“Perez’s story reminds us of this country’s promise: that if you are willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is—you can make it if you try. And Tom has made protecting that promise for everybody the cause of his life,” said President Barack Obama during an announcement from the East Room of the White House on March 18, nominating former UM Carey Law faculty member Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor.
Assuming Perez is confirmed, he will bring to the post decades of public policy experience, a lifetime of public service, and a passion for labor and health care law.
“It is a remarkably humbling and exciting phenomenon to be here today. My parents taught my four siblings and me to work hard, to give back to our community, and to make sure that the ladder of opportunity was there for those coming after us,” said Perez during the Monday morning announcement. “I look forward to taking these lessons with me if confirmed to my new role as secretary of the Department of Labor.”
A faculty member from 2001 to 2007, Perez taught in the Law & Health Care Program and was a director of the Clinical Law Program; he published works such as Enhancing Access to Health Care and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Status: A Compelling Case for Health Professions Schools to Implement Race-Conscious Admissions Policies. During that time, he also was the first Latino to win a seat on the Montgomery County Council, eventually becoming president.
“His work as a member of Maryland Carey Law was always held in the highest regard, said Dean Phoebe Haddon. “We have no doubt he will succeed as US Secretary of Labor. We are very proud that he was part of our academic community.”
Perez left the law school in 2007 to serve as Maryland’s labor secretary and is currently the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as the director of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services under the last two years of the Clinton administration.
If confirmed, Perez, 51, would replace Hilda L. Solis, who announced her resignation in January. The new Secretary of Labor may play a significant role in immigration reform efforts.
Perez holds a Bachelor's degree from Brown University, a Master's of Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.