LatinaLista — When President Barack Obama announced that Rep. Hilda Solis was his choice for Labor Secretary on December 19, 2008, it was an announcement that delighted almost everyone â€” the Latino community and labor unions. The only ones not happy were big business and their (Congressional) supporters.
Congresswoman Hilda Solis
So, it’s not really surprising that of all the Cabinet appointees who can now get busy with the business of running the country, Hilda Solis cannot. It’s no secret that the last eight years Washington was more of a friend to big business than the workers who created the revenue for their bosses’ big bonuses.
One roadblock after another has been thrown in Rep. Solis’ path and it seems obvious that these attempts are just disingenuous attempts to discourage Solis from accepting the position.
The latest has to do with tax problems for her husband’s business. Though Solis has nothing to do with her husband’s business and maintains her own separate taxes, it’s an unfortunate development that is not helping expedite her confirmation.
Needless to say, Republicans are probably ecstatic that this new roadblock was not of their creation. And it’s disappointing that Democrats are showing little backbone in supporting Solis knowing the facts of the case as they do and the fact that the Labor Department is in dire need of strong leadership.
It was reported that staffers at the Labor Department threw a good-riddance party to the former Sec. of Labor Elaine Chou, instead of good-bye. Her eight-year tenure is being blamed for the low morale the department suffers.
Putting a historical spin on it, Alexander Bastani, president of Local 12 of the American Federation of Government Employees, said, “we all thought Raymond Donovan [President Ronald Reagan’s labor secretary] was the worst secretary of labor ever,” but “Elaine Chao blew him out of the water.”
The union is glad to see her go because its members say she favored business so much that it has been difficult for them to carry out Labor’s mission. The mission statement says in part that the agency “fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions.”But that hasn’t been the case under Chao, the labor leaders complained.
Lauderdale cited the case of Ira Wainless, a senior industrial hygienist at the department. In 2002, he drafted a bulletin warning auto mechanics that brake linings were “a substantial source of exposure” to asbestos, a carcinogen.
The warning was finally published four years later, after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) pushed for it, but not before the document was watered down — the “substantial source of exposure” had become “potential exposure” to asbestos. Wainless was threatened with suspension because his bulletin did not mention an industry-financed study, but his boss relented when an account of his travails appeared in the Baltimore Sun.
Because of situations like that, Mark Roth, AFGE’s general counsel, said the department has been a terrible place to work for the career workforce that has believed in the mission and carrying out the policies in a neutral manner.”
Solis is known for speaking out and defending workers’ rights. It’s a place where business owners and their supporters don’t want to go to. They just can’t believe the 8-year honeymoon is over. Big Business knows they will be held accountable for not treating their workers fairly when Solis takes the helm and so they are encouraging the prolonging of the inevitable to the bitter end.
Yet, it’s time to confirm Solis’ appointment without further delay. With news of more businesses slashing their payrolls by the thousands of workers, these workers need Solis to look out for their best interests because obviously some in Congress are not.