President Obama will soon nominate Thomas Perez to be the next secretary of labor, according to a source familiar with the decision.
Perez, 51, is popular throughout the labor movement and earned prominence as Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's labor secretary. He also has strong backing in the West Wing and those close to the White House expect Perez to elevate the visibility of the Labor Department on a range of issues, if he is confirmed by the Senate.
Some Democrats look for the new labor secretary to intensify the White House push for an increase in the minimum wage. President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour by 2015, with automatic yearly inflation adjustments after that. The president first proposed the wage increase in his State of the Union address. The issue has received scant White House attention since then.
In his 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama promised to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011. His less-aggressive approach now has drawn some criticism on the left. Perez may breathe some life into the effort.
Perez is currently serving in the civil rights division of the Justice Department. He would replace Hilda Solis and satisfy requests from Latino groups for representation in Mr. Obama's second-term cabinet.
White House officials insisted the president had not formally decided on Perez, saying only he was the top contender. But a source with knowledge of the situation said Perez is the pick and will soon be formally named - and with strong backing from blue collar and service union leadership.