Hilda Solis Archives - Shopfloor

Knock It Off With the ‘Black Shirt’ Stuff, Mr. Vice President

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

We took Vice President Joe Biden to task in 2009 when he use the term “black shirts” to refer to Bush Administration officials that oversaw labor issues. They weren’t impartial referees wearing striped shirts, Biden told labor audiences, they were wearing “black shirts.” (Shopfloor, “‘Black Shirts’ – Just Words or Scripted Talking Points for VP Biden?
 and “Card Check: Vice President Biden Calls Somebody ‘Black Shirts’.”)

The term black shirt has an ugly history and its use, however innocently, in a political context suggests you view your critics as fascists.

Since the summer of 2009, we hadn’t heard the Vice President utter the “black shirt” slur again — until last evening on the AFL-CIO sponsored telephone call with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Richard Trumka, the union president. There it was again, thrown out amid a wide range of over-the-top comments and pro-labor exhortations. (Audio)

Thankfully, we were not the only one to notice the return of the black shirts. Michael Gonzalez writes today at National Review Online’s The Corner blog, “No ‘Biden Will Be Biden’ Free Pass for the Veep“:

[Biden] says that the people who worked at the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board during the Bush administration were “wearing black shirts.”

Whatever was the vice president referring to? We’ve asked his office for a clarification, but have received no response in the past four hours. His office owes those people either an explanation or an apology, lest they believe that a sitting vice president of the United States meant to compare the people who worked in the last administration to Benito Mussolini’s paramilitary brutes….

There is a regretful tendency in Washington to dismiss what the vice president says with a shrug and say, “Biden will be Biden.” But Mr. Biden is not some loveable if overeager golden retriever who will overturn the china from time to time or do something worse to the carpet. He’s our vice president, and some decorum should be expected.

Absolutely right. After all the lectures on rhetorical tone and “civility,” it’s galling to hear the Vice President of the United States of America use such inflammatory terms for people who just disagree with him. Please referee your rhetoric and hang up the black shirts, Mr. Vice President.

It’s Secretary of Labor, Not Secretary FOR Labor

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

Washington Examiner editorial, “It’s time for Labor Secretary Solis to go,” following her inflammatory remarks at last weekend’s meeting of the Democratic National Committee:

Nothing wrong with Solis speaking at the DNC, of course, as she is a former Democratic representative from a California district. The problem is that her DNC remarks made clear that Solis labors under the flawed assumption that she represents only the steadily dwindling sliver of the American work force that is still unionized. As a result, Solis is leaving the other 90 percent of American workers high and dry.

Here’s the key passage from Solis’ remarks at the DNC on public employee protests in Wisconsin and Ohio that points to her fractured understanding of whom she represents: “The fight is on. We work together. We help those embattled states right now where public employees are under assault.” She called members of the protesting public employee unions “our brothers and sisters” and pledged to help them against Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio. With those remarks, Solis effectively put the federal government in the de facto position of aiding protesters opposing governors doing what they were elected to do less than five months ago.

The Examiner also publishes a special report today with two commentaries on organized labor.

UPDATE (4:55 p.m.): More labor agitation from the Secretary, reported by The Examiner’s Byron York.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis took part in a Communications Workers of America conference call Wednesday night in which she expressed her strong support for unions fighting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget.  “Let’s keep fighting,” Solis told CWA president Larry Cohen and thousands of CWA shop stewards listening to the call…

On more than one occasion, Solis referred to herself as part of the pro-union, anti-Walker cause.  “I say let’s keep fighting,” Solis said, “let’s stand up for all workers, and let’s mobilize and do what we do best, and that is to make sure that the American public understands that union rights are no different from human rights.”

The audio is here, courtesy of the Communications Workers of America, which trumpeted the call here.

Labor Secretary Solis: ‘The fight is on!’ Against Whom, Exactly?

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

The taxpayers of Wisconsin? Governors and legislators who seek to balance their state budgets? People who disagree with lawmakers who flee their responsibilities as elected officials?

Byron York, Washington Examiner, “Labor secretary steps out in Wisconsin union fight“:

President Obama is staying mostly quiet about the union battle going on in Wisconsin. His labor secretary, Hilda Solis, is not.

“The fight is on!” Solis told a cheering crowd at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting over the weekend in Washington. Giving her support to “our brothers and sisters in public employee unions,” Solis pledged aid to unionized workers who are “under assault” in Wisconsin and elsewhere….

But is it the role of the secretary of labor to take sides in a fight that pits public employee union members against workers and taxpayers who support Walker’s reforms? After all, the Labor Department mission statement says its purpose is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States.” It doesn’t say anything about unionized wage earners, job seekers, and retirees.

Guess we now have a good idea of what Vice President Biden, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka were chatting about last week in their White House get together: Messaging.

