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Labor Notes

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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……

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