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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Obama File 58 Hilda Solis-Obama Labor Secretary's Socialist Connections

Obama file 57 here

Los Angeles Congresswoman Hilda Solis is to join the Obama Cabinet as Secretary of Labor.

By appointing the strongly pro-union Solis, president-elect Barack Obama has sent a clear signal to his far left support base that he has not abandoned his roots.

According to the Communist Party USA's People's Weekly World

One labor source said Solis’ name was put forward by Service Employees President Andrew Stern, whose union -- along with the Change To Win coalition -- endorsed Obama’s presidential candidacy long before the AFL-CIO did. SEIU is the biggest union in CTW.

But leaders ranging from CTW Chair Anna Burger to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum all welcomed the Solis appointment.

So did former House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.), now chair of pro-labor American Rights At Work, and ARW Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell. Both had been on lists circulated for the job...Maxwell. Bonior dropped out of the running to endorse her. Both praised Solis, who sits on the group’s board...

Bonior, citing his work with Solis since she entered Congress in 2001 -- he was there until 2004 -- called her “a terrific leader who I know first-hand will work tirelessly on behalf of America’s working families.”

Sweeney said the AFL-CIO is “thrilled at the prospect of having Solis as our nation's next Labor Secretary...The AFL-CIO looks forward to working with Solis as she charts new territory for our nation's working men and women.”

Stern is one of the US labor movement's new breed of leftist leaders-trained by the Chicago based and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)controlled Midwest Academy.

Bonior and Sweeney are both DSA members and both serve with Hilda Solis on the board of American Rights At Work. Most other ARW board members have DSA connections, including Julian Bond who was active in the DSA's predecessor, the Democratic Socialist Organising Committee and labor academic Harley Shaiken-also touted for the Labor Secretary job.

The fact that four board members of what is essentially a DSA front were the main contendors for the Labor position, is revealing.

It doesn't stop there however.

According to Greg Sargent of TPM

"It's extraordinary," SEIU president Andy Stern said in an interview with us a few moments ago. "On every issue that's important to us, she has stood up for an America where everyone's hard work is valued and rewarded."

Some labor officials had initially thought that an elder statesman type with stature would be best in the gig. But Stern said he thinks the choice of Solis by Obama, who has a keen appreciation of the power of biography, wanted someone with a bio steeped in labor, someone who has the kind of built in dedication and passion that could make her a kind of labor star in a cabinet that is stocked with a fair amount of star power already.

"As opposed to some candidate [for whom] this would have been just a job, for Hilda Solis it's the fulfillment of a life-long dream," Stern said, adding that that Solis was one of the names that labor officials had privately communicated as acceptable to them in talks with the transition. "Her father was a teamster. She is the American dream."

Incidentally, Stern said that the person who knows Solis perhaps best is writer Harold Meyerson...

Midwest Academy founder Heather Booth, left, Harold Meyerson centre

DSA vice chair Harold Meyerson has written on American Prospect's group blog Tapped


What does Rep. Hilda Solis, Barack Obama’s selection for secretary of labor, bring to the job? Only a record of passionate commitment to working people, a high level of political smarts, and some genuine displays of raw guts that could make her a star of American liberalism...

In the House, Solis has continued to champion labor causes, immigrants' rights, women’s health and environmental protections. She also worked closely with Rahm Emanuel in recruiting Democratic House candidates from the Southwest and Latino-dominated districts, so she brings to her new job a strong relationship with Obama’s incoming chief-of-staff. Now, she’s in the key position to promote the Employee Free Choice Act, which seems likely to be the most contentious issue on Obama’s agenda. But Solis has never been deterred by controversy.

Hilda Solis is also a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the 70 odd strong group of left wing Democrats with strong ties to DSA.

According to leading DSA member Duane Campbell, Hilda Solis has recently been promoted to "Vice-Chair Liaison to Women's Caucus" of the Congressional Progressive Caucus...

DSA is clearly a friend of Hilda Solis, but is Hilda Solis a friend of DSA?

In November 2005 Solis addressed the DSA National Convention in Los Angeles-"The New Capital of Progressive Politics?"

Twenty-First Century Socialism...

While the gathering was a working convention—one that differed from past meetings in that all convention business happened on the plenary floor for maximum delegate participation,two evening public sessions focused on the big picture, too.

On Friday evening, a panel consisting of ACORN chief organizer Wade Rathke, Kent Wong of the UCLA Labor Center and Roxana Tynan of the Los Angeles Alliance
for a New Economy looked at the level of struggles nationwide.

Saturday evening delegates recognized the contributions of DSA vice chair and Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, Occidental College sociologist and longtime DSAer Peter Dreier and insurgent California Congress member
Hilda Solis (D) who in turn provided in-depth perspectives of the political scene.


Hilda Solis also has indirect ties to the Socialist International. In June this year the SI Migrations Committee held a Migrations Reform, Integration, Rights forum in Los Angeles

DSA, the SI's main US affiliate was represented by DSA National Director Frank Llewellyn plus Duane Campbell and Dolores Delgado Campbell of DSA's Anti Racism network and the Latino networks.

California State Senator Gill Cedillo, was also in attendance.

Hilda Solis was formally represented by Elena Henry, a caseworker from Solis's East Los Angeles Office.

This was not the first time that Solis had sent a representative to a socialist gathering.

