Secretary of Labor Archives - Shopfloor

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.

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.

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

By | General | No Comments

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.

NLRB Recess Appointment Would Tell Big Labor that Threats Work

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

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.

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

By | Economy, Education and Training, Energy, Global Warming | No Comments

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.)

Card Check, Solis: It Doesn’t Take Away Power from Business

By | General | No Comments

Happened again up the June 30th Washington Post interview with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, part of the paper’s “Voices of Power,” series. The headline, “Solis Hopes to ‘Level the Playing Field’ for Unions.” The conversation seems relevant today since a score of union leaders are headed to the White House to meet with the President on health care. Will we get more of this kind of confusion?

Romano: Doesn’t the Employee Free Choice Act in fact take power away from the employer [and] give that power to the union organizers?

Solis: I don’t think that it takes away power from businesses.

Two words: Binding arbitration.

By definition, arbitration takes power away from the parties involved in the negotiations, but especially from the business side. Employers no longer decide the wages, benefits and workplace conditions; they are all determined by the third-party, ostensibly disinterested arbitrator.

Secretary Solis: “I don’t think that it takes power away from businesses.”

You would think an Obama Cabinet member would avoid bushwah.

Card Check: Barriers?

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

The Washington Post ran a piece today that focused on an interview with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. Of course, the most controversial labor issue was brought up: the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

The Secretary asserts that in “many cases, in many cases, workers have been disadvantaged.” She claims, “They’ve been intimidated, they’ve been harassed, and we have case after case after case that we can look at.”

She then makes an argument popular with organized labor, describing “barriers” that have been put in place “over the past few years”. Well, what precisely? Why wasn’t the Secretary pressed for specifics? One can only assume that she is referring to decisions of the National Labor Relations Board. The President has already nominated two individuals to the board who will significantly change the dynamics of the board for years to come.

If there are legitimate violations of the National Labor Relations Act, then let’s have the NLRB rule on them. If there are other barriers, let’s have the NLRB review them. Otherwise, let’s talk facts: Workers who wish to become union members are able to do so. Last year alone unions saw membership increase by 400,000, unions won 67% of the secret ballot elections and these elections took place 95% of the time within 56 days.

Now Confirmation Troubles for Solis?

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

Byron York at The Corner, National Review, “Daschle — And Solis, Too,” documenting troubles with the nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) to be Secretary of Labor:

Solis had a rough hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee when she declined to answer all sorts of seemingly noncontroversial questions about her positions on basic labor issues. (Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote a frustrated account of the hearing, asking, “How can senators consent if they have no clue what policies they might be consenting to?”) Now, some committee members want to know more about Solis’ relationship with a pro-labor group called American Rights at Work. On the group’s website, Solis is listed as a member of the board of directors, and she also served as Treasurer of the organization from 2004 to 2007. The question is whether Solis, who as a member of Congress is prohibited from lobbying Congress, fully disclosed her relationship with the group….[snip]

No one is accusing Solis of concealing her connection with the group; it was common knowledge in the labor world, and she listed it in the paperwork she submitted for her confirmation hearing. But she did not list it on the disclosure forms she was required to submit to the House of Representatives. It was an unpaid position, so there is no problem with income. But there are questions about whether Solis, as Treasurer, played a de facto role in the group’s lobbying activity; if you’re a member of Congress, you’re not supposed to simultaneously lobby Congress. (Solis has told the Senate that she did not take part in the group’s lobbying activities.) In any event, you’re required to list your affiliation on disclosure documents, which Solis did not do. (On January 29, she filed amended disclosure forms with the House, listing her association with the labor group.) Some Senate Republicans don’t view this as a major issue with the Solis nomination, but they do want to know more about her specific activities for American Rights at Work.

American Rights at Work. Now where have we heard of them before?

UPDATE (9:10 p.m.): AP’s account acknowledges the American Rights at Work issues but suggests they have been resolved.

Card Check: Here, Take Ledbetter Instead

By | General | 2 Comments

From the White House blog, Sunday, “Now Comes Lilly Ledbetter

President Obama has long championed this bill and Lilly Ledbetter’s cause, and by signing it into law, he will ensure that women like Ms. Ledbetter and other victims of pay discrimination can effectively challenge unequal pay.

Unfortunately, the Ledbetter bill (S. 181) does far more than “correct” the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, as we’ve documented at length at Shopfloor.

The White House website has so far offered little news or other interesting new information; by just being posted, the Ledbetter commentary represents a strong statement.

Senate Democratic leadership pushed through the Ledbetter bill last week, eschewing committee meetings and arranging the mostly partyline defeat of amendments to make the bill the true “narrow fix” of the court’s ruling, rather than an invitation to a flood a litigation.

Why such a push?

Organized labor rallied around the Ledbetter legislation in its campaigns against business and the U.S. Supreme Court last year, using it as an effective issue to mobilize political support with. After the Employee Free Choice Act, Ledbetter was one of the second, but still very high tier of issues for labor.

Democratic leaders in Congress (see comments by George Miller, Nancy Pelosi) are signaling that the Employee Free Choice Act has been put on the back burner. As Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports, “There is a bubbling concern among officials in the labor community that Barack Obama will not act on their most cherished legislative item within the next year.”

The White House is certainly not sending strong signals about the need for quick action on EFCA. Usually, when a nominee goes up to the Senate for a confirmation hearing, the candidate will have a good understanding of where the White House stands on key issues. Yet Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), nominated for Secretary of Labor, was unable to provide any clear response to Senators’ questions about the Employee Free Choice Act. (Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post had a good column on Solis’ difficulties, “Hearings and Evasions.“) We read that as an expression of internal White House disagreement…or uncertainty…or too many other things on the plate right now.

So no Employee Free Choice Act anytime soon. You can understand, then, the quick passage of the Ledbetter bill as a consolation prize for organized labor, as well as a political message: Hang in there with us.