From Augusta to Arizona, the Right Message

By April 15, 2007Economy, Labor Unions

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has been on the road lately and in her appearances, hitting themes of critical importance to manufacturers in the United States. In appearances Friday in Scottsdale, AZ, she sharply criticized the anti-democratic Employee Free Choice Act for robbing workers of the protections of the private ballot. To the National Association of Hispanic Publications, she also stressed the value of training programs for the next generation of employees.

During the next decade, she said, 1.8 million jobs will open in the United States in the building trades, 700,000 in vehicle repair, 1.3 million for computer specialists, 3.5 million in education and library occupations, 2.1 million in business and financial operations, and 4.9 million in health care.

“Two-thirds of all the new jobs being created require higher skills and more education,” she said. “By definition, these jobs pay above average wages, but workers will require post-secondary education to access these opportunities.”

She said there is a mismatch between the skills required for the new jobs and the skills of some workers, a gap the department is trying to close with its training programs.

“What we are seeing is not so much a wage gap in our country as a skills gap,” she said.

A day earlier, in Maine, she laid out the pernicious nature of the Employee Free Choice Act.

“Although this title sounds empowering, the bill does just the opposite,” Chao said. “It effectively takes away a worker’s right to vote in a private-ballot election. Under the card check process, it is possible that nearly half the workers in a workplace might not even be aware that a union-organizing campaign is going on.”

Chao said the bill also would have the government force a two-year labor contract on workers and employers if a contract was not agreed to within a congressionally set timetable.

“Workers would not have any right to ratify, or not ratify, the contract,” Chao said.

You are hitting all the right points, Madam Secretary. The deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act is a direct assault on the employee, and the “skills gap” is a major concern of manufacturers, a threat to this country’s economic growth. Thank you for keeping these points in the public eye.