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American Shipper

Obama names Solis, LaHood for Labor and Transportation

Obama names Solis, LaHood for Labor and Transportation

President-elect Barack Obama on Friday officially named Rep. Ray LaHood as Secretary of Transportation, Rep. Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor, and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as United States Trade Representative.

   Solis, a Democratic congresswoman from a working-class district of Los Angeles, is the daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants and is a strong union advocate. Obama said the Department of Labor has failed during the past eight years to defend workers' rights and vowed to correct what he said was a policy imbalance towards management.

   Solis has been a strong backer of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize by simplifying signing pro-union cards rather than going through a secret ballot process. The bill is the top legislative priority of organized labor and is equally opposed by business, which fears it will allow unions to intimidate workers for support and significantly raise labor costs.

   Her father was a shop steward for the Teamsters and her mother a member of the United Rubberworkers Union.

   Solis, 51, also opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement and a trade deal with Colombia.

   Lahood, 63, is the second Republican selected by Obama to serve in the Cabinet. The Illinois congressman served six years on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and more recently was a member of the Appropriations Committee. He is widely praised by politicians and Capitol Hill observers for his efforts to reach out to the other side of the political spectrum.

   The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO issued a statement praising his non-partisan legislative approach.

   'During his career in Congress, Rep. LaHood sought to bring civility and bipartisanship to the House of Representatives and earned a well-deserved reputation as a leader who worked with both sides of the aisle. It was this approach that led Rep. LaHood to break from his own leadership and stand with transportation workers on a number of important issues,' the labor group said.

   LaHood was also praised by the American Association of Railroads for his ability to deal with the infrastructure funding challenges facing the nation.

   Chicago is the freight rail crossroads of the nation and as member of the Illinois delegation LaHood took an interest in rail issues during his tenure in Congress.

   Kirk, a partner in the Dallas office of law firm Vinson & Elkins, was the first black elected mayor of Dallas. He served from 1995 to 2002. Kirk, 54, has expressed support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and once called for permanent normalized trade relations with China   

   On Sunday, Obama's transition office announced the creation of a 'White House Task Force on Working Families' to be headed by Vice President Joe Biden. The inter-agency committee will be tasked with raising the standard of living for working-class families such as increasing education and training opportunities, focusing on labor standards such as workplace safety, and improving work-family balance through coordinating cross-agency decisions, proposing executive orders and proposing legislative and policy changes. ' Eric Kulisch

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