Published January 17, 2013
Outgoing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis regrets that more people were not hired under her leadership.
She's confident that President Barack Obama will address concerns over diversity in his second-term cabinet.
And now that she's stepping down from her cabinet post as Labor Secretary, she clarified she's still very much in the political game and weighing various options as she returns to her native California.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News Latino on Wednesday, Solis, the first Hispanic Labor Secretary in U.S. history, made it clear that despite her resignation, politics still flow through her blood.
The 55-year-old confirmed she is weighing a potential run for a coveted and powerful position on the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, widely seen as a potential launching pad for L.A. mayor or California governor.
“It could be a very good option,” Solis said. “I’m going to look at all opportunities, and certainly California is one of those very key states in the country.”
Solis, a daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants known for her pro-union and pro-immigrant rights voting record, is even planning on getting involved in the debate over comprehensive immigration reform, she believes, should be passed this year.
"I will absolutely make myself available," said Solis, a four-term congresswoman representing districts in the heavily Hispanic East LA area. "Many of the hardworking people in those immigrant communities that I represented were not full citizens but they paid taxes they had children that were born here."
When pressed about whether she would ever consider a run as Mayor of Los Angeles or Governor of California she said, "I take things very seriously in terms of the role that I want to play, and I’ve always kept very close to my community and the district that I represented...I look very favorably on the people and the needs that still exist there, in some ways, if I can be effective in helping to change lives there…then that’s where I’d like to go."
Solis said her biggest disappointment as Secretary of Labor was that she wished she would of, "had the ability to really get more businesses to understand the importance of having confidence in the economy and hiring up more people," and hoped business leaders would help more young people coming out of college with more emphasize internships and mentorships.
Solis also said that in many ways the Obama administration "did not get the kind of support we needed originally when he took office for the American Recovery Act funds" and blamed "a small group known as the tea party movement" for not engaging with the president and "hurting the American public, our economy, and the future of our country."
Solis's resignation was the first of two in the last two weeks from the only two Latinos on Obama's 15-person cabinet team. Interiror Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to resign in March leaving the current Obama cabinet without any Latino representation - a fact that Solis is confident will change.
“It’s very important," she said of having a diverse presidential cabinet. "The president will not shy away from that and I know that he has a commitment to continue to see that there is diversity reflected in his cabinet, so, let’s give him a chance to do that.”
Some powerful Latino leadership organizations like NALEO have said that anything less than two Latino appointments on the Obama cabinet would be considered a failure.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a failure," Solis said. "He’s already put a Latina as a supreme court justice, come on, let’s not forget that. He has some very high ranking individuals that serve in the Department of Justice and also in the White House.”
While important, overall, the position of Secretary of Labor is one of the lesser cabinet agencies.
Solis brought her pro-union and workers rights agenda to the Department, a point she was often criticized for by conservatives for not doing enough to regulate labor unions, where she said she hopes she made a difference for people especially in vulnerable Latino and immigrant communities. For example, under her leadership the Department enforced wage and hour laws rigrulously recovering 280 million in pay for 300,000 workers last year, a new record. She also hit BP with a record $87 million fine for its 2005 refinery explosion, and set up new workplace safety regulations that largely benefited Latinos in construction jobs.
"My role was to bring about fairness in the workplace," she said. "All I did was implement the laws that were currently on the books."
As for her legacy?
"I would hope more people would have optimism about where the Latino has come," she said. "How we have emerged, and that there will be more women, women of color especially Latinas who will get involved."
Victor Garcia produced the video interviews with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.