The nation’s financial sector has its billions in bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury, as do the nation’s auto makers and mortgage lenders. But what do American workers have?
U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor has had her confirmation stalled in Congress because some Republicans feel she is too pro labor. They say she is too close to unions and her confirmation is not good for business. They cite her support of the Employee Free Choice Act also know as the card check bill, as evidence that she will favor workers’ interest to the detriment of business. They ignore that she has authored legislation to help small business and create green jobs.
Never mind that business has already been shown— to the tune of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars—that they have lots of good friends in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
Has it not occurred to these Republican hold outs that with more and more American workers losing their jobs, 524,000 during the month of January alone, that their delaying tactics smack of a double standard where the interest of American workers are taking a backseat to the interest of business?
Do they not see that at this critical time when workers are losing jobs and the government is undertaking a stimulus package that proposes to create countless new jobs, the Department of Labor needs to have someone at the helm who will ensure that workers and businesses are represented in the process
Even industries that have experienced profits in these troubled times are cutting jobs. We have no doubt that many businesses are taking advantage of the economic melt down to get rid of long time higher paid employees. They want to cut their bottom line, not through efficiencies or caps on management pay and benefits, but rather by cutting entry and mid-level jobs. No doubt many of these companies see the time as ripe for getting rid of Union contracts, or at least reducing wage and benefit payouts, seniority and workplace rules.
And lest we forget, corporate greed and irresponsibility are at the root of our economic collapse, and not the average worker who wants to own a home, send his child to college, and maybe have a pension when it’s time to retire.
While we recognize that some Union contracts may be way out of line with today’s economic reality, we believe that the vast majority of Unions do a good job of protecting workers and ensuring that middle class jobs continue to be a reality in this country. Were it not for Unions, most of our occupational safety rules, prohibitions against hiring discrimination and sexual harassment, or regulations mandating fair wages, overtime or job security would not exist in either union or non-union workplaces.
Rep. Solis has stated her support for the card check bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize. While we have been a long time supporter of secret ballots and have some reservations that card check, just like the secret ballot, could be subject to worker manipulation or intimidation, Solis’ support should not be the defining issue for her confirmation. Nor should she be forced to apologize for her support.
How often have we heard politicians when seeking election or appointment say, “While I do not personally support abortion, I will uphold the law,” or “While I do not personally support same sex marriage, I will uphold the law,” or something similar? It is unfair to expect any less from Solis, and she should say so.
But therein is the rub, where the interests of workers are concerned, less is too often expected.
In selecting Republican Senator Judd Gregg as his Commerce Secretary nominee, President Obama has guaranteed that if confirmed, Gregg will be yet another in a long list of Washington decision makers who will readily promote business interests.
Senate Democrats have not said they will delay Gregg’s confirmation as Secretary of Commerce, so why the nitpicking over Solis’ confirmation?
It’s time Republicans—U.S. Senators in particular—pay more attention to members of their party like Judd Gregg, who have been able to summon bi-partisan support despite some differences in ideology. Accepting the Commerce Secretary nomination, Gregg said that the country is in the middle of very difficult economic times and that “this is not a time when we should stand in our ideological corners and shout at each other, this is a time to govern and govern well:” An idea echoed repeatedly by the president as he seeks diversity in his cabinet and passage of the massive stimulus package.
It’s time for Solis to get tough and answer her critics. She must tell them she will not apologize for her belief in the American worker and that she will enforce the law.
And yes, it’s time the president to use his bully pulpit to demand Solis’ confirmation. American workers deserve no less.