Obama taps civil rights lawyer as labor secretary

US President Barack Obama on Monday named Tom Perez, the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, to the post of labor secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, Perez will replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January at the start of Obama's second term.

"Tom's knowledge and experience will make him an outstanding secretary of labor. And there's plenty of work to do," Obama said.

Perez, 51, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic who worked his way through Harvard Law school, served as assistant attorney general in charge of civil rights during Obama's first term.

Prior to his work at the Justice Department, Perez served as the Secretary of Maryland's Department of Labor, where he focused on protecting consumer and worker rights.

"He's worked with CEOs, labor leaders, he's worked at federal, state and local government levels," Obama said, adding that Perez understood the importance of middle class job security to the US economy.

Perez, alternating between English and Spanish, thanked Obama for showing confidence in him and stressed "the Labor Department's key role protecting and growing the middle class."

His nomination is the latest in a series as Obama puts together his second term cabinet. Obama urged the Senate to move quickly on his confirmation.