journal reported that American job recovery exists on two tracks, with the lowest-paying jobs lagging behind the highest-paying ones. Do you think this reflects a “weak recovery,” or is this sort of job gap stratification the new normal for the American economy?
Hilda Solis: I don’t know that I necessarily agree with all of that, because the figures that I have seen indicate that there has actually been an increase in the lower paying jobs, like in the tourist industry, the service industry, the retail industry. That has its ups and downs. Across the board we have seen job growth, and of course the higher paying jobs are the ones that are obviously harder to get into, so you need people who are going to be adequately trained for those jobs.
I think we have to continue to work at different levels here—make more education and training available for people that haven’t been successful, help to lift the people who are in those dead-end jobs, and hopefully also increase the minimum wage for those low wage service workers and folks in those kinds of industries. We’ve got to do a couple of things to change the path, and I think it is not a normal situation, and it probably won’t be something that will reflect back on previous recessions. We know that for a fact—economists say that—so it is going to be a different situation and it’s going to require us to be more creative.
HPR: You have paid particular attention to working families and economic growth in Los Angeles County. What more can be done to train workers for “green-collar” jobs as part of an environmentally friendly economy?
HS: I think that we really need to beef up more of our efforts with community colleges. This administration has already pushed this. We have already put in close to $2 billion for regional efforts to encourage collaboration among manufacturers, industry, different sectors, as well as with community colleges.
A lot of it can be organic and jump-started at the local level. That’s where the impetus should be, and the idea of where and how to formulate it should come from the bottom and grow. I think that there just has to be more effort. We have to get more relief made available through the federal government and federal funding, through infrastructure and through more investment that helps stimulate capital.
HPR: Late last year, President Obama created the interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Do you foresee climate-resilient investments and land management policies being effective?
HS: I do. I hope that if we can’t get it done adequately at the federal level because of gridlock, then local and state governments can do much right now. I know that in my state of California they have.
As I return back home, I hope to work to inspire more businesses to invest in green, renewable energy and to train young people, as well as people who want to change their jobs entirely, to get into these new sectors. They’re going to be growing, and it’s already been shown that about three million jobs have been added alone in the green industry.
This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Leave a Comment

Solve : *
8 ⁄ 8 =