University News

Perez ’83 to be nominated as Secretary of Labor

The alum will likely focus on minimum wage and income inequality in the cabinet position

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thomas Perez ’83, current assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, will be nominated by President Obama to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor during the president’s second term, multiple national news sources reported this weekend.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Perez will become the first Brown alum to serve in Obama’s cabinet and the first to be elevated to a cabinet-level post since Richard Holbrooke ’62, former Herald editor-in-chief, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during President Clinton’s administration.

Though the White House has not publicly confirmed Perez’s nomination, two sources familiar with the selection process stated the announcement is imminent, multiple news sources reported.

As Labor Secretary, Perez’s short-term focus will likely be on the president’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage, said Kenneth Chay, professor of economics. He added that in the long-term, Perez could tackle the issue of income inequality by addressing why real wages have remained constant even though worker productivity has increased and corporate wages “are at an all-time high.”

Todd Andrews ’83, vice president for alumni relations, wrote in an email to The Herald that Perez received the William Rogers Award in 2010, awarded by the Brown Alumni Association to alums for “outstanding service to society.” He praised Perez’s record of protecting civil rights for the country’s “marginalized and persecuted.”

“As assistant attorney general, Perez has worked to protect the nation’s most treasured laws — advancing equal opportunity and protecting the rights of all — and the Brown Alumni Association is truly honored to call him one of our own,” Andrews wrote.

Perez will likely face strong support in the confirmation process from labor unions and civil rights activists, the Washington Post reported Monday. In his current post, Perez led the Obama administration’s legal challenges to South Carolina’s and Texas’ voter identification laws, which opponents said discriminated against minorities. But his willingness to advance discrimination lawsuits could lead some Senate Republicans to resist his nomination, the Post reported.

Chay said the country is currently in recovery from a labor crisis and that Perez could benefit from the improving national economic atmosphere to become an effective political advocate for his agenda. “It could be a very good time to be labor secretary,” Chay said.

After graduating from Brown with a degree in international relations and political science, Perez obtained a law degree from Harvard Law School. Perez was the first Latino to be elected to the Montgomery, MD County Council, on which he served from 2002 to 2006. He also served as labor secretary for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley before joining the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009 at the start of Obama’s presidency.

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  • Scholar

    Another wack job.
    Can’t we find somebody decent. Is it not bad enough we need to deal with the habitual liar called Obama