WASHINGTON WATCH: Former Labor Sec. Hilda Solis On The Economy, Leaving The Obama Administration, Black And Brown Coalition (VIDEO)

We’ve seen a lot of departures from the Obama Administration as his second term begins. It’s not unusual for that to happen with various White Houses, but leaving doesn’t always mean going away.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis left her post earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from her again. She was a frequent visitor to “Washington Watch” while in office, and so she joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch for a look back and also a look forward.

We’ve seen a lot of departures from the Obama Administration as his second term begins.  It’s not unusual for that to happen with various White Houses, but leaving doesn’t always mean going away.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis left her post earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from her again.  She was a frequent visitor to “Washington Watch” while in office, and so she joins us now for a look back and also a look forward.

Welcome back.

MS. HILDA SOLIS:  Thank you so much.  It’s great –

MR. MARTIN:  All right, then.

MS. SOLIS:  — to be back.

MR. MARTIN:  So, first of all, glad to have you here.  You always –

MS. SOLIS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — came on this show in terms of talking about –

MS. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — labor numbers and things along those lines.

What really stood out for you in the last four years, serving as Labor Secretary?

MS. SOLIS:  You know, what’s so important is the ability to impact millions and millions of people and to restore the integrity in our economy by putting people back to work.  We’d lost close to 8 million jobs when we started in 2009, and now 5.8 million, and yesterday we saw unemployment claims going down.  So, we see that there’s more confidence in the workplace.

And what I really enjoy is the fact that so many people came out here for the inauguration.  I was participating in that.  And, again, to see the renaissance of our communities, the diversity that’s out there, it was beautiful to be able to feel that, to know that we stand for something.  And we need to move ahead and make sure that we really treat people in the middle – and I mean vulnerable communities, people of color, women, men, gender equity – all those things have to be addressed.

And we need to work together as much as we can with people who want to cooperate on the Hill.  And if they don’t, [the] President’s right to go out and speak to the public.

MR. MARTIN:  What – some of the things that jumped out that you said, “Man!  I have four years, but I still wish I had more time to do.”  That was really important to you.

MS. SOLIS:  I’ll tell you one of the things that has been an obstacle is trying to get our regulations through, and a lot of it has to do with the lobbying groups, or the folks that are opposed to some of the reforms that we wanted to see happen to protect children in farm labor – which, to me, makes so much sense; trying to protect workers in hazardous conditions, really trying to go after those bad employers that really put people in harm’s way and don’t care about – they game the system.  They don’t care about making reforms or making it safe for their people to not get injured or be killed.  I mean [the] construction industry, coalmine industry.

There’re a lot of areas that we want to work with people, but please don’t just come out thinking that all we want to do is destroy the economy because we’re asking for enforcement.  These are the laws.  Nobody came here to create new laws, necessarily.  We want to implement the laws that are currently on the book and refine them, and you do it through regulation.

MR. MARTIN:  As I said [at] the outset – you came on this show on many different occasions, and I was a huge critic of the Administration for not getting more voices out there.  I’m just the kind of person where I don’t believe you always send your political voices out there in terms of your senior staff.  I believe you have to use you and Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk, who’s also leaving; and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who’s also leaving.

And so, as someone who’s on the inside, was it difficult not being used on the national shows, not being a more forceful voice out there in the public?  Because, look, obviously female, Hispanic – critical demos for the President.

MS. SOLIS:  You know, I’ll be honest with you.  The President has – has been superb in terms of working with some of us.  And I will say “some of us,” meaning myself, because I was allowed to do many things that I know would’ve never happened and carrying out campaign efforts to educate our workers – especially vulnerable, immigrant workers coming from Africa, coming from the Caribbean, coming from Latin America, who didn’t understand what their rights were.  To be able to translate that into their languages and pushing out almost like an educational campaign.

