If confirmed as the next secretary of labor, Lynn Martin told the Senate Wednesday her top goals would be to improve job training, fight job discrimination and safeguard pension plans.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, predicted swift and easy confirmation for the former five-term House member from Illinois, who gave up her seat last year to unsuccessfully run for the Senate.Hatch told Martin as her confirmation hearing began, "Your intellect, energy and sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of America's working men and women will serve you well in this tremendous job."

Martin, 51, told the committee, "My parents both worked. I can remember my father talking about the Depression and how men cried when they felt their futures were over. I can remember my mother working during World War II in a bomber factory.

"I've listened to my father worrying about his company's pension plan and I can never forget my mother working in a department store, telling me they were saving money so I could go on to school.

"They were American workers - part of the best group in the world. If I am confirmed as Secretary of Labor, I will always remember it is their department."

Martin said her top priorities will be ensuring that $4.5 billion of job education and training programs annually are the most effective possible and "are directed to those who are least skilled and are the most disadvantaged."

She said a second priority will be "ensuring that our workers are as safe as possible, and that everyone has an equal opportunity to proceed" - including fighting job and promotion discrimination against women and minorities.

A third priority is for those workers who have retired. "Safeguarding retirement funds is foremost on my agenda to ensure the security at the end of our workers' continuum."

Martin was introduced by her home-state senators, Democrats Alan Dixon and Paul Simon. Ironically, Martin lost against Simon last year in a campaign for his Senate seat - about which she joked.

Talking of Simon, she said, "I know we share an abiding interest in the future of America's work force. Indeed if it were not for Sen. Simon, I would not be here today."