Amid all of the doom and gloom about the economy and the drug war in Mexico, there’s a glimmer of positivity in the Latino political world this week, thanks to the efforts of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. The Department of Labor is hiring 150 more investigators to more effectively enforce wage and child labor laws. The department is also hiring 100 additional investigators to ensure that contractors on government stimulus projects are in compliance with applicable labor laws.
Earlier this month, Secretary Solis told a forum organized by the AFL-CIO in Miami, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” She also pledged to uphold labor laws that had been ignored in recent years and vowed to work in cooperation with companies to increase worker productivity. She added, “If you take care of an employee, that employee will produce. Productivity by our workforce, especially union members, has increased.”
Secretary Solis is also addressing the results of an investigation by the Government Accountability Office that showed Hour and Wage Division Employees not adequately following up with worker complaint calls. The Wall Street Journal reports:
“In one fictitious undercover call made to the agency by GAO staff, the complainant said he’d seen children working in a meatpacking plant in California. The person who received the call never followed up on the complaint, which like many others wasn’t recorded in the agency database, the GAO report found. In another situation, an agency worker encouraged the caller to have his own conversation with the employer in question.”
I’m thankful that President Obama appointed Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. Her compassion for labor issues and the working men and women in this country is welcomed after years of government failure to enforce some of these labor laws. I can’t think of anything more discouraging to a worker in tough times than having to be a victim of wage theft or having to work in unsafe conditions. As Henry George once said, “Poorly paid labor is inefficient labor, the world over.”