Tag: Hilda Solis

Don’t be Fooled: EFCA’s Still a Priority

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said last week that controversial “card check” legislation will not be brought up in the Senate this year.

From The Hill, McCaskill: ‘Card-check’ legislation not going to come up in Senate“:

“I don’t think that card-check is going to come up,” McCaskill said during a weekly conference call with Missouri journalists. “It has not come up, and believe me: If card-check, the way it was drafted, was going to come up, it probably would have come up early in 2009, as opposed to now.”

Employers should remain vigilant, however. Speaking to the California state Democratic Convention last weekend, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis reaffirmed the Administration’s support for passing Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Labor is definitely not giving up on enacting less-noticed but still damaging provisions of EFCA.

“McCaskill said that while senators were still negotiating the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a controversial bill to reform union organizing rules, it was unlikely to even include the actual ‘card-check’ provision itself, which has been the subject of heavy fire from conservatives and business groups. ‘I think there’s a lot of negotiation that’s going on about card-check,’ McCaskill said. ‘Businesses are at the table, and frankly I don’t think the card-checking part is the part that’s being discussed at this point; I think that’s been abandoned.’”

Though she may have ruled out “card check,” other dangerous elements of EFCA could still be on the table. These include binding arbitration provisions that would fundamentally change the collective bargaining process and lead to expanded government control of private-sector wages and benefits. (NAM ManuFact on EFCA.)

EFCA in any form would be detrimental to American manufacturers.

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Transformational, Indeed

Just as Easter is about resurrection, we will resurrect a labor board that fights for workers. That will lead to renewal of workers rights.

That’s Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, quoted in a Wall Street Journal post about a recess appointment of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, “Labor Officials Confident Union Lawyer Will Take NLRB Seat.”

The hyperbole captures Big Labor’s delight over signals from Vice President Biden and Labor Secretary Solis that President Obama will make a recess appointment of Becker during the Passover/Easter recess of Congress in April.

Take note of Wednesday, March 3, 2010. That’s the day the Obama Administration embraced both reconciliation and recess appointments to accomplish its goals, a concession to its political limits.

Earlier posts on Becker.

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NLRB Recess Appointment Would Tell Big Labor that Threats Work

From Associated Press, “Solis hints of recess appointment for labor board“:

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Obama administration is hinting at a possible recess appointment for a controversial nominee to the National Labor Relations Board.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told AFL-CIO officials at their annual meeting Wednesday there will soon be positive news on the long-stalled nomination of union lawyer Craig Becker.

Solis then told reporters the unions will be “very pleased” with how the issue is resolved.

Becker is associate counsel for the SEIU and AFL-CIO who has advocated eliminating any employer involvement — things like expressing an opinion — if a union tries to organize a business. Organized labor has pushed for his appointment to the NLRB with several union leaders saying the board could implement parts of the Employee Free Choice Act without Congressional action.

So, yes, labor would be very pleased. And the Big Labor bosses would conclude that political threats work. From the Feb. 19Wall Street Journal, “Unions Push White House to Appoint Becker“:

United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard also wanted a so-called recess appointment—which bypasses the requirement for Senate confirmation—for Mr. Becker, and warned Democrats Thursday that failure to move on labor priorities could cost them in the 2010 elections. “If we don’t get meaningful progress, it will be hard to get people out for the election,” Mr. Gerard said. “Lots of people who worked real hard in ’08 don’t have a job right now.”

A recess appointment could occur as early as the next Senate break, the Easter/Passover recess from April 6-17.

Earlier posts.

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Waning Union Membership Is No Reason to Pass Card Check Legislation

The Department of Labor today released its annual report on union membership. The data show that while the number of union members is dropping, so too is the proportion of union members in the workforce. The figures for private sector union membership in today’s report decreased from 7.6 percent in 2008 to 7.2 percent last year and down from 11.4 percent to 10.9 percent for the manufacturing workforce.

Is this trend one that should be countered by forcing more people into union membership? That seems to be the argument that Labor Secretary Hilda Solis derives from the new figures, in a statement calling for passage of the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). She says:

As workers across the country have seen their real and nominal wages decline as a result of the recession, these numbers show a need for Congress to pass legislation to level the playing field to enable more American workers to access the benefits of union membership. This report makes clear why the administration supports the Employee Free Choice Act.

