DOL Solicitor General Patricia Smith
Former State Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith, now the third highest ranking official at the U.S. Department of Labor, applauded unionists' efforts on behalf of oppressed workers, including immigrants and farmworkers.
Smith, the department's solicitor general, praised delegates for approving a special order of business condemning Arizona's immigration law.
"Because I am a New Yorker, I have a warm spot for immigrants," Smith said, calling immigrants both our history and our future.
In New York state, 26 percent of the workforce is made up of immigrants, Smith said. In New York City, immigrants represent 48 percent of the workforce.
"Immigrants are a resource — not the pariahs some people make them out to be," Smith said, to resounding applause.
She also urged NYSUT to keep up its efforts on behalf of farmworkers' rights.
Smith, who was confirmed by the Senate in February, said she and her new boss, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, strongly support efforts to target federal workforce development money to community colleges.
She said the labor department is also committed to boosting Career and Technical Education.