Former pro-union labor secretary campaigns in Nevada for Biden

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Steve Marcus

Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis responds to a question during an interview at the Biden for President campaign office in Las Vegas Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.

Mon, Sep 2, 2019 (2 a.m.)

Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, a prominent pro-labor voice in the push for union votes in as the kickoff to the presidential primary season hits the homestretch, campaigned for former Vice President Joe Biden in Nevada last week, calling her Obama administration colleague the best choice among Democratic presidential contenders.

Solis, now a member the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, spoke at a phone bank of Biden supporters on Thursday, soon after speaking for Biden at an AFL-CIO convention in Las Vegas. Solis endorsed Biden in June.

“I’m very proud to be here as surrogate representing Vice President Biden, having served with him and worked with him,” said, who was the first Latina to serve in a Cabinet position after Obama nominated her to the labor post. “He hasn’t surprised me because he’s someone who is steady, someone who has a lot of background and experience in campaigns.”

Nevada, Solis said, is critical for the presidential nominating process and can serve as a bellwether for other states.

“Demographics here have changed considerably, and that’s why we were able to pick up seats here,” she said. “And it is important because it’s an early state but it’s also one that can send a message across, I think, the whole western part of the United States as well as other key areas.”

Solis served as Obama’s labor secretary from 2009 to 2013 and was widely seen as a fierce protector of they working class and as a friend to unions.

She touted Biden’s years in the Senate — 36 in total — and his experience as vice president as giving the candidate a solid background in campaigning and politics. She said that Biden’s connection to the Obama administration was a plus with Democrats and some independents and Republicans.

Solis commended Biden for his work on issues related to organized labor, such as safety and wages, and she said that during their tenure under Obama, labor leaders would sometimes come to Biden directly to press their cases.

“We were, I would say, kind of soulmates because on the Cabinet he was in charge of the middle-class task force, which I was part of as secretary of labor, and also the Recovery Act, the investment and stimulus funds that we put in place to help bring back jobs and get people up to speed and helping to place dislocated workers in jobs and training programs.”

One of the most prevalent issues in the 2020 election is the future of health care, with some candidates pushing various forms of Medicare-for-all – with varying degrees of allowance for private insurance. Some candidates in favor of a public option — a government-run health care option that would compete with private insurance.

Biden is in the second pool and has made protecting and expanding on the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — one of his main health care talking points.

“I’m glad that he’s sticking to his guns,” Solis said. “We don’t need to get rid of Obamacare,’ we need to improve upon it and expand it and make sure that we have enough support for people who are uninsured right now to be able to get healthcare and assistance.”

Solis stressed, however, that Biden’s lead in the polls does not mean a guaranteed nomination.

“It’s clear that he’s in the lead at this point,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that he’s going to win, it means he’s going to have to work really hard and that’s why we’re here. That’s why you have

grassroots efforts and phone banking happening, not just in headquarters but in homes (and) businesses.”

She said, though, that the public was ready for a change, which she sees as good for the Democratic Party going into 2020.

“Part of it is, I think the public is frustrated with the rhetoric of the Republican Party and this White House,” she said. “Two-and-a-half years, there’s been a lot of damage done, and I think people are ready for a change. They’re ready now.”

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