It’s clear that union leaders and their allies are frustrated with the lack of progress to enact their agenda and the fact that fewer workers are choosing to join a union. However, that’s no cause to radically overhaul our labor law system at the expense of our economy and workers’ rights.

This renewed effort by labor leaders and the Administration to enact the jobs killing card check legislation is certainly cause for concern. While this legislation could reasonably be expected to reverse the downward trend of union membership, it comes with high price tag: it would result in the loss of 600,000 jobs in the first year alone. As policymakers turn their focus to job creation efforts, it is contradictory to advocate proposals that will instead destroy jobs – and force people into union membership against their will.

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Repealing Transparency at the Department of Labor

A new web memo from the Heritage Foundation charts the Department of Labor’s march in reverse on transparency requirements for labor unions. From “Decreasing Union Transparency: A Step Backward for Workers“:

President Obama campaigned on a platform of transparency and opposing special interest lobbyists. However, his DOL has violated both of those principles by revoking the improvements in union financial transparency that Secretary Chao implemented.

Union members deserve to know how their dues are spent. It protects them from corruption and allows them to hold their union accountable for bad decisions, such as the SEIU’s close relationship with the now-disgraced ACORN. Congress should act to protect workers if the President will not.

See also Mark Hemingway at The Washington Exmainer, citing how the reporting requirements gave members of Denver United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 enough information to inspire them to vote out their longstanding president, Ernie Duran, for nepotism and overspending.

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U.S. Manufacturing is Not Just Green Jobs, You Know

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis appeared Thursday on the public radio program, the Diane Rehm Show, interviewed by guest host Frank Sesno. The day’s economic news, a rise in the 3rd Quarter GDP, and unemployment were big topics.

The odd thing about the discussion was Secretary Solis’ overreliance on talking points about “green jobs,” hybrid vehicles and renewable energy. It sounded as if the Obama Administration thinks U.S. manufacturing should reorient itself to federally subsidized green jobs and nothing but.

There’s more to manufacturing!

Solis: [I] think there are going to be new opportunities too. For example, yesterday a visit I had in Las Vegas with Nevada Energy, through the smart grid we’re making moneys available, $138 million, to help jump start a new infrastructure there that will allow consumers in that state to be able to monitor and meter their use of energy, electricity, which means a great deal for Nevada because, you know, the extreme hot weather there during the summer and also right now as we get into winter, obviously cooling trends. But if people can have information to be available to know how they’re using, consuming energy and how they work to reduce those high costs themselves, that’s a big incentive for all of us.

Sesno: I want to talk more about the whole smart grid and green energy and all of that in a moment, but you mentioned Nevada. Nevada has been slammed, of course, because the property values there have just fallen through the floor, home sales have been stifled, and the tourism industry has taken a big hit because of the rest of the economy as well. So with that particular example, that money you were talking about, does that create in the short term more jobs for Nevada?

Solis: Well, it will, because there will be at least 200 jobs that will be created for individuals who’ll need to be trained in the reading of these new meters that are going to be ….

Sesno…That’s a start…

Solis …situated

Sesno: But that’s still a drop in the bucket

Solis: No. Well, it’s a start, but what happens is there’s additional retail activity that has to happen, or will happen, because people will be purchasing different pieces of equipment that you can attach to your refrigerator that will serve as a thermostat, and that will happen. There will be accountants that have to be hired. There will business managers, there will have to be warehouse people hired, people in trucking industry, they’ll have to help us transport.

We’ve transcribed more from the interview here.

Green jobs? Good. We like them. But they’re not a panacea, and judging from the examples Secretary Solis cited in the interview, the Administration seems to favor the green jobs that require heavy federal subsidies.

(Edited Saturday for grammar.)

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Workplace Safety Improves; Let’s Not Abandon Successful Approach

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics today released workplace safety statistics for 2008. (BLS release) The data highlight an important, positive development often overlooked by many policymakers – workplace injury and illness continue to significantly improve in both the private sector and more specifically in manufacturing. Overall in the private sector, we saw the most significant improvement with a 7.1 percent decrease in total recordable case rates; rates in manufacturing workplaces improved by 10.7 percent.

