Thomas Perez (Thomas Edward Perez), an American politician, attorney, Chair of the Democratic National Committee since February 2017 was born on 7 October 1961. Perez, a civil-rights lawyer who served as deputy of the Clinton DOJ civil-rights division, has spent most of his career in government service enforcing anti-discrimination laws.
Perez has strong labor support and served as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) labor secretary from 2007 until 2009, when he was tapped for the Justice Department position. Thomas Perez, a longtime Takoma Park resident, also served on the Montgomery County Council and was the first Latino elected to the council. He has been the key official under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. handling civil rights cases, the centerpiece of what Holder hopes will be his legacy.
Thomas Edward Perez Full Biography
The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Thomas Edward Perez grew up in Buffalo where he learned the values of a union town: hard work, integrity, service, and perseverance. Having lost his father when he was 12, Tom understood early in life never to take a day for granted, and that urgency has driven him to spend his life in public service.
“The United States gave them my parents opportunities even though this was their adopted homeland. They would tell me how much they loved this country and how it was important for me to be involved.” – Thomas Edward Perez.
After high school, Tom put himself through college earning tuition money on the back of a garbage truck, went to law school, and started his career as a civil rights attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. There, he fought to protect and expand opportunity for all Americans. While prosecuting some of the Department’s most high-profile civil rights cases, Tom saw firsthand the effects of hate and bigotry, and he fought to ensure that our justice system held accountable those who would violate the civil and constitutional rights of their fellow Americans.
Later on, Thomas Perez was special counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy, advising him on civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional issues. He worked with Senator Kennedy to fight discriminatory laws like the Defense of Marriage Act. And as African-American churches were being burned to the ground in the late ‘90s, Tom and Senator Kennedy worked to pass the Church Arson Prevention Act, making it a federal crime to commit arson or vandalism against a place of worship.
Tom also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under Attorney General Janet Reno and led the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the end of the Clinton administration.
Tom returned to the Department of Justice in 2009 after President Obama was elected, serving as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Leading the Civil Rights division after the Bush administration had decimated it, Tom oversaw the effort to restore and expand the division’s achievements.
With his leadership, they successfully implemented:
- the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act;
- protected equal housing opportunity by pursuing and resolving the largest fair-lending cases in history;
- helped ensure schoolchildren are free from discrimination, bullying and harassment;
- dramatically expanded access to employment, housing and educational opportunities by fighting for people with disabilities;
- defended Americans’ right to vote free from discrimination;
- took record-setting efforts to ensure that communities have effective and accountable policing;
- safeguarded the employment, housing, fair lending and voting rights of service members
Thomas Edward Perez expanded the division’s partnerships, working across federal agencies to address shared challenges in human trafficking, employment discrimination and fair lending, among others.
Thomas Edward Perez’s also been a local leader and organizer, running and winning a seat on the Montgomery County Council. He was the first Latino elected to the council, serving from 2002 until 2006, and was Council president. He then served as Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
In 2002, Tom started as board president at CASA de Maryland, an organization that provides services to immigrants. Under his leadership, CASA experienced monumental growth – from the basement of a church to a $7M headquarters that opened without a lease – and grew from a service provider to one of the largest immigrant advocacy organizations in the country.
Tom received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1983. In 1987, he received a master’s of public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a law degree from Harvard Law School. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Ann Marie Staudenmaier, who is an attorney with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and their three children.
Thomas Edward Perez’s Record
Tom has never hesitated to take on a fight. He’s stood up for our progressive values his entire career, from his time on the Montgomery County Council to his years leading the U.S. Department of Labor. And as DNC Chair, Tom will continue to get things done. He’ll make the DNC an all-day, every-day, year-round organization to support our state parties, reach out to voters in every zip code and grow from the grassroots up.
- In 2002, Tom ran for a seat on the Montgomery County Council and won, becoming the first Latino elected to the Council and later served as its President.
- Tom led an initiative to let Montgomery County residents buy cheaper prescription drugs.
- Years before the housing crisis, Tom introduced and passed a bill to combat predatory lending and housing discrimination, a bill the Bush administration opposed.
- Over intense opposition, Tom supported a law banning discrimination against transgender people in Montgomery County.
- Tom stood up for working families in Montgomery County and fought for affordable housing.
- And Tom worked to improve literacy and immigration programs in Montgomery County.
Maryland Labor Secretary
- As Maryland’s Labor Secretary, Tom fought wage theft by focusing on worker misclassification.
- Tom hired more health and safety inspectors to keep Maryland workers out of hazardous workplace conditions.
- And Tom helped push for Maryland’s living wage initiative, the first in the country.
