Justice official nominated to top Labor slot

AP, WiG reports

Seeking to fill yet another second-term Cabinet vacancy, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas Perez, an assistant attorney general, to be the next secretary of labor.

If confirmed by the Senate, Perez, who has been head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for 31/2 years, would take over the Labor Department as Obama undertakes several worker-oriented initiatives, including an overhaul of immigration laws and an increase in the minimum wage.

Before taking the job as assistant attorney general, Perez was secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which enforces state consumer rights, workplace safety and wage and hour laws.

Obama nominated Perez, 51, on March 18.

In choosing Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Obama would be placing an already high-ranking Hispanic official in a Cabinet slot. Perez, a lawyer with a degree from Harvard Law School, would replace Hilda Solis, a former California congresswoman and the nation’s first Hispanic labor secretary.

Perez’s nomination has been expected for weeks, and comes with vigorous support from labor unions and Latino groups, as well as LGBT groups.

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said, “The president made a strong choice for the next labor secretary by nominating Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez. Perez has been a longtime advocate for LGBT equality. As assistant attorney general, he has worked to protect the community from hate crimes and has testified before Congress on the importance of passing legislation protecting LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination.  We hope the senate moves forward in a bipartisan manner and without delay to confirm Perez as the next labor secretary.”

Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said, “Thomas Perez is a terrific choice for labor secretary. He has a proven track record of support for workers and those who have faced discrimination. A champion of civil rights, he represented the administration and testified before the U.S. Senate in 2009 in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, he challenged state voter suppression efforts and pursued a record number of discrimination or brutality claims against local law enforcement agencies, including the very visible Trayvon Martin racial profiling case.”

She continued, “The Labor Department is critical to advancing, enforcing and preserving policies that directly impact the lives and livelihoods of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families. It has made significant policy advances over the past few years in this regard. These advances include adding gender identity as a protected category to the department’s equal employment statement, and clarifying that the Family and Medical Leave Act is inclusive of same-sex couples raising children. Thomas Perez at the helm of the Labor Department will help keep this momentum moving forward. We urge the Senate to confirm him.”