Tag Archives: Labor Department

Hilda Solis Confirmed As Labor Secretary – Race for CA-32 Begins

Minutes ago, the US Senate confirmed Hilda Solis by an 80-17 vote to be the Secretary of Labor.  This is a big victory for progressives to fight conservative obstructionism and get a real friend to the labor movement in a top position in Barack Obama’s cabinet.  It was an unnecessarily long fight, but this is a great resolution.  In addition, with Solis having authored the Green Jobs Act, she will undoubtedly be a force for making sure jobs in the alternative energy sector are good union jobs that pay a living wage.

This also means that there will shortly, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, be a vacancy in the 32nd District seat.  There are three main candidates for the seat thus far, all of whom have already begun campaigning.

Judy Chu is currently on the Board of Equalization.  While a Chinese-American running for a seat that is majority Latino, Chu has the support of the California Federation of Labor, which typically cleans up in these kinds of special elections.  That alone makes her the favorite IMO.

Gil Cedillo is a State Senator in the adjoining district, and so he represents very few of these constituents.  He has been strong on issues around immigration in particular, and will certainly be formidable in this race.

Emanuel Pleitez worked in the Obama transition team on the Treasury Department.  The fact that Treasury has practically no senior officers staffing it save for Tim Geithner, over a month after the inauguration, doesn’t really speak well to Pleitez’ transition capabilities.  But he apparently has the most robust campaign apparatus in the district thus far (with 17 volunteer full-time staff members), and he was born and raised in the district.

We invite every single one of them to interact with us on Calitics.

The most likely scenario is that either the primary or the general election gets folded into the May 19 special election.  Gov. Schwarzenegger has 14 calendar days to set the schedule.

Solis Approved In Committee – Goes To The Full Senate

It was a long struggle with a somewhat anti-climactic resolution, but Hilda Solis was approved by the Senate HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) on a voice vote.  Today over 20,000 petition signatures were delivered to the leaders of the HELP Committee by SEIU, UFW, UFCW, Change to Win and the Courage Campaign, and those voices were heard.

Now the confirmation moves to the full Senate for a vote, where it will hopefully be approved in short order.  Sometimes we win one.

Solis Update

Politico reports that the recent tax issues surrounding Hilda Solis’ husband won’t derail her nomination for Labor Secretary, but they’re still going to obstruct:

Key Republican senators on the committee vetting the California Democrat’s nomination say they won’t blame her for the problems facing her husband, Sam Sayyad, who paid around $6,400 last week to settle tax liens against his auto-repair company.

But they are still