President Barack Obama, when announcing Thomas Perez as his pick to be the next Secretary of Labor on March 18, called Perez a “consensus builder.” Perez finally got the consensus of the Senate, who confirmed his nomination 4 months later, on July 18.
Perez comes to DOL from the Department of Justice, where he headed DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. The son of Dominican immigrants, Perez is an attorney who helped pay his way through college by working as a garbage collector, to the American people. Prior to joining DOJ, Perez served as secretary for Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, where he helped implement the country’s first statewide living-wage law. Because, said President Obama, “He understood that a minimum wage should be a wage that you can live on.” .
“His story reminds us of this country’s promise, that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is – you can make it if you try,” President Obama said. “And Tom has made protecting that promise – for everybody – the cause of his life.”
The Communications Workers of America commended the Senate for its confirmation of Perez, calling him “a strong advocate for working Americans [who] will ensure that job safety and health, wage and hour provisions and other safeguards for workers are enforced.”
Throughout his career in public service, whether at the U.S. Department of Justice or Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Perez has focused on protecting Americans from discrimination in the workplace, in the voting booth and in their dealings with financial institutions.
Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, commented, “Millions of domestic and in-home care workers across the country applaud today’s confirmation of Tom Perez as the new Secretary of Labor. Perez’s long history of championing the rights of workers, immigrants and people with disabilities make him an ideal Labor Secretary in the face of comprehensive immigration reform and shifting social and economic realities in America.”
Janet Murguía, president and CEO of NCLR (National Council of La Raza), said, “Perez’s decades of service as an elected and appointed official have shown him to be a staunch supporter of workers’ rights with the keen ability to build consensus among stakeholders. We are confident that Perez has the unique expertise and leadership experience to successfully oversee the work of the Department of Labor, which is especially important for struggling Latinos who face high levels of unemployment.”
During his time at the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Perez defended military families and victims of hate crimes; prioritized the enforcement of civil rights statutes such as the National Voting Rights Act, Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and settled three of the largest lending cases in the Fair Housing Act’s history.
Senate Confirms Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor