Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Best Pick?

by DAVID MACARAY

On Friday, December 19, President-Elect Obama made his fifteenth and final appointment to the cabinet.  In a move that was cheered by the AFL-CIO and greeted, predictably, with groans and whining from the business community, he chose Congresswoman Hilda Soils (D-CA) to be his Secretary of Labor.

While Obama has taken considerable flak from leftist intellectuals and the progressive wing of the Democratic party for many of his earlier cabinet choices—being accused of everything from “selling out” to Establishment interests to being inordinately “cautious” (after hammering us with his Time for Change campaign theme)—his choice for Labor Secretary has to be seen as a bold and decisive move.

Of course, it’s impossible to say in advance how any political appointee will perform in office.  But based on what we know of Ms. Soils’ personal background and what can be ascertained from her voting record and history of social activism, she could very well turn out to be exactly what the doctored ordered—providing the doctor ordered a dramatic shift in how America views its “working class.”

Soils is not only the daughter of poor Latin American immigrants, she could very well be the first Labor Secretary in history who has firsthand knowledge of what it actually means to “work” for a living.  Her father, a Mexican, was a shop steward with the IBT (International Brotherhood of Teamsters), in Mexico, and her mother, a Nicaraguan, was a former assembly line worker.

Compare Solis’ credentials to those of the well-bred, exquisitely polished “silver spoon” crowd who typically get appointed to cabinet posts, and you can understand why organized labor and workers groups everywhere are thrilled at her appointment.

Instead of a well-meaning blue-blood doing his or her noblisse oblige number—or one of those cookie-cutter, professional bureaucrats who bounce from one administrative job to another, upwards, always upwards—America’s workers will finally have “one of their own” calling the shots.

To fully appreciate the change Solis represents, all one need do is contrast her to Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor she’s replacing.  Besides being an anti-union conservative (she’s a Heritage Foundation fellow) who not only did nothing to advance the labor movement, but assisted corporations in neutralizing unions, Chao stands as a perfect example of those wildly ambitious, recycled bureaucrats who so thoroughly exemplify Washington.

A product of expensive Eastern colleges and an accomplished self-promoter, Chao ran the Peace Corps, the United Way and, previously, was Deputy Secretary of Transportation, before George Bush appointed her as Secretary of Labor.  As a proven Washington insider and survivor, Chao is obviously a silky smooth politician and buck-passer.  She is currently the second wife of Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader.

This is not to suggest that Hilda Solis is a peasant.  Far from it.  Indeed, she brings more than adequate academic and administrative creds to the job, with degrees from Cal Poly and USC and a considerable reputation for diligence and leadership skills.  She was instrumental in drumming up House support for the EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act).   I’m familiar with her record.  Her congressional district, California’s 32nd, happens to be right down the road from my own.

Of course, as with any other cabinet appointee, the proof will be in the pudding.  Her tenure as Labor Secretary will be judged not on her family background or past voting record, but on how well she performs in office.  And in this regard, there are three ways—and only three—in which it can play out.

First, she could turn out to be a “traitor,” one of those sharp-eyed bureaucrats who come to Washington with an activist pedigree and long list of noble items on their agenda, only to succumb to Establishment pressure and D.C. glamour, and subsequently sell out the very constituency they were supposed to represent.  Granted, the chances of this happening with Solis are slim.  But it’s not outside the realm.

Second, she could hit the deck running, full of institutional piss and vinegar, throw herself into every major pro-labor enterprise she’s ever dreamed of fulfilling while simultaneously rejecting all the temptations in her path . . . and still fail utterly.

She could fail because she didn’t have Obama’s support, because she didn’t have Congress’ support, or because, hardworking and resourceful as she is, she didn’t possess the leadership skills to pull it off.  The Department of Labor has close to 17,000 employees and a budget of close to $70 billion.  It’s going to take an inspirational leader to have an impact.

And third, she could succeed.  She put the DOL on track.  After all, Obama didn’t appoint her not knowing her background or being unfamiliar with her list of priorities.  And, according to congressional observers, she has a wonderful working relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  With the stars in alignment, this could be a turning point for labor.

At the very least it will mean new, energized appointments to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board), a Labor Secretary with the whiskers to push passage of the EFCA, and a White House that has the confidence and blessings of America’s organized labor movement.  That’s not nothing.  It’s going to be interesting

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright (“Borneo Bob,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]