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M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor

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Labor Department

M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor

Smith oversees enforcement of rules covering wages, working conditions, employment opportunities, and retirement security for hundreds of thousands of workers. Before assuming the department's No. 3-ranked post in March 2010, she was already widely known for her work as New York state's commissioner of labor. A New York Times editorial in 2009 declared that if anyone could reenergize the Labor Department amid rising unemployment and rampant violations of workers' rights, "it would be Ms. Smith." In her philosophy, government enforcement is not about playing "gotcha" with employers. Rather, it's about making the worker protections on the books a reality, and leveling the playing field for employers who play by the rules. Smith's activities have included targeting misclassification of employees as independent contractors, in order to protect their rights to unemployment insurance and overtime pay. The department also helped to secure convictions after the 2010 disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va. A graduate of Trinity College in Washington, Smith, 60, also received a law degree from New York University. She grew up in a military family, citing Texas as one state in which she lived. Smith held other New York state posts tied to labor-law enforcement and litigation before she became labor commissioner there.

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