On Jan. 9, Hilda L. Solis submitted her resignation as U.S. Secretary of Labor, telling her fellow Department of Labor employees that she is “proud of our work on behalf of the nation's working families.” Solis’s resignation comes only weeks after EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced her own resignation on Dec. 27, 2012.
"Leaving the department is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, because I have taken our mission to heart. As the daughter of parents who worked in factories, paid their union dues and achieved their goal of a middle class life, and as the first Latina to head a major federal agency, it has been an incredible honor to serve,” Solis wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to Department of Labor employees.
Prior to her appointment as Secretary of Labor, Solis represented the 32nd Congressional District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001-2009, and she also served 8 years in the California state legislature. She became the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000, when she was recognized for her pioneering work on environmental justice issues in California.
In her Jan. 9 letter, Solis highlighted key achievements the Department of Labor has made in the last 4 years, including playing a role in the federally funded job training programs that were completed by 1.7 million people; investing in community colleges to help these institutions provide local, flexible, employer-specific job training; administering more than $67 billion for unemployment insurance benefits, job training and placement and worker protection under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; fostering efforts to help women and homeless veterans; encouraging businesses to see the value of hiring returning military service members; and more.
"And I am particularly proud to say that, as a result of our enforcement efforts, we have saved workers' lives,” Solis added.
She pointed out that 2011 saw the fewest-ever fatalities in mining, and that workplace fatalities in general industry and construction are at historic lows. During her tenure, Solis took a particular interest in the health and safety risks faced by Latino construction workers and formed the National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety.
In a Jan. 9 statement, Obama called Solis “a tireless champion for working families.”
“Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work,” Obama said. “I am grateful to Secretary Solis for her steadfast commitment and service not only to the Administration, but on behalf of the American people. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”
Solis’s departure continues to fuel speculation surrounding OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels and whether he will choose or be asked to stay on for President Obama’s second term.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson Resigns
Lisa P. Jackson announced her resignation as EPA administrator on Dec. 27, 2012.
“I want to thank President Obama for the honor he bestowed on me and the confidence he placed in me four years ago this month when he announced my nomination as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” Jackson said. “...I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference.”
Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen Texas, praised Jackson’s work but suggested she “has often been frustrated by the Obama administration’s cowardice on critical policies, such as long overdue ozone standards.”
Some sources indicate that Jackson’s resignation is at least in part tied to her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline, a massive pipeline system that would transport oil from Alberta, Canada, through large parts of the United States. Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club, called Jackson “the one person who led the fight to get a moratorium on the Keystone XL.”
"Lisa Jackson fought for the environment every day and we are concerned she may have left out of frustration,” Tittel said. “There are some big issues that we really need her leadership on like the Portland Power plant, the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and the EPA fracking studies, and cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We know she will do good things, but she is leaving at a time when the environment is at a crossroads. The administration delayed the Smog Rule and has not been proactive on climate change. We hope in the future she will continue to be a strong voice for the environment."
Public Citizen, meanwhile, hopes the Obama administration appoints an EPA administrator who shares Jackson’s courage.
“Lisa Jackson has been a good EPA administrator and will be missed. Her courage has been evident in many different arenas, from climate policy, tougher particle standards, automobile fuel efficiency standards and power plant pollution limits,” Smith said.