More …

Do we understand, then, Secretary Solis, that the Administration will now push for collective bargaining for federal employees? If it’s a right …

VP Biden, Labor Secretary Solis to Meet with AFL-CIO’s Trumka

By | Economy, Labor Unions | No Comments

From The Los Angeles Times“:

Public schedule of Vice President Joe Biden for Thursday, Feb. 24:

At 10:45 AM, the Vice President and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will meet with President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka and with presidents of AFL-CIO labor organizations.

Here’s a good conversation starter, discussing this statement: “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

That’s George Meany, former head of the AFL-CIO.

Meany’s comments were backed up by the advice in 1959 from AFL-CIO’s Executive Council: “In terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress—a right available to every citizen.”

Odd timing for a meeting. It almost looks like counter-programming from the White House, as the President later today convenes the first meeting of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Oh, wait, Trumka’s on the council.

Here are a few questions reporters might pose to him in conjunction with this afternoon’s public meeting: “The AFL-CIO’s affiliate in Madison, Wisc., has endorsed calling a general strike if the Gov. Scott Walker’s budget and collective bargaining bill passes. Do you support a general strike? Did you think a general strike would improve America’s global competitiveness and standing in the eyes of employers as a good place to do business?”

More from James Sherk at the Heritage Foundation, who supplied the Meany quotes.

Secretary Solis, Tell Us About the Contingency Attorneys

By | Briefly Legal, Human Resources | No Comments

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis testifies Wednesday before the House Education and Workforce Committee, a hearing entitled “Policies and Priorities at the U.S. Department of Labor.”

One useful line of inquiry might pursue the Department of Labor’s deal with the American Bar Association to farm out employee complaints that come to the Department to contingency-fee attorneys. Questions might include:

  • President Obama has left in force President Bush’s Executive Order No. 13433, “Protecting American Taxpayers From Payment of Contingency Fees.” That order specified that “no agency shall enter into a contingency fee agreement for legal or expert witness services.” Can you please explain to me why this new arrangement does not violate that executive order. Should the president repeal that executive order?
  • Explain, if you would, how exactly the attorneys are selected for this referral service. What percentage fee of the awards will the attorneys be working for?  Please provide me a list of the attorneys who are serving in this capacity. Do you intend for their arrangements with clients to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act?
  • How does it improve the business climate or encourage employers to hire new workers if the Department of Labor refers lawsuits against business to outside, contingency-fee attorneys? Can you understand why employers might be upset that your agency is serving as a referral service for trial lawyers?

We wrote about the White House’s embrace of this trial lawyer referral service last week in two posts, “What about the Executive Order Barring Contingency Fee Lawyers?” and “Department of Labor: Working the Phones for Contingency Lawyers.”

The Senate Returns With a Choice: Jobs or Paycheck Fairness Act?

By | Briefly Legal, Human Resources, Labor Unions | 4 Comments

From today’s Congressional Record, Daily Digest, noting the Senate’s convening at 9:30 a.m.:

Program for Wednesday: After the transaction of any morning business (not to extend beyond 11 a.m.), Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 3772, Paycheck Fairness Act, and if cloture is not invoked again, Senate will proceed to a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 510, FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

Shopfloor has had offered several posts lately on the substantial flaws with the Paycheck Fairness Act, starting with its imposition of a second-guessing federal government and cash-seeking trial lawyers in the place of employers in making management decisions. Politically, the legislation always seemed like a pre-election move to motivate campaign workers and contributors in organized labor and other activist agglomerations.

Now a Senate vote must be taken to meet those political commitments, and there’s the minimal amount of work being done to demonstrate half-seriousness of intent. The White House gave Labor Secretary Hilda Solis the go-ahead to give a rare  interview in the mainstream media — a brief segment in Marketplace Radio — and there’s a White House blog post by Terrell McSweeny, domestic policy adviser to the Vice President. Not the big political guns, to say the least.
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Labor Secretary Solis Begrudges the Progress Toward Safety!

By | Human Resources, Labor Unions | One Comment

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released data this week that show that workplace injuries and illnesses continued to drop last year. Last year saw some 400,000 fewer workplace injuries than the year before. We know many folks may say that this decrease may be the result of continued low employment that’s a result of our current economic situation (and failed federal policies that don’t support job growth!) But, the reality is the overall rate of injuries has also dropped from 3.9 cases per 100 full time workers to 3.6. This number shows that the ratio of individuals getting hurt at work is declining.

Now, there are many reasons for this improvement, but the fact is, these numbers have been steadily improving for quite some time now, and the trend is largely due to employers continuing to find new ways to make workplaces safer.

One would think that the Secretary of Labor would acknowledge this greater commitment to safety demonstrated by both private sector employers AND their employees. Unfortunately, in her statement accompanying the release, Secretary Solis leaves the impression she thinks that employers are juking the stats.

Complete and accurate workplace injury records can serve as the basis for employer programs to investigate injuries and prevent future occurrences. Most employers understand this and do their best to prevent worker injuries, but some do not. … We are concerned about the widespread existence of programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries, and we will continue to issue citations and penalties to employers that intentionally under-report workplace injuries.”

