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OpenMarket: Labor and Employment

  • More Questions about Solis

    February 6, 2009 2:43 PM

    Today's Washington Examiner proposes some questions which Senators should ask Obama Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis.

    Solis is treasurer and a member of the board of directors of American Rights at Work (ARW), the 501c4, non-profit group that has received at least $1 million in contributions from labor unions. ARW spent more than $230,000 in 2007 and 2008 lobbying Congress on two bills Solis actively co-sponsored – the Employee Free Choice Act and the Public Safety Employer/Employee Cooperation Act. Both bills are top priorities for labor bosses who spent in excess of $300 million electing Democrats to Congress in 2008. Solis failed to note her role as ARW treasurer on her congressional disclosure reports, as she is required to do under House rules. As treasurer, she was required by IRS rules to account for all spending by the group, so her role was hardly ceremonial or passive, as claimed by her supporters.

    But ARW also spent thousands of dollars on television spots described by the group in its report to the FEC as "electioneering communications." Since as treasurer, Solis is required to approve all ARW spending, she must have signed off on the spots. This may well put her and ARW in violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002. Among the Republicans targeted by ARW were incumbents Norm Coleman, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Gordon Smith, and John Sununu.

    Hardly the kind of thing to make Republican Senators feel charitable toward her.

    But ethics rules and possible conflicts of interest aside, Solis's close involvement with ARW alone should make her ability to carry out her job in an impartial manner suspect (as I've noted previously).

  • For Obama, No Solace in Solis

    February 5, 2009 5:05 PM

    This afternoon, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee abruptly canceled a session to consider the nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) for Labor Secretary, after USA Today reported that her husband paid $6,400 to settle tax liens yesterday. As embarrassing as this is to the Obama administration, coming on the heels of two nominations being sunk over tax problems, Solis's nomination should be of concern for other reasons. As The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher notes, her nomination "had been delayed by questions over her role on the board of the pro-labor organization American Rights at Work."

    American Rights at Work's website still lists her as a board member. That is no small thing. Her membership on the board, combined with her voting record and campaign donation history, should raise serious doubts regarding her ability to consider disputes involving labor unions in an impartial fashion.

    For more on the Solis nomination, see here, here, and here.

  • Stimulus Plan Repeats Mistakes That Spawned Great Depression

    February 3, 2009 11:12 AM

    The European Union is threatening a trade war over provisions in the $800 billion "stimulus" package backed by Obama and Congressional leaders. The Great Depression resulted partly from the trade war that followed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff signed into law by Herbert Hoover, which Congressional leaders wrongly thought would help end the recession that followed the 1929 stock market collapse.

    The stimulus package also contains tons of red tape and strings attached to the money it showers on state governments, in order to benefit big labor unions, like "prevailing wage" mandates that result in taxpayers paying inflated wages for construction projects. Economists have recently described how red-tape misguidedly imposed during the Roosevelt Administration lengthened the Great Depression by as much as seven years.

  • Springsteen clashes with Obama advisor on Wal-Mart

    February 2, 2009 12:54 PM

    In between playing at the Lincoln Memorial for Barack Obama's inaugural concert and performing the half-time show last night at the Super Bowl, Bruce Springsteen got caught in a policy controversy over a promotional deal he made. Springsteen had inked an agreement for Wal-Mart to exclusively sell and promote his new album, "Working on a Dream." This made good business sense, given that a similar arrangement last year with Wal-Mart and hard rock bank AC/DC led to a surprise chart-topping album.

    But the very mention of the name of Wal-Mart still raises the hackles of some activists, particularly those affiliated with Big Labor. They called on Springsteen to renounce the deal, and he caved, telling the New York Times, "we dropped the ball." Springsteen said that "given its labor history, it was something that if we’d thought about it a little longer, we’d have done something different."

    But a major player on the economic team of Obama, for whom Springsteen campaigned so strongly on behalf of, disagrees strongly with Springsteen and the activists on Wal-Mart's "labor history." Jason Furman was a top economist on the Obama campaign, and President Obama recently named him deputy director of the National Economic Council at the White House. He is pushing strongly for the stimulus bill and other liberal fiscal priorities of the administration.

  • Unions Stall on EFCA, Advance Elsewhere

    January 29, 2009 5:40 PM

    The Democratic Congress's failure to pounce instantly to pass the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), also known as the "card check" bill, presents a disappointment for organized labro, since this bill has been the unions' top legislative priority for months. Increased public attention on the legislation's provision undermining secret ballots in union organizing elections, combined with the state of the economy, have pushed it to Congress's back burner.

    But unfortunately, President Obama seems ready to deliver for Big Labor quickly in other areas, even as Congress drags its feet on card check.  The New York Times reports that Obama is set to repeal four Bush executive orders opposed by organized labor, including "one order that allowed unionized companies to post signs informing workers that they were allowed to decertify the union."

    For more on card check, see here and here.

    Below, The Washington Examiner's Mark Tapscott explains EFCA's shifting fortunes.

  • SEIU Split in California?

    January 29, 2009 2:55 PM

    Ousted officials from a Bay Area local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced yesterday that they were forming a new union, and asked members to join. They were ousted from the local, United Healthcare Workers-West (UHWW), after a long-threatened takeover by the union's national office became official on Tuesday, as the local was placed in trusteeship, for alleged "financial malpractice."

