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Obama taps Justice Dep't official as next labor secretary


President Barack Obama formally nominated Thomas Perez on Monday to become his next secretary of labor, calling on the Senate to swiftly confirm the Justice Department official.

Obama introduced Perez, an assistant U.S. Attorney General, at the White House this morning. Perez would be the only Latino member of Obama's second-term cabinet, replacing another prominent Latina, outgoing Secretary Hilda Solis.

President Barack Obama announces that Tom Perez is his choice to become the next U.S. secretary of labor. Perez has served as head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

"His story reminds us of this country's promise," the president said of his nominee. "Tom's made protecting that promise for everybody the cause of his life."

"Tom's knowledge and experience will make him an outstanding secretary of Labor, and there's plenty of work to do," Obama added.

Labor relations have sometimes been a point of contention between the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers during the president's first term. The GOP dug in against the Employee Free Choice Act, a collective bargaining reform favored by organized labor and labeled as "card check" by detractors. And the president's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board have prompted court challenges.

Obama's pick won hearty praise from the labor community.

"President Obama has made an excellent choice in nominating Thomas Perez to lead the U.S. Department of Labor," said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "During his time as Labor Secretary in Maryland, Mr. Perez’s had a strong record of enforcing labor laws, especially wage and hour and other violations that stood in the way of workers earning a fair wage. Enforcing these labor laws help to close the income gap between the wealthy and everyone else."

In his own remarks, Perez emphasized his interest in speaking to Republican and Democratic senators alike as part of the confirmation process.