On December 19, 2008, President Elect Obama nominated Hilda Solis to be Secretary of Labor.
In 2000, I was a delegate to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, representing Local 69 of The Newspaper Guild. In order for a candidate to be endorsed by the Federation, it requires a 2/3 vote of the Committee on Political Education (COPE), 2/3 of the Executive Committee (consisting of the officers and vice presidents), and 2/3 of the delegates. In her quest to unseat incumbent 32nd District Representative Matthew G. “Matty” Martinez, Hilda got the COPE and Executive Committee votes, but the endorsement initially stalled amongst the delegates.
The first vote was to adopt the COPE report, which only received 55% of the vote. A motion was made to divide the question to sever the 32nd District out of the report and then it passed unanimously.
Mike Nye representing the California Federation of Teachers moved to endorse Martinez, noting that AFL-CIO rules required endorsement of any incumbent with a 95% COPE voting record or higher. That motion was defeated 55-45%.
Then, a brother delegate from the UAW moved to endorse Hilda Solis. Nye tried to have that ruled out of order. Speaking as delegate of the Guild, and local parliamentarian, I opposed the point of order because no motion had been made to endorse Hilda, just to approve the COPE report. It was technically a different motion. Miguel Contreras overruled Nye’s point of order.
Three people spoke in favor of Hilda and three spoke in favor of Martinez. Finally I got the floor. The main issue had been over Martinez’s vote for NAFTA. I began by asking the assemblage whether anybody remembered how Martinez justified his vote for NAFTA. Nobody raised their hands, so I explained that he’d come back to L.A. and claimed to have gotten a commitment from President Clinton to set up an Inter American Development Bank (IADB) with billions of dollars of funding to clean up the environment in Mexico and to improve labor conditions.
Then I asked the delegates, “has anybody heard of an IADB being set up?” “Has anybody here heard of one dime…no…one penny appropriated to clean up the environment and improve labor conditions in Mexico?” Dead silence. “I didn’t think so, and if that is the way Matty Martinez delivers on his promises, that’s why we need Hilda Solis in Washington!”
I sat down and the brother from the UAW immediately moved to cut off debate. Hilda won the endorsement with 77% of the vote!