Did WaPo Tell a Tall Tale About the Labor Secretary's Childhood in 'Kids Post'?

It might seem natural that on Labor Day weekend, The Washington Post would offer a profile of the Labor Secretary in their Sunday "Kids Post" section. Next to a large picture of Hilda Solis holding a doll from Central America she keeps in her office, the headline was "Secretary of Hard Work: Hilda Solis has been working since she was 10. Her main job now is helping other people find employment."

Here's what's unnatural. While working in details like her collection of dolls from all over the world and photos of the red,white, and blue M&Ms on her desk, the "Kids Post" profile never mentions how the employment picture is doing under Solis and President Obama. Here's another problem: the Post seems to have misled the children about her upbringing.

The story began by noting that Solis loves dolls, and her mother worked in a Barbie doll factory, but that mean that at 10, she had to help care for her infant twin sisters:

When Hilda Solis was 10 years old, her mother worked in a factory that made Barbie dolls, and she would bring them home. “I love dolls,” Solis said. “When I was a kid I had, like, every Barbie doll.”

But her mother’s job had a down side, too: It meant Hilda had to help care for her infant twin sisters. “We had to cook, clean. You wouldn’t believe, back then we had to wash diapers. Rows and rows of diapers,” she said of the work that she and her older sister did. “I had to grow up fast.”

But wait: if Solis had to care for infant twin sister while her mother worked at Mattel, why did she say this on the House floor in 2006 to honor her mother's 80th birthday? "When the youngest of her children turned 5, my mom began work at Mattel Inc. After 22 years of service, Juana retired from her job as an assembler."  The Post's gooey profile continued:

Solis hasn’t stopped working. She got her first paying job at age 14, in a youth center, and worked through high school, becoming the first member of her family to go to college.

All that hard work gives her an appreciation for Labor Day, which is tomorrow, and honors all that workers have done for the country. It’s an especially important day for Solis, now 53, because she is the Secretary of Labor.

Solis runs the Department of Labor, the government agency with 15,000 employees that is responsible for protecting U.S. workers and helping to create jobs for people who need them. She is also a member of PresidentObama’s cabinet, which is a small group of people whose job it is to advise the president on specific issues.

“It is a joy,” she said of her job. “I love helping people.”

And it certainly beats washing diapers.

Writer Margaret Webb Presser touted how Solis learned social justice from her father:

Solis’s father, who had grown up in Mexico, worked in a battery recycling plant where he was a labor leader; that is, he helped workers at the plant get better pay and safer working conditions. Solis’s father told her to get a jgovernment job.

“He knew if you got a good job in government, you’d have a good salary, benefits and [insurance to pay for medical care],” she said...

Solis has devoted herself to environmental and labor issues for much of her career. As Labor Secretary, she also feels strongly about kids’ issues, including promoting job programs for teenagers and helping other countries find ways to keep the youngest kids in school. In the United States, there are laws that limit the work children can do. But in some of the world’s poorest nations, even the youngest kids work with their parents in fields or factories.

“It’s better . . . that these children are fed and educated and have other skills,” Solis said. “I know the importance of that.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis