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Labor Notes

[ 44 ] January 9, 2013 |

A few labor items of note.

1. Hilda Solis is resigning as Secretary of Labor. Hard to blame her given the isolation of the Department of Labor during the Obama Administration. Obama’s statement included the following:

Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class.

Yeah, no. It’s been clear from Day One that Obama had little interest in centering the Labor Department on the major financial matters of the day. Ideally, the Secretary of Labor would represent labor’s voice not only in the creation of work regulations, but in the entire financial makeup of the country. The Obama inner circle of financial advisers included Geithner, Lew, Summers, and a whole lot of other Wall Street connected elites, but has anyone heard Obama ever mention Solis as an important player? That’s not necessarily to say that Obama has done a bad job on labor issues when he hasn’t had to extend any political capital. I think his record is mixed. But let’s be realistic about where Solis stood in his administration: way down at the other end of the Cabinet table.

2. A well-deserved Sidney award for Leslie Patton. Her story on how workers at McDonald’s have generated massive profits for executives while receiving virtually no benefits themselves is an excellent window into the nation’s class divide. McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner pulled in $8.75 million last year. McDonald’s employee Tyree Johnson, who makes the Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, would need to work more than 1 million hours in a year in order to match that salary. That is class warfare right there. Depressing stuff.

3. Speaking of corporations committing class warfare against the poor, Wal-Mart is at least under some pressure to name its clothing suppliers after the fire in Bangladesh that killed over 100 people in November. Given that its labor practices are some of the worst in America, it’s hard to think they will hand over the information. On the other hand, outside pressure has made some difference in pressuring Nike and now Apple to improve conditions. So it can help.

4. With Democrats like Claire McCaskill, it’s hard to call the war on organized labor a Republican war.

5. A Taco Bell franchise in Oklahoma is the latest fast food company to strip workers of money while blaming it on Obamacare costs they don’t even have to pay yet. I’m sure all that money is going into some kind of fund for future healthcare expenses……

Comments (44)

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  1. Murc says:

    Tell us the truth, Erik. You’re some sort of deep-cover operative for makers of fine whisky (and whiskey) everywhere, right?

    Because these posts always show up at the time of day when conveniently it’s no longer weird or borderline alcoholic to pour yourself a double and stare blankly at the ruin of our country for awhile.

    I call shenanigans.

  2. Njorl says:

    One thing I just don’t understand about this country is why the rich hate the poor so much more than the poor hate the rich.

    • Sly says:

      Because the poor are not exempt from various social and cultural pressures that treat poverty as the punishment for an imagined crime and wealth as the reward for an imagined virtue.

  3. somethingblue says:

    Re 4: I am no McCaskill fan but it doesn’t sound like the union exactly covered itself with glory here either.

  4. I wonder if Panetta, Clinton, and Geithner left because they felt isolated. Or maybe it’s just the ordinary order of business for people to serve one term and decide they don’t want to re-up.

    • Sly says:

      The latter. Even when correctly limited to just the thirteen two-term Presidents that we’ve had, the number of Cabinet Secretaries who served at least eight years are still in the minority.

    • Murc says:

      In Clinton’s case, better than even chance she wants to run for President again. Panetta was always understood to be just a caretaker until the next term, one way or the other.

      That leaves Geithner, and I’ve got no clue there.

    • mds says:

      I wonder if Panetta, Clinton, and Geithner left because they felt isolated.

      With Panetta, I suspect that you might be on to something. However, given that the others’ priorities usually were attended to, especially in Geithner’s case, it doesn’t fit the rest, does it? Anyway, I guess we’ll see whom the President taps to replace Solis, and if it’s someone who can counterbalance Jack Lew.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I can’t even begin to imagine how hard those jobs are. I can see why someone would leave.

      • I’ll bet the lower-tier cabinet positions are even worse than State, Treasury, or Defense.

      • Bruce Vail says:

        Yes, the jobs are difficult, and not very rewarding in terms of power and prestige.

        I had the opportunity to attend a briefing back in 2001 where a number of second-tier cabinet secretaries spoke. The White House staff seemed to treat the secretaries with contempt, and it was very clear that all policy power rested in the WH, while the cabinet secretaries were just window dressing.

  5. rea says:

    Not to go completely off topic, but if, with all these cabinet changes, we don’t get filibuster reform, Obama isn’t going to have much of a cabinet during his second term.

    • Murc says:

      Depends. Despite their insanity, the Republicans have so far been unwilling to filibuster high-profile obviously qualified nominees.

      They’re willing for ‘Senate Partisan Gridlock’ to be a headline, because they can blame Democrats and government in general. So far, they’ve been unwilling to run the risk of headlines like ‘Country Enters Sixth Month With No Defense Secretary, Hagel Filibustered By Former Colleagues.’

      So far.

      And even if the big ones are allowed through, it’s the tons of Deputy and Undersecretarys who actually run the government, and they can be stopped with impunity.

  6. Gone2Ground says:

    Re: Fast Food Giants Harshing on their Employees over Obamacare:

    While my first impulse is to declare a public and embarassing boycott to get the 1% to change their behavior, I’ve been thinking it might be better to just start organizing some direct action toward the employees.

    I don’t eat fast food very often, but I’ve been thinking that when I do, I should tip the workers like $5 or $10 and tell them it’s for THEM to buy health insurance since their employer is too cheap to do it. Sort of like spreading the wealth AND doing some education at the same time…..anybody else think this sounds good?

    • PSP says:

      The last thing we want to do is encourage employers telling more wage slaves that they should subsist on tips, rather than get paid decently by the employer.

    • Phoenix Rising says:

      I think your idea is appealing and worth pursing– aside from the fact that I’d have to eat a McGreasy McCardio in order to carry it out.

      How about I just walk into McD’s and hand somebody $5? Will she get into trouble for not giving me lipids? Should I take the lipids and hand them to the guy who lives in the bus shelter in front of McD’s?

      Turns out it’s super complex.

  7. guest says:

    >>>Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class.<<<

    Hereby nominated as one of the most cynical comments of the 21st century.

  8. Loomis-Bot says:

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  9. Ken Houghton says:

    Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team…

    and my team is tired of pretending to listen to her criticism.

    There. Fixed.

  10. Balu says:

    Nick Saban made nearly 6 million $. Alabama players: not so much.

  11. JKTHs says:

    So is the Labor Secretary position gonna be where a few VSPs demand to see some business exec put in there to “bring a new perspective” or something like that?

  12. Joe says:

    think his record is mixed

    If YOU think that, it must have been above average.

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