January 10 2013
Much of the reporting on the departure of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis from her position in the Cabinet has focused on her gender. Wrong emphasis. The subhead on the Washington Free Beacon report on Solis makes a far more important point:
Labor Secretary who presided over long-term unemployment resigns in surprise move
In confirming that Hilda Solis is stepping down, the White House hailed Solis as “a tireless champion for working families.”
It would have been more accurate to hail Solis a tireless champion of powerful labor unions. Despite their enormous clout in Washington, such unions no longer represent most American workers. (Only about 7 percent of private sector workers belong to unions. But around 37 percent of public sector workers belong to unions.)
Ms. Solis was really the Cabinet secretary for the AFL-CIO. Byron York writes this morning about Solis' tireless championship of powerful unions:
When Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced Wednesday that she is leaving the Obama administration, my colleague Philip Klein remarked that President Obama “may as well cut to the chase and nominate Richard Trumka” to replace her. It was a reasonable idea, given big labor’s influence in the Democratic world. But the fact is, even AFL-CIO chief Trumka could not have been more loyal to organized labor’s agenda than the departing secretary. Democratic administrations usually make the Department of Labor a branch office of the AFL-CIO, but none did it with more enthusiasm than Hilda Solis.
Solis was a big player against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in his move to limit collective bargaining powers of some public unions in his state, at one point crying, “The fight is on!” She supported misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, known as card check, which would have made it easier for unions to intimidate people who didn’t want a union shop. York notes:
Hard as it might be to tell from her statements, it was not Solis’s job as Labor Secretary to represent unions. The mission of the Labor Department, at least according to the Department itself, is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States.”
The Free Beacon points out that Solis’ tenure included a record number of investigations into businesses and that her office oversaw the federal stimulus. Also:
Solis has made several controversial decisions since taking office in 2009. Among them was the Labor Department’s decision in 2012 to begin counting unpaid internships in job creation after pledging to crack down on the practice of unpaid internships. Her office was also forced to withdraw onerous regulations that would have restricted children from working on family farms in April. …
Theoretically, the president has a chance with Solis' dpearture:
“Instead of focusing on rewarding labor bosses with handouts such as relaxed financial disclosure requirements, the President has an opportunity to send a signal to employees and employers alike that he is committed to achieving sustained economic growth and greater prosperity for all Americans. We’re hopeful that the next Labor Secretary will focus on creating jobs, not just unionizing them,” said Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute.
Since the president's devotion to the interests of big labor--not to be confused with the interests of job seekers--is as pronounced as Solis', the likelihood of that happening is not strong.