At a news conference on Monday President Obama announced he would nominate Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, to be the next secretary of labor.
"Thomas Perez reminds us if you’re willing to work hard you can find success in America," Obama said at the conference held in the East Room.
Perez, 51, the son of Dominican immigrants thanked the president in Spanish and English early in his address.
"Muchisimas gracias Señor Presidente," Perez said. He continued to speak in Spanishand told the president he was grateful for "this great honor of being nominated to serve in this position."
Labor unions and immigrant advocates applauded Perez’s nomination.
James P. Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, told the NY Times that Perez was "the right choice" because of his history of advocacy. "In these difficult economic times," Hoffa said, "workers need a fighter at the Labor Department who will stand up for them, and they are getting just that with Thomas Perez."
The president of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the United States, echoed Hoffa’s statements.
"Throughout his career, Perez has fought to level the playing field and create opportunities for working people, whether in the workplace, the marketplace or the voting booth," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.
Immigrant worker advocates also applauded the decision.
"The appointment of Thomas Perez as head of the Department of Labor brings immigrants one step closer to equal rights at the workplace. It is a signal of the need for full labor protections within immigration reform," Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said in a statement.
"Perez would be a strong choice to lead the Department. He brings with him his local experience in labor and a deep understanding from his time on the board of Casa de Maryland."
Alvarado was referencing CASA of Maryland, the Latino and immigration advocacy-and-assistance organization founded "in response to the human needs of the thousands of Central Americans arriving to the D.C. area after fleeing wars and civil strife in their countries of origin."
"His experience with the civil rights division of the Department of Justice is good grounding to carry on the legacy of former Secretary Hilda Solis. Solis truly made the Department of Labor serve to advance the lives of workers and improve the status of low-wage and immigrant workers," Alvarado went on to say.