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A shoutout to my homegirl, Hilda Solis

January 11, 2013

By Russell Roybal, Task Force Deputy Executive Director of External Relations

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and the Task Force’s Russell Roybal at the White House.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and the Task Force’s Russell Roybal at the White House.

I grew up in La Puente, Calif. It’s a small city about 25 minutes east of downtown Los Angeles. It’s a working class, heavily Latino area. We didn’t have much, but folks from La Puente are proud to be from our little corner of the universe. For fun we would go to the In-n-Out or the Snap-E Taco, where at least one of our tia’s worked from time to time, or drive through the world famous Donut Hole that made cameo appearances in several movies. When I was little, my nino would take me to the park where he would ‘jump’ his low-rider Lincoln with his friends from the Image Car Club and I would bounce around in the backseat.

It was and still is a great place to grow up, but four years ago those of us from LP stood up a little taller because one of our own had made it. You see, up until four years ago when I told people I was from La Puente, a lot of people would say, “Oh, Like Chuy from La Puente,” a caricature on one of the large radio stations in Los Angeles. But now when I say I am from La Puente, people say, “Oh, where Hilda Solis is from, the U.S. secretary of labor.” Secretary Solis, a Latina from La Puente who did alright. Before being appointed to the president’s cabinet and becoming seventh in line to the presidency, the secretary was in Congress representing the people of California. She distinguished herself as one of the most LGBT-supportive members of the administration.

This week, her resignation as labor secretary was announced…a sad day indeed. The next secretary will have very big shoes to fill. Secretary Solis cared about all workers, including LGBT workers. Just like labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, she always made sure to include LGBT people when talking about social justice and workers’ rights. She knew, as does Dolores, that we’re all in this together and we can’t leave anyone behind.

Over the past four years that Secretary Solis has led the Department of Labor, there have been several positive steps to recognize the needs and contributions of LGBT people to the workforce. Early on changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) made it possible for domestic partners to use medical leave to care for their children and the department’s internal Equal Employment Opportunity statement was amended to include gender identity. Additionally, the department began collecting information on employers that provide health benefits to domestic partners and same-sex spouses of employees and how LGBT people access FMLA time. She spoke out about the rights of LGBT people and also hired several to be her closest advisors and leaders in the department.

The Task Force honored Secretary Solis at our annual Pink & Purple celebration in 2011 for her outspoken support for the community at the Department of Labor and throughout her career.

While I’m sad she is leaving her post, I know there are still many great things to come from her. I’m proud to be from La Puente, and even prouder still that my homegirl, Hilda Solis, is too.

Si, se puede!

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