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Hilda Solis
HLS Headshot.jpg
Member of the
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
from the 1st district
Assumed office
December 1, 2014
Preceded by Gloria Molina
Chair of Los Angeles County
In office
December 8, 2020 – December 7, 2021
Preceded by Kathryn Barger
Succeeded by Holly Mitchell
In office
December 8, 2015 – December 6, 2016
Preceded by Michael D. Antonovich (Mayor)
Succeeded by Mark Ridley-Thomas
Chair pro tempore of Los Angeles County
In office
December 3, 2019 – December 8, 2020
Preceded by Kathryn Barger
Succeeded by Holly Mitchell
In office
December 2, 2014 – December 8, 2015
Preceded by Michael D. Antonovich (Mayor pro tempore)
Succeeded by Mark Ridley-Thomas
25th United States Secretary of Labor
In office
February 24, 2009 – January 22, 2013
President Barack Obama
Deputy Seth Harris
Preceded by Elaine Chao
Succeeded by Tom Perez
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from California
In office
January 3, 2001 – February 24, 2009
Preceded by Matthew G. Martínez
Succeeded by Judy Chu
Constituency 31st district (2001–2003)
32nd district (2003–2009)
Member of the California State Senate
from the 24th district
In office
December 5, 1994 – December 31, 2000
Preceded by Arthur Torres
Succeeded by Gloria Romero
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 57th district
In office
December 7, 1992 – November 30, 1994
Preceded by Dave Elder
Succeeded by Martin Gallegos
Personal details
Hilda Lucia Solis

(1957-10-20) October 20, 1957 (age 66)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse Sami Sayyad
Education California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (BA)
University of Southern California (MPA)

Hilda Lucia Solis (/sˈls/; born October 20, 1957) is an American politician and a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for the 1st district. Solis previously served as the 25th United States Secretary of Labor from 2009 to 2013, as part of the administration of President Barack Obama. She is a member of the Democratic Party and served in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2009, representing the 31st and 32nd congressional districts of California that include East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

Early life and education

Solis was born in Los Angeles, California, as the daughter of immigrant parents who had met in citizenship class and married in 1953: Juana Sequeira (b. 1926, from Nicaragua) and Raúl Solís (from Mexico). Her father was a Teamsters shop steward in Mexico and, after coming to the United States, worked at the Quemetco battery recycling plant in the City of Industry in the San Gabriel Valley. There he again organized for the Teamsters, to gain better health care benefits for workers, but also contracted lead poisoning. Her mother worked for over 20 years on the assembly line of Mattel once her children were all of school age, belonged to the United Rubber Workers, and was outspoken about working conditions. She stressed the importance of education and was a devout Roman Catholic.

Hilda Solis is the third oldest of seven siblings (four sisters, two brothers) and grew up in a tract home in La Puente, California. She had to help raise her youngest siblings, and later said of her childhood: "It wasn't what you would call the all-American life for a young girl growing up. We had to mature very quickly." She graduated from La Puente High School, where she saw a lack of support for those wishing to continue their education, including a guidance counselor who told her mother that "Your daughter is not college material. Maybe she should follow the career of her older sister and become a secretary." However, another counselor did encourage her to attend college, and even went to her house to help her fill out an application. She took her younger sisters to the library to get them to follow her lead.

She was the first of her family to go to college, being accepted into the Educational Opportunity Program (which assists low-income, first-generation college students) at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) and paying for it with the help of government grants and part-time jobs. She graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. She then earned a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Southern California in 1981.


Hilda Solis, official photo portrait, color
Solis official portrait, as it appeared on her Congressional website in 2003

Solis was elected to the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees in 1985, the California State Assembly in 1992, and the California State Senate in 1994. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the State Senate, and was reelected there in 1998. Solis sought to pass environmental justice legislation. She was the first female recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000.

Solis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, where she focused mainly on labor causes and environmental work. She was reelected easily to four subsequent terms. In December 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Solis as the next secretary of labor. She took office after being confirmed by the United States Senate in February 2009, becoming the first Latina to lead one of the United States federal executive departments. There she focused on workplace safety issues and on strengthening compliance with wage and hour laws. In January 2013, Solis stepped down from her post as Labor Secretary.

Returning to the area of her upbringing, in April 2014, Solis formally announced a campaign for a seat on the non-partisan Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Solis won the seat outright in a June 3 election and was sworn in on December 1. As Supervisor, Solis successfully lobbied the state to allocate funds for the Exide battery plant cleanup. One of her areas of responsibility was Downtown Los Angeles, where her main priority was dealing with gentrification and the lack of affordable housing. She was unopposed for re-election as Supervisor, which took place in June 2018. She served one-year terms as county chair from 2015 to 2016 and again from 2020 to 2021.

Personal life

Solis is married to Sam H. Sayyad, who owns an automobile repair center in Irwindale, California. The couple lives in a modest house in El Monte, California, not far from where she grew up.

Awards and honors

As mentioned, in 2000, Solis was given the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

In 2010, Solis received the inaugural Robert P. Biller Award for Exemplary Public Service from the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning, and Development. The Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities named Solis as the recipient of its 2011 President's Award for Excellence. In 2012, Solis received the Champion for the Futures of Farmworker Children Award from the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. That same year, Solis was given a President's Award from an organization associated with California State University, Los Angeles. The Imagen Foundation honored Solis with its President's Award in 2016, with the presentation being done by the actress America Ferrara. In 2019, Solis received the Leadership Award at the annual American Latino Influencer Awards.

Solis gave the commencement address at Rio Hondo College in 2014, where she had once been on the board of trustees. In recognition of her long career in public service, she was in 2023 awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Several entities have been named after Solis. Beginning in the 1990s, the Hilda L. Solis Scholarship Dinner & Reception has been given annually by her alma mater, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a large number of students having benefitted from receiving scholarships. The Hilda L. Solis Care First Village is a set of housing units intended for the homeless that are put together using modular building techniques and located in Downtown Los Angeles. The Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy School of Technology, Business and Education is located in the general East Los Angeles area and is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In 2022, the White House appointed Solis to the Board of Trustees for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

See also

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