Lack of Labor

by dday

So after huffing and puffing for weeks, Arlen Specter got what he wanted out of the Eric Holder nomination hearings (his main potential primary opponent declined to run against him) and decided to back the Attorney General nominee. After all the talk of principle and judgment, it just took improved electoral prospects for Specter to have a change of heart. Funny how that goes.

But there's another nominee that is languishing, perhaps the only true progressive in Obama's cabinet, and many of us would like to know why. Greg Sargent at his new digs reports on Hilda Solis' nomination:

Why hasn’t Hilda Solis been confirmed as Labor Secretary yet, and why haven’t we heard from the unions or from the Obama administration about it?

Some top operatives in the labor movement are frustrated with the Obama administration for not giving them the go-ahead to publicly target Republicans who appear to be stalling Solis’ confirmation, people in the labor movement familiar with the situation tell me.

The silence from Obama aides on Solis is ominous to some labor officials, because they view the Republican efforts to hold up Solis as a first shot in the larger coming war over the Employee Free Choice Act, a top labor priority. Some labor officials worry that the Obama administration’s refusal to make an issue of the hold-up on Solis is a sign that the Obama team won’t act aggressively on Employee Free Choice.

“The anonymous hold on Solis is a clear proxy fight for Employee Free Choice,” says a top operative at a prominent union. “And from the Obama Adminisitration … crickets.”

Solis' confirmation hearing was January 9 (you can track cabinet nominees here). If anyone from the Obama team or in the entire Democratic Party has said two words about her since then, I've missed it. Her position on the Employee Free Choice Act is well-known (she voted for it last year, after all) and so the talking point that she wasn't "forthcoming" in her hearing is bogus. Labor is apparently willing to make a lot of noise about this, but want a go-ahead from the Administration, according to Sargent.

“People are just frustrated because they are not getting a clear signal of when and where to fight,” the official says, though he adds that a second school of thought within labor holds that there’s nothing to worry about, and that labor should be “comfortable” with Obama’s “timing on the Solis nomination.”

(Actually, the UFCW is demanding confirmation. Good for them.)

Still, some in the labor movement were already worried about the administration’s commitment to acting on Employee Free Choice in his first year, as Sam Stein recently reported. And for these people, the administration’s silence on Solis is making it worse.

If this is more of that post-partisanship and Obama's team not wanting to tear down bridges to the business community though "divisiveness," consider that those same businesses have no problem being divisive on their end.

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it." [...]

"This bill may be one of the worst things I have ever seen in my life," he said, explaining that he could have been on "a 350-foot boat out in the Mediterranean," but felt it was more important to engage on this fight. "It is incredible to me that anybody could have the chutzpah to try and pass this bill in this election year, especially when we have an economy that is a disaster, a total absolute disaster."

Remember that "decline of civilization" line the next time you need some hardware and have a choice of purchasing options.

Corporate titans are going to fight for their interests. We can't wait for others to fight for ours. Yesterday thereisnospoon launched a citizen lobbying campaign to find out who is holding up Solis' nomination. He has numbers for a bunch of Republicans, but the calls should really go to Harry Reid, who had no problem ignoring Senate holds last year when Chris Dodd was threatening them. Another good phone call would be to the White House switchboard, so Mr. 78% can expend a smidge of political capital to get his own nominee confirmed. Hilda Solis is completely qualified to be Labor Secretary, and in this economic climate the Labor Department needs to be running at full speed.