I had a lot of flexibility to do that and was able to travel with him on many occasions and really got to know him. And I can tell you in his heart of hearts, he’s a very sensitive man, very smart, and also very much – how could I say – open about expressing what he would like to see done, and allowing for other voices to be heard in front of him.

And to me, that is very important for people to understand.  Bureaucracies; executive government; you know, the agency that I oversaw – you know, they’re very traditional.  It’s hard to move – how could I say – that big ship, to have it turn the corner.  And we were able to make some changes there.

Do I want to see more happen?  Absolutely.  I want to see more reform in immigration.  I want to see things done on climate change.  I want to make sure that there are green jobs available for people from vulnerable communities.  And we started that, and we need more help to continue it, because there were a lot of people in the Congress from the other side of the aisle – let’s be clear.  When you say “Congress,” you can’t say “all Democrats.”  You have to say who was in control, who’s the majority. That majority is the Republican Party right now.

MR. MARTIN:  In the House, yes.

MS. SOLIS:  Yes, and those voices that are very conservative.

So, our community has to learn to be aggressive, to get on the line, to get out there.  More than just emailing, but actually making sure that their presence is known.  And whether you do it in the district offices for these members, or you come out here, you make sure that your voices are heard.  You Twitter.  You do all the things in social media that you and I know work.

MR. MARTIN:  Last election, President Obama got 75 percent of the Hispanic vote and 93 percent of the black vote.

MS. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  And those two groups are going to be the dominant minority groups.  We’re moving –

MS. SOLIS:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — to the point where we’re becoming a majority minority country.  So, let’s deal with this whole issue of black-Hispanic relationship.  What do you see that needs to happen for these two minority groups to take advantage of their size –

MS. SOLIS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — of their growing power to actually get a larger piece of the pie versus the two of them fighting over crumbs?

MS. SOLIS:  Right.  I’ll tell you something I saw demonstrated out in Alabama was our civil rights leaders, African-American[s], union leaders, Latino leaders, faith-based leaders all coming together and coalescing around issues regarding voting rights and immigration.  Actually, I was a part of a tour that we actually were walking in Selma, Alabama, leading up to all of that.  And the beauty of that is it’s happened in different parts of the country, but we don’t get a lot of publicity, and we need to focus on building those kinds of coalitions.  Those things work.

And I believe that if we say it’s about civil rights for everyone, good pay, job security, access to higher education, good healthcare, good living conditions so you can acquire property and a house – those are values that all of us care about.  Latinos, Hispanics care about that just as much as any other group, just as much as any other American.

MR. MARTIN:  What’s next for you?  So, are you –


MR. MARTIN:  — sticking around D.C., or are you going back to California?

MS. SOLIS:  Sticking around a little bit here and then eventually hoping to get back.  And I will continue to be a voice, and I have made myself available to those that want to hear what I have to say.

MR. MARTIN:  Staying in politics, or are you looking at [the] private sector?

MS. SOLIS:  I would do both.  I would look at both – whatever option.  So, I’m exploring right now, but –

MR. MARTIN:  So, right now you’re just sort of just hangin’ tight, saying, “All right. Let me see what’s happening.  Let me see what I want to do.”

MS. SOLIS:  — exactly.  But as you said earlier, Latinos and African-Americans are crucial in what happens to the future of this country, because we are going to be job creators.  We’re going to be the economic engine.  No matter what happens, we will be the labor force.  We will be the consumers.  We will be the folks that big, major marketing firms are going to want to target to see how they can access that potential of a billion dollars or a trillion dollars that we contribute to this economy.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, as I’ve said, you were very strong – a strong voice in the Administration on labor.  We always enjoyed having you here.  And I’m certainly said to see you go.  The country is as well.

And so, again, congratulations on the four years, and we’ll see what happens next.

MS. SOLIS:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

MS. SOLIS:  Thank you –

MR. MARTIN:  Thanks a bunch.

MS. SOLIS:  — so much, Roland.

MR. MARTIN:  Folks, Secretary Hilda Solis.