Those who are following the chess match over immigration reform will be watching for early signs of how aggressively the new U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas (“Call me Tom”) Perez, will push for expanded, more liberal rights.
Perez took office Tuesday, announcing some of his plans to create expanded opportunities for workers in his blog post, “Day One.” (Blogs are so much cooler than the worn-out press release.)
While Perez steered clear of the issue in his blog post, his critics continued to blast President Obama’s selection to replace Hilda Solis.
The conservative position on Perez was well represented earlier this year by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, who said of Perez, “the top priority of the Secretary of Labor should be to create jobs and higher wages for American workers. But Mr. Perez has aggressively sought ways to allow the hiring of more illegal workers. … His views on illegal immigration are far outside the mainstream.”
But in his first blog post as secretary, Perez avoided talk of immigration and instead listed these altruistic objectives:
- To help workers to “acquire the skills they need to succeed;”
- to create “more opportunity to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work;”
- to help level the playing field for workers and employers;
- to help “veterans to thrive in the civilian economy;”
- to create “more opportunity for people with disabilities to contribute productively to the workforce;”
- to address the looming crisis for retirees;
- to foster “more opportunity for people to work in a safe environment and with the full protection of our anti-discrimination laws.”
He promised to turn to “collaboration, consensus-building and pragmatic problem-solving” to achieve these objectives, vowing to solicit input equally from representatives of labor and management in his quest for Socratic solutions to divisive issues.
“Throughout nearly 30 years in public service, I have approached tough challenges by making room for as many people as possible around the table in search of common ground,” he blogged. “That’s how I will continue to do business as secretary of labor.”
Perez certainly has been a champion of liberal immigration reform during his long and varied public service career. He is almost universally described by the media as “the son of Dominican immigrants,” which he is. But hardly the ones that have caused such divisiveness in Congress. Perez’s father and siblings were all doctors, his mother the U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
He is much more closely associated with civil rights issues, having been involved in many major lawsuits involving LGBT bias claims and hate crimes.