- Tom fought the immigrant “brain waste,” helping consolidate adult education and workforce development under Maryland’s Department of Labor to support programs focused on improving the language skills of immigrant professionals.
- And Tom co-chaired Maryland’s Homeownership Preservation Task Force in 2007, calling for tougher mortgage laws, more outreach and emergency funds for families having a hard time keeping their homes.
CASA de Maryland
- As Board President of Casa de Maryland, Tom grew the group, expanding it to an immigration advocacy organization.
- Tom helped Casa improve the lives of immigrants by establishing services for day laborers and vocational training at community colleges.
- As a career attorney in the Justice Department, Tom prosecuted a gang of white supremacists in Texas who went on a shooting spree, trying to start a race war.
- Later, Tom worked with Senator Kennedy as a special counsel and developed laws which ultimately expanded hate crime protections to include the LGBT community and violence against women.
- And Tom worked with Senator Kennedy to pass the Church Arson Prevention Act making destroying religious property because of race, color or ethnicity easier to prosecute as a federal crime.
- While running the Office of Civil Rights at Health and Human Services, Tom worked to end racial and ethnic disparities in health care, including pursuing a case against a hospital segregating their maternity ward by race.
- Tom took over a Civil Rights Division that had been “decimated” by the Bush administration and turned it around.
While Tom led the Civil Rights Division, it set a record for opening investigations into sheriff and police department conduct.
- Under Tom’s leadership, the Civil Rights Division successfully prosecuted the first cases under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
- With Tom at the helm, the Civil Rights Division stood up against religious discrimination.
- And Tom’s first congressional testimony after becoming Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights was supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which outlawed discrimination in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- The Civil Rights Division under Tom protected students from bullying and harassment based on their race, gender, and sexual orientation. And Tom stood up to make sure LGBT youth know It Gets Better.
- Tom sued Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio for discriminating against Latinos.
- And Tom worked with his colleagues at DOJ to challenge Arizona’s discriminatory immigration law, SB 1070, all the way to the Supreme Court. He did the same with Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, HB 56.
- Tom worked to end human trafficking as part of the Worker Exploitation Task Force when he was an attorney at the Justice Department and set records of enforcement when he was leading the Civil Rights Division.
- Tom challenged discriminatory voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina, laws which unjustly targeted minority voters.
- Tom went after the big banks for racial discrimination and foreclosing on active-duty service members and got the largest fair-lending housing settlements ever.
- And Tom stood up for medical professionals and their patients by increasing enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
- When Tom was nominated for Labor Secretary, he had to overcome a 4-month, republican-led Senate filibuster and was confirmed without a single republican vote.
- At Labor, Tom leads a complex organization with over 17,000 employees, a multi-billion dollar budget and a presence in every state and three territories.
- Tom expanded the overtime rule, guaranteeing workers earning less than $47,476 had the right to be paid for their additional work.
- He aggressively combated worker misclassification, the unfair practice of classifying employees as independent contractors to cut costs and deprive them of wages and benefits. In 2016 alone, Labor collected $266 million in back pay owed to workers.
- After two weeks of negotiations, Tom helped resolve the Verizon strike with an agreement that included protections for Verizon’s retail workers, a victory for hardworking employees often left out from benefits.
- Tom led on leave and expanded paid sick leave so workers don’t have to choose between the jobs they need and the families they love.
- He helped West Coast port workers and their employer reach an agreement in 2015 after months of protracted negotiations.
- Tom set a target goal for federal contractors’ work forces have at least 7 percent of their employees be people with disabilities and 8 percent be veterans.
- Under his leadership, Labor expanded apprenticeships, creating more than 125,000 since 2014 to help Americans gain the skills and training they need to land good-paying jobs.
- And Tom made sure Americans with disabilities are integrated into communities with the access they need.
- Tom issued a new rule to protect workers across industries like construction and manufacturing from being exposed to dangerous levels of harmful silica dust, known to cause disease and cancer.
- He raised the minimum wage and extended overtime protections for home health care workers, impacting nearly 2 million workers.
- And Tom stood up for workers, issuing a rule requiring companies to disclose how much they spend combating union organizing efforts.
- Tom played a key role in ensuring companies with federal contracts pay their contract workers a minimum wage and provide paid sick leave.
- With Tom’s leadership, the Labor Department issued a conflict of interest rule forcing retirement advisors to put their clients’ best interest ahead of their own, potentially saving Americans billions of dollars per year.
Tom Perez is a proven leader who has spent his life standing up for progressive values and making real change happen at the local, statewide, and national levels.
- Thomas Edward Perez Biography and Profile (Thomas Edward Perez / Goodreadbiography)