Labor Sec. Hilda Solis On The American Jobs Act, Black Unemployment And Recent Jobs Report (VIDEO)

Labor Sec. Hilda Solis joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the new jobs numbers, what the White House is doing to get Americans back to work and the American Jobs Act.

MR. MARTIN: Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

The jobs report for September came out Friday, and the 137,000 private-sector jobs created was more than economists expected. Of that, 34,000 in government jobs were lost for a net increase in jobs of 103,000, still beating expectations. But the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is 16 percent, down from 16.7 percent the month before. Here to break it down and talk about Pres. Barack Obama’s jobs bill is Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Well, Sec. Solis, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

SEC’Y. HILDA SOLIS: How are you doing? Good to be here with you.

MR. MARTIN: So, your assessment of this jobs report? Feeling good?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: I feel a lot better, and especially because we saw a readjustment in the last two months, we actually added 99,000 over the two-month period. So, we’re d- — we do see that there’s a good trajectory. We’re coming back slow, but we s- — have to do more. That’s why the President is out there, ta- — talking about the American Jobs Act. That’ll put construction workers back. It’ll create more disposable income, ‘cause people ‘ll be able to get a break in their payroll taxes, and also putting teachers back. You said local government lost the jobs. We continue to see that. What better way of putting forward a good agenda than putting these teachers back to work, getting rid of that pink slip and making them get back into the job market? That’s going to help increase our – our stability in the economy. These jo- — this job plan overall will help to create 1.9 million jobs.

MR. MARTIN: I want to come back to the jobs bill, but in these numbers, where’s the growth in terms of the growth areas where jobs are being added?

SEC’Y. SOLIS: It’s in healthcare. It’s in construction for the first time that we’re seeing. It’s also in IT. It’s in business and professions, so we’re talking also about mining industry. We’re looking almost across the board in every sector, with the exception of residential construction and with local government, where we saw the – the loss again in local government.

MR. MARTIN: Now – now, what also jumps out – because, again, we have this huge debate going on in – in Washington as [it] relates to what government can do, what it should do, to create jobs. From your vantage point, do you believe the criticism that regulations are preventing companies from actually hiring people? Republicans say it’s regulation that’s keeping small business and major businesses from actually hiring folks.
SEC’Y. SOLIS: No, it’s actually – what has happened is we have a very large population, and we haven’t kept pace with the number of people who are looking for – for work right now. That’s why we have a very high rate of unemployment. We also saw, I – I could say, restructuring of our overall economy. We lost a lot in manufacturing. We lost a lot in construction.
But we can bring that back. The President says we can do it by making investments in renewable energy, in IT, in broadband and these other areas, and start to really make more innovative research and development – you know, investments so that we can build things. Just like the automobile industry, he wants to see us sell our Fords, our Chevys, our GM vehicles in Korea – South Korea. So, the free trade agreements are going to help us to level the playing field, and that’s what we need right now. We need to level the playing field and sell our products to other countries.

MR. MARTIN: You mentioned renewable energies. Obviously, we’ve had all this controversy dealing with Solyndra, the investment the United States put into it and that company going bankrupt.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: That’s just one company, Roland, and I would – and I would beg to differ with the people who don’t agree with us on this issue, because we’ve actually seen 2.77 million jobs created in the green-sector economy overall, and it’s going to keep growing. And guess who’s really trying to hammer us and create more jobs in that area? China and India. So, if they were making bad investments, do you think they would continue to be pushing forward? Why should we renege and pull back? There are very few people who believe in what’s happening in the global economy and in – and in the climate, and I can tell you that we have seen job creation.

We’ve invested real dollars. We have seen manufacturers change the way that they’re doing their technology and their business methods because they want to be a part of the green technology.

MR. MARTIN: Well, see, what jumps out at me is that – that solar is an advancement, a creation of Americans.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Right.

MR. MARTIN: And so when I heard a member of Congress – Republican member of Congress – say, “Look, we simply can’t compete in that” – right now, we’re complaining that we’re – that we’re getting too much oil from foreign sources; but, in essence, in a cou- — in the next generation, we’ll be sitting here then relying on foreign companies when it comes to solar and green technology.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Well, you know, what’s funny, too, Roland, is I also heard from our opponents saying that we can’t, and should not, be putting in funding to support green, renewable energy. But by the same token, they want to see us continue to provide subsidies to oil and fossil fuel and in other industries that are pollutants, that don’t help to clean up the environment – and also put us in compromising positions, many times, with some of these other Middle Eastern countries. So, [the] President wants us to be independent, wants to create our own sources of energy that are clean and that will create jobs here in the USA.

MR. MARTIN: Back to the jobs bill. We talked about the 16 percent unemployment rate for African-Americans. The President’s jobs bill — $447 billion – a – a huge portion of that is infrastructure. The issue that I’ve been raising, though – supportive of the bill, supportive of jobs – is that trade unions continue to disenfranchise African-Americans and Hispanics. What kind of pressure can be brought to bear from – from you, from the President, from [the] Commerce Department, to tell these unions, “Look, if we’re talking about creating jobs, you can’t be in a situation where Blacks and where” – “where Latinos are being left out, being pushed out, not let in”? And I don’t mean apprentice jobs. I’m speaking –

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — of people who are already trained.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Well, I think that one of the things that we have attempted to do is really explain that we want to see more diversity. We want local hires. So, if you[‘ve] got a project going on, you need to be hiring locally; and if that makeup happens to be very diverse – African-American and Latino – then that’s where your source – your labor force – should come from. You shouldn’t be bringing in – [chuckles] – people from other parts of the country to do a job.

And that – that also goes to the point of providing good wages, prevailing wages, to make sure that everybody gets paired [sic] – gets paid an appropriate wage and their standard of living goes up.

So, we’re very insistent on that. I know I’m very mindful of that myself, because I’m – I’m a member of a minority group, and I understand how hard it is for us to break through some of these traditional barriers, especially – not just in – in – in construction\ alone, but in the other trades industr[ies]. We have to see more diversity. We[‘ve] got to have more women hired up as well.

MR. MARTIN: Okay. All right, Sec. Solis. We appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

SEC’Y. SOLIS: Thank you.