Hilda L. Solis life and biography

Hilda L. Solis picture, image, poster

Hilda L. Solis biography

Date of birth : 1957-10-20
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Los Angeles, California, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-06-23
Credited as : Congresswoman, United States Secretary of Labor, Obama administration

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Hilda Solis (also known as: Hilda Lucia Solis, Hilda L. Solis) born October 20, 1957 in Los Angeles, California, United States is an American politician and congresswoman.

Hilda Solis was the choice of President Barack Obama to be his labor secretary. Solis is a four-term congresswoman from Southern California with a strong pro-labor voting record. As the new U.S. Secretary of Labor, she will be responsible for the Labor Department's nearly $11 billion budget.

Encouraged Sisters to Study

Solis, born in Los Angeles, was the third oldest of seven children and grew up in a tract home in nearby La Puente. Her father, Raul, worked at a battery plant in the City of Industry and was a steward for the Teamsters union; he met her mother, Juana, a Nicaragua native, in citizenship class. When the wind blew the wrong way, the family could smell the Puente Hills Landfill. Grant money helped Solis become the first member of her family to graduate from college. During the 1970s, she always made time to take her younger sisters to the library, encouraging them to study.

Solis received a bachelor of arts degree from California State University, Pomona, and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California. During her graduate studies in Washington, D.C., Solis got a job as President Jimmy Carter's special assistant for Hispanic affairs and later worked in the Office of Management and Budget, and these appointments fueled her interest in politics. Also while in Washington, she met her future husband, Sam H. Sayyad, owner of Sam's Foreign & Domestic Auto Center in Irwindale, California.

First Latina in California Senate

Solis launched her political career in 1985, at age 28, when she won a seat on the board of trustees at Rio Hondo Community College in Whittier, California, defeating two longtime incumbents. In 1992 she won election to the state Assembly. Two years later, Solis became the first Latina elected to the state Senate.

As a young assemblywoman, Solis voted for legislation that banned smoking in all workplaces, and after her election to the Senate, she chaired the labor committee, building a reputation as an activist. After authorities in 1995 raided a garment sweatshop in El Monte--where Solis lives--she held headline-generating hearings on worker abuse. She summoned garment manufacturers to the Sacramento capital and urged stronger enforcement of laws against sweatshops. After her proposal to raise the minimum hourly wage from $4.25 to $5.75 per hour stalled following the hearings, Solis and labor lawyer Barry Broad huddled to organize a ballot measure, which passed in 1996, thanks to union support. A Democrat, she frequently visited the offices of Republicans, and many who disagreed with her positions respected her diligence and candor.

Elected to Congress in 2000

Solis in 2000 became the first woman to win the Profiles in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Solis donated the $25,000 cash prize to local environmental groups. She kept the other portion, a silver lantern valued at $10,000, after a state commission ruled it would not violate ethics laws.

Also that year, she was elected to Congress after defeating incumbent Matthew Martinez in an acrimonious Democratic primary. Martinez switched his affiliation to Republican shortly thereafter. Solis's 32nd House district includes East Los Angeles, El Monte, and several other communities in the San Gabriel Valley.

In 2003 Solis became the first Latina appointed to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Two years later she became the first such person elected co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues. In 2007 Solis was appointed to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

On December 19, 2008, Obama named Solis, then 51, to be his labor secretary. The U.S. Senate approved the nomination. Hispanics and labor advocates applauded the move, while Republicans and business leaders remained worried about her pro-labor slant.


Profiles in Courage Award, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, 2000.

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