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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka gave a strong “thumbs up” to President Obama’s choice of Thomas Perez to replace Hilda Solis as the U.S. Labor Secretary.

Trumka said Perez, who had been secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation prior to his current position as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, “has worked to eliminate discrimination in housing, provide access to education and health care, end hate crimes, crack down on employers who cheat workers out of wages and expand our democracy by protecting the fundamental right of every American to vote.”

A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, he helped increase Maryland’s minimum wage during his term from 2007 to 2009. He was elected in 2002 to the Montgomery County (MD) Council, serving one term.

He was Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under Attorney General Janet Reno.  Among other responsibilities, Perez chaired the inter-agency Worker Exploitation Task Force, which oversaw a variety of initiatives designed to protect vulnerable workers.

From 1995 until 1998, Perez served as Special Counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy, and was the senator’s principal adviser on civil rights, criminal justice and constitutional issues. For the final two years of the Clinton administration, Perez served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The son of immigrants, his father, who was the Dominican Republic’s U.S. ambassador, was forced to emigrate after speaking out against the abuses of former President Rafael Trujillo.

MTD President Michael Sacco praised the appointment, as well as the work as Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, both of whom “exemplify the highest professional standards. Their commitment to the workers of this nation is truly inspirational.”