Secretary Solis Highlights Meeting at Public Welfare Foundation
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis was a featured speaker at a briefing for about 50 funders and advocates for workers’ rights that took place at the Public Welfare Foundation’s True Reformer Building this week. At a time when collective bargaining rights of public workers are being threatened in Wisconsin and other states, Secretary Solis told the group that, at the Labor Department, “worker protection is our top priority right now.”
While Secretary Solis did not speak directly about the efforts of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to roll back the right of public workers to bargain over such basic matters as salaries and working conditions, she reported that the Labor Department has 300 new investigators – including 70-100 who speak different languages – who are going after wage and hour fraud aggressively.
She also emphasized the department’s “We Can Help” campaign that aims to give workers basic information about their rights. “It’s about basic human rights at the workplace,” she said.
The day-long briefing on “Economic Justice and Worker Rights: the Way Forward…” highlighted challenges and opportunities to advance workers’ rights at the federal, state and local levels as well as policy issues that specifically affect low-income workers. It was sponsored by the Working Group on Labor and Community Partnerships of the Neighborhood Funders Group, which consists of grantmakers who support community change.
Henry Allen, executive director of the Discount Foundation in Boston, MA who helped organize the briefing, said that the session “underscored the very difficult challenges facing all those committed to economic justice and workers’ rights. At the same time, we heard inspiring stories that described organizing and policy campaigns that have advanced workers’ rights and that hold even greater promise for securing economic justice for low wage workers.”
Robert Shull, Program Officer for Workers’ Rights at the Public Welfare Foundation added that the briefing “gave funders a pretty comprehensive view of the current landscape of workers’ rights and some insight into areas that need more support.”
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