The NAM strongly supports the use of sound science and data in the development of regulations and standards (in fact it’s in our official policy positions), and the Department certainty should have the most reliable data possible to help agency leaders develop better policies.

We are also well aware that the agency has engaged in an expensive and time-consuming effort using OSHA resources to ferret out employers who have not kept their OSHA logs properly. While we look to the results of these programs, it just seems irresponsible to suggest that workplace safety improvements are not the product of safe work practices but the result of rigged data.

Ultimately, Solis and the Labor Department have gone out of their way to use a news release noting improvements in safety to suggest employers aren’t committed to safety. It’s ideology trumping reality.

Labor Day: Competitiveness IS Pro-Worker

By | Economy, Human Resources, Labor Unions | No Comments

August unemployment figures will be released Friday, with the expected 9.5 or 9.6 percent national jobless rate punctuating the importance of jobs and the economy just in time for the Labor Day holiday. Yet, in attempting to shape the Labor Day news coverage, the Obama Administration is promoting its successes (such as they are) in having government direct economic activity, while organized labor is just calling for more political activism.

They’re both missing the mark: What’s needed to encourage jobs growth are policies that make the United States more globally competitive while ending the uncertainty that keeps employers from hiring more workers. The NAM’s recent “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America” laid out those necessary policies, and our new “Labor Day 2010” report put them in context of employment and the economy. These are substantive documents, if we do say so ourselves.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis issued a statement via video that talks about jobs, but mostly offers examples of government intervention rather than a clear strategy for job creation. The statement will be even more underwhelming when the Bureau of Labor statistics announces the unemployment tomorrow.

Meanwhile, labor leaders are using the week to issue a political call to action, urging union members to mobilize in advance of the midterm elections. Union bosses are rightfully nervous that their allies in Washington  – those who have embraced labor’s anti-competitive program — are facing serious threats to their re-elections. Materials distributed by the AFL-CIO again make vague statements of support for anti-worker proposals like the Employee Free Choice Act.

We hope that all policymakers and candidates take the opportunity this Labor Day weekend to not only read the NAM’s Labor Day Report but also declare their opposition to card check legislation in any form. For jobs and the American worker, it’s time to focus on competitiveness, not proposals that would only worsen employer-employee relations.

Contradictions: Labor Secretary Promotes Job Killing Legislation

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

In recognizing the 75th anniversary of the National Labor Relations Act at the Huffington Post, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis gave a plug for organized labor’s highest priority: the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s troubling to see the Secretary of Labor — whose mission is to administer our nation’s employment laws and foster an environment that supports employers’ jobs creation – advocating a proposal that will kill hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

The Secretary writes that she and President Obama support the proposal “so workers can form unions if they choose to without fear or pressure.” But this misguided legislation does just the opposite. By effectively eliminating secret ballot union elections the legislation would only expose employees to greater pressure and intimidation when making the important decisions about forming a union.

We observe that the Secretary uses the popular political cliché of “leveling the playing field.” However, this legislation would acutely tilt the careful balance of fairness upon which our labor laws are based.

We do agree with one point that the Secretary makes: “As we work together to overcome our own Great Recession we need strategies that create Good Jobs.” However, none of the proposals she outlines would either create or help retain jobs.

Health Care: It’s a Big Law, So Reasonable Leeway, Please

By | Health Care, Regulations | No Comments

The National Association of Manufacturers has joined a dozen other business associations in asking Administration agencies to apply reasonable standards as they establish rules and compliance requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

On April 30, the group sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis making the request.

As Neil Trautwein of the National Retail Federation told Bloomberg: ““We’ve got a lot of existing and new costs to manage and face a lot of uncertainty over whether the health-care law will actually lower health-care costs. It’s not really a good idea to swamp the business community when we’re still struggling to get off the mat from the last recession.”

From the letter:

We recognize that the appropriate federal agencies are working diligently to quickly issue rules on many of the reforms in advance of their effective dates. However, given the September effective dates for the near-term requirements (e.g., no lifetime or annual limits, bans on cost-sharing for preventive services, dependent coverage changes, etc.) employers and health plans will be making coverage and policy decisions either in the absence of final regulations or with little time between the issuance of rules and the effective date of the new law. These changes include policy and contract revisions, IT system upgrades, modifications to employee benefit and marketing materials and development of employee and customer communications, just to name a few.

Given the amount of changes required, the uncertainty regarding the content of many pending rules, and the short time frame, we respectfully request that the applicable federal agencies provide affected entities with a good faith compliance standard as proposed in the attached document entitled, “Transition Period and Good Faith Compliance Standard under the PPACA Regulations.” We feel this standard, similar to those issued in the past, will provide the compliance environment to allow us to move forward in a spirit of partnership while we implement the numerous provisions of the law.

The full attachment is available here.