    From the SEIU national office to claim such concern about corrupt practices now seems strange, particularly in California. A Los Angeles-based local, with which the national SEIU wants to merge UHWW, has recently been involved in a serious corruption scandal. The Los Angeles Times, which broke the story on the scandal last August, also reported:

    A source close to the union said Trossman was informed six years ago of allegations involving Freeman's finances and personal relationships. It is unclear whether a review was undertaken at that time;  Trossman said that the SEIU might have performed an audit of the local because of the allegations, but that he couldn't be sure.

    In addition, questions have been raised concerning the union's connection to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

    For more on SEIU, see here.

  • Obama Distorts Ledbetter v. Goodyear Case, In Signing Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

    January 29, 2009 12:58 PM

    In signing his first bill into law, Obama didn't let facts get in the way of a good story, or milking a political wedge issue. He falsely claimed that Lilly Ledbetter, whose pay discrimination claim was dismissed by the Supreme Court as untimely, worked at Goodyear "for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work." Actually, Ledbetter knew by 1992, if not earlier, that she was being paid less than the male employees she claimed should have been paid the same as her. Small wonder that the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear dismissed her claim as untimely. (She brought the claim after the supervisor she accused of discrimination had died, and shortly before she retired).

  • CA Restaurant & Bar Owners (not drinkers) Will Feel the Pinch of Nickel Tax

    January 28, 2009 3:22 PM

    February 1st 2009 is the day that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's per-drink tax increase will go into effect throughout the state. The tax hike will be a seemingly small 5 cent increase on beer, wine, and spirits in an attempt to in an attempt to shrink the state’s budget deficit of $40 billion.

    Is this a wise idea? Well, “sin taxes” like those applied to drinking and smoking are, generally, intended as deterrents against an activity some government agent believes is harmful to “the public”. But discouraging people from drinking in California is like Vegas charging gamblers extra money each time they place a bet in a casino--it could have very negative consequences for economic well-being of an industry that the state relies on for a thriving economy.

    In 2005 the wine industry provided California with $3.2 billion in taxes, licenses and fees. California wineries, both as agriculture and tourism are profit-powerhouses within the American economy (California wine production has a $51.8 billion impact on California and $125.3 billion on the U.S. economy at large and provides 800,000 people with jobs), but like just about all other industries wine production is suffering through the current financial crisis. Worldwide, sales are down for wine, especially at the higher price points (though you wouldn't know it if you happened to be an economist at the white house) and things are likely to get worse as the global economy falters.

  • Stay Put, Now Go

    January 27, 2009 12:25 AM

    Today, Spiked Online features two worthwhile pieces on two different ways in which environmental correctness can be deployed to disguise class snobbery -- against two different segments of the great unwashed.

    Brendan O'Neill on how green elitists want the traveling masses to stay put:

    Under the heading ‘Chav-Free Activity Holidays’, AA [travel agency Activities Abroad] said: ‘...Children with middle-class names such as Duncan and Catherine are eight times more likely to pass their GCSEs than children with names such as Wayne and Dwayne. This got us thinking. Are there names you are likely to encounter and not encounter on an Activities Abroad holiday?’ (1) It did some quickfire research and discovered that on an AA trip you are unlikely to encounter people called ‘Britney, Kylie-Lianne, Dazza, Chardonnay, Chantelle and Candice’ (in short, thugs and slags), and are far more likely to run in to people called ‘Sarah, Alice, Lucy, Charlotte, James and Joseph’ (in short, middle class and mild)....

    AA’s anti-chav advertising tactics are disturbing, and more than a little dumb, but are they really so shocking? Poisonous snobbery towards ‘chavvy’ and working-class holidaymakers is rife today – only it tends to be expressed in code, in underhand concerns about CO2 emissions, trails of noxious gases in the blue sky, the dangers of cheap flights, and the denigration of foreign cultures by unthinking Brits. AA’s mistake was to forget the coded lingo and state out loud the prejudices that underpin new forms of oh-so-superior eco-travel. Perhaps it has done us a crude service, then, by revealing for all to see the naked loathing of the young and horizon-exploring working classes that motivates much of the contemporary debate on tourism.

  • Apparent Hold on Solis Nomination

    January 26, 2009 8:03 PM

    The confirmation of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) as Labor Secretary has run into an unexpected delay, as an unidentified Republican senator appears to have placed a hold on her nomination. That may not prevent her nomination, since presidents get fairly wide latitude in cabinet appointments. Still, as a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial notes today, Republican senators are right to ask more questions:

    Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has been outspoken in his criticism of Rep. Solis' testimony in her confirmation hearing, focusing his criticism on her responses concerning the "card check" bill that would allow unions to bypass secret ballot elections in their attempts to win recognition as collective bargaining agents -- a change which organized labor has made a high priority.

    Asked Thursday whether he was satisfied with the answers given to date by Rep. Solis -- who voted for the so-called Employee Free Choice Act in the House in 2007 -- Sen. Enzi replied, "What answers? She doesn't even recognize her own record when giving the answers."

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