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Who Is Tom Perez, and What You Should Know About Him

May 31, 2016, 6:40 PM UTC
US Labor Secretary Tom Perez speaks as President Barack Obama listens during a town hall meeting at the Summit on Worker Voice at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Nicholas Kamm — AFP/Getty Images

A major labor clash was solved in principle last weekend, with striking workers from Verizon (VZ) coming to a tentative agreement with the telecommunications giant, ending a walkout that had lasted seven weeks.

Though the major presidential candidates have offered their opinions on the matter—with Bernie Sanders predictably coming out strongly for the strikers, Hillary Clinton splitting the difference, and Donald Trump doing his best to ignore the situation. But resolution of the strike could push another politician into the spotlight and possibly onto the ballot this fall—Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who helped resolve the strike over nearly two weeks of negotiations at the Department of Labor.

Perez has been discussed for months as a possible vice presidential pick for Clinton. And the positive press he is likely to gain for this achievement will only add to the chatter—especially among progressives, who could see the deal as a big victory for unions, an important moment in an era when the power of organized labor is generally seen as declining.

With that in mind, who exactly is Tom Perez?

Perez is a lawyer by training, a graduate of Harvard Law. He has devoted much of his career to civil rights, including a stint in the Department of Justice in the Civil Rights department. He also worked on civil rights issues at the Department of Health and Human Services during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Prior to taking his position atop the Labor Department, Perez was the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights during President Barack Obama’s first term.

It is easy to see why Perez could be an attractive VP pick for Clinton. He is Latino, which could encourage Hispanic voters get to the polls — though that could be less of an issue in this election, with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric already expected to boost turnout among Latino voters.

Perhaps more important, though, is the fact that Perez could satisfy both constituencies within the Democratic Party — moderate Democrats as well as the more progressive wing. His history of supporting labor and minorities through his work should help with progressives (not to mention the fact that he doesn’t have even a trace of Wall Street on him). And his tenure within the party and within government may help matters with traditional Democratic voters.

There are a lot of other names on the Clinton VP list — Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Tim Kaine are quite possibly being vetted right now. Perez’s success in navigating the Verizon deal, though, could make his star shine a little brighter.