According to the Communist Party's People's Weekly World of June 20 1996

The Southern California Friends of the People's Weekly World tribute to two of Los Angeles' finest labor leaders, Jerry Acosta and Gilbert Cedillo, became a dynamic rally of elected officials, activists, labor and community leaders in solidarity with labor struggles and in the fight to defeat the ultra-right in November...

The audience clapped, cheered and sometimes shouted out during the spirited tribute to Jerry Acosta, regional director of the Utility Workers Union, and Gilbert Cedillo, long-time leader of Service Employees International Union Local 660.

"The People's Weekly World and all of us in this room feel very strongly about who we honor today," said Evelina Alarcon, chair of the Southern California District and national secretary of the Communist Party USA, one of the emcees of the tribute. "Jerry Acosta and Gilbert Cedillo represent the new fightback vision of the Sweeney, Trumka, Chavez-Thompson leadership in the AFL-CIO. They represent the rank and file that is pushing from the bottom for that new vision!"

Alarcon recounted many of Acosta's and Cedillo's achievements, calling them "real live working class heroes in the forefront of struggle" who "take bold initiatives on labor issues" and spearhead mass action in the fight for equality of all people.

If there is any time that we value that kind of leadership, "it is now when we face the greatest electoral challenge of our time," Alarcon said pointing to the necessity "to vote out the Republican ultra-right in the Congress and in the California State legislature."

Rep. Esteban Torres, a UAW labor leader in Congress, wearing his union jacket and standing tall, told the crowd, "This event would have made old Sam Kushner proud," referring to the late World labor reporter.

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon, on behalf of the council which adopted a resolution honoring Acosta and Cedillo, said, "Gil Cedillo and Jerry Acosta have changed the whole dynamic of what it means to be for the working class and what it means to fight for workers rights. Because of them and other labor leaders, we have seen a resurgence of strength of the least empowered in our country..."

Presentations to the honorees were also made by Clara James, chair of the Community Affairs Commission of the Second Baptist Church, on behalf of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, one of the nation's most distinguished African American leaders; Antonio Aguilar, on behalf of State Senator Hilda Solis, California's first Latina elected to the State Senate, who, along with labor, led the drive to put a minimum wage increase initiative on the ballot;

State Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigoza sent a message and 17 elected officials and more than 50 labor leaders put their names in the program book honoring Cedillo and Acosta. Victoria Castro, a member of the L.A. City Board of Education, sent certificates recognizing the two labor leaders.

This piece is important because it shows the influence of the CPUSA in Southern Californis Politics. The CPUSA has substantial influence in the Los Angeles labor movement and by directing union money and human resources in the right direction is able to determine who gets elected and where.

Richard Alarcon is now a Los Angeles City Councillor. Both Richard and his communist big sister Evelina, are close friends and supporters of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoza-who incidentally now serves on Barack Obama's economic transition team along side DSA member and Hilda Solis supporter David Bonior.

Both Richard Alarcon and Antonio Villaraigoza were elected with strong union support.

Maxine Waters is now a stalwart of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Hilda Solis also enjoyed strong union (and CPUSA backing) when she ran for US Congress in 2000.

In a report submitted to the Communist Party in November 2000 Evelina Alarcon, Vice Chair CPUSA and Chair Southern California District, commented on Hilda Solis's Congressional victory;

The monumental victories which are occurring in Los Angeles electorally and in the workplace are because of the coalition building that the labor movement is doing with the Latino and African American community. In Los Angeles, the Labor Federation not only targeted three congressional districts but it had organized 250 volunteers to help State Senator Hilda Solis win her Congressional seat by turning out the union household and Latino vote...

We in the Party can also be proud because our members were involved in all the targeted electoral efforts...

In 2007 Hilda Solis, endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president and signed on to co-chair of the Clinton campaign’s Environmental and Energy Task Force and co-chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Council.

She was joined by her friend and DSA honorary chair, Dolores Huerta, former colleague of legendary Farmworkers Union leader Cesar Chavez. Dolores Huerta had the honour of formally nominating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic primary.

Dolores Huerta right

Together Huerta and Solis campaigned for Clinton through California and Nevada on a tour themed "Juntos Con Hillary, Una Vida Mejor" (Together with Hillary, A Better Life).

By 2008 Hilda Solis was campaigning under a new slogan "Yes we can"-the anglicised version of Cesar Chavez's old battle cry "Si se puede".

Solis joined Obama's National Latino Advisory Council

"As the Latino community continues to get to know Senator Obama, it is clear that he is the right candidate for our issues and is the best candidate to deliver the change that America desperately needs," said Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis. "Senator Obama not only understands the struggles and diversity of our community but because of his personal history and background he will stand with us and be a fighter for our issues. I look forward to continuing to work to elect Senator Obama as the next President of the United States."

Solis sure wasn't lonely.

Other members of the Advisory Council included five members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus-Xavier Becerra, Raúl Grijalva, Luis Gutiérrez, Linda T. Sánchez
and Nydia Velázquez. Another member was Service Employees International Union Executive Vice President and DSA honorary chair Eliseo Medina.

Eliseo Medina left, Chicago DSA dinner 2004

Also a former colleague of Cesar Chavez, Eliseo Medina and a supporter of the Communist Party newspaper Peoples Weekly World

Medina also has close ties to Chicago DSA-the same people who endorsed Barack Obama during his successful bid for Illinois State Senate in 1996.

DSA has supported Barack Obama through his entire political career.

Is appointing Hilda Solis to such a key position simply Obama's way of returning a favour, or is it indicative of a shared agenda?

Obama File 59 here


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