The Confirmation Hearing for Labor Secretary

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) has just given her opening statement at her Senate HELP Committee confirmation hearing (which is being broadcast online). A good statement, uncontroversial, a typical expression of principles and good will that you hear at confirmation hearings.

Senator Isakson (R-GA) raised the Employee Free Choice Act in his opening statement, and we expect card check to be a major issue during the questioning. Solis has been a cosponsor and strong supporter, so this editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal is well worth noting, “Secrets of Solis“:

Before she was elected to Congress in 2000, Ms. Solis was a member of the California legislature. In the late 1990s, she led a fight on behalf of organized labor to retain overtime for more than eight hours of work a day. As part of that tussle, Ms. Solis wrote legislation that set out the procedures by which companies and employees could agree to “alternative workweek schedules” that might avoid overtime pay. (As an example, a worker might choose to do his 40 hours by putting in four, 10-hour days.) The bill also set out procedures by which workers might repeal an existing alternative workweek schedule.

The details are complex, but on one point Ms. Solis’s bill is very clear: “Only secret ballots may be cast by affected employees at any election held pursuant” to these procedures. Now, this is interesting. Why secret ballots in this instance? Presumably because she didn’t want workers to feel intimidated by management into agreeing to a flexible work arrangement without overtime pay, or to be worried about retribution should they opt out of such an arrangement. Unless we’re missing something, these are the same workers who would be subject to the tender public persuasion and potential retribution of union organizers or colleagues under “card check.”

UPDATE: (10:50 a.m.): As is often the case  in confirmation hearings for potentially controversial nominees or positions,  Rep. Solis is not providing any substantive answers to probing questions. On card check and right to work she has deflected, offering the typical, “I look forward to discussing this issue with your further.” To be expected, completely understandable from the soon-to-be Obama Administration, but frustrating.

And now, Senator Barbara Milkuski (D-MD) just praised Solis’ for her restraint in answering questions.

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