While no one factor completely explains this improvement, Members of Congress and Labor Department officials need to understand what’s working before they attempt to overhaul the current system. The leadership at the Labor Department has pledged a new emphasis on more aggressive enforcement and has questioned the effectiveness of non-punitive programs that assist employers to comply with existing standards.

In order to continue improving safety, policymakers should keep doing what works and that’s the cooperative approach that the OSHA has undertaken with employers. Proposals like the Protecting America’s Workers Act will create a more adversarial relationship while doing nothing to reinforce the successful work that’s already taken place.

UPDATE 3:23pm Labor Secretary Hilda Solis acknowledges the improvements, while continuing to stress the need for “strong enforcement.” Safety should be a top priority in every workplace and good injury data is essential, agreed, but we suspect any effort to validate recordkeeping will find the same improving trends among manufacturers.

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An Opportunity to Ask Labor Secretary Solis Questions

Diane Rehm is celebrating 30 years as host and executive producer of the Diane Rehm Show on local NPR station, WAMU.

And even though it’s a little odd to offer praise on a day a substitute is hosting her program, Ms. Rehm really does book excellent guests. Today, with Frank Sesno filling in, the program offers Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Margaret Atwood. Impressive.

Secretary Solis is on in the first hour, 10 a.m. If we had one question to pose to her it would be: Supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act say the legislation is necessary because the process of recognizing a union is broken and stacked against the workers. Yet unions have recently won two-thirds of workplace elections. (See this March 10 Shopfloor.post.) Doesn’t this fact undermine a core argument in favor of EFCA?

If we had a second question it would be: President Obama’s nominee to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, David Michaels, is very controversial for many reasons. including his views on the admissability of junk science into trials and his organization’s (SKAPP) close alignment with the interest of the trial lawyers. As an Assistant Secretary of Labor, he would work for you, and so here’s the question: Shouldn’t Michaels at least go before the Senate HELP Committee for a confirmation hearing to address these issues?

We offer them in sincere hopes of substantive policy discussions.

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Card Check: Creating Jobs by Destroying Them

We were pleased to hear that at the AFL-CIO’s Convention in Pittsburgh, PA today Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said that her goal as labor secretary is to “simply create good jobs for everyone.”

We stand ready to work with the Secretary to address the workforce needs of our economy. But in expressing support for the job-killing Employee Free Choice Act, Secretary Solis is offering the wrong policies to accomplish that goal.

The Secretary also expressed a commitment to the increasing enforcement actions by OSHA and the Wage and Hour Division. Manufacturers are dedicated to improving the safety of their workplace. Over the past decade, the safety rate in manufacturing workplace has improved by 46 percent through compliance assistance programs like VPPs and Alliances. OSHA enforcement is important. However, merely increasing enforcement, or making penalties higher, will not produce lasting improvements in workplace safety.

We hope that the Department of Labor will recognize “what’s working” in our current system, and support those programs rather than simply levying fines and citations for violations.

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Card Check: Punishing Enemies, Rewarding Friends

As noted yesterday, the incoming AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, is free with his threats. In prepared remarks for delivery to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, Trumka said, “Today, more than ever, we need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies, and challenges those who, well, can’t seem to decide which side they’re on.”

So what reception will the AFL-CIO offer when President Obama addresses its national convention in Pittsburgh on September 15? After all, the President has done no heavy lifting on behalf of organized labor’s top priority, the undemocratic and unpopular Employee Free Choice Act.

Well, in politics you don’t politically threaten — even obliquely — the President when you’ve invited him to address your national convention. And for all the disappointment over EFCA, the labor bosses have much to happy about. For example:

So lots to be happy about if you’re a Big Labor Boss, and we imagine the Pittsburgh welcome will be a warm one for President Obama. The threats? Trumka will just issue them to members of Congress.

P.S. The Truth About EFCA blog makes the obvious and necessary point about Trumka’s bullying: “If union officials will talk this openly about punishing people who disagree with them, why would we want to expose workers to intimidation by denying them a secret ballot vote when deciding whether to join a union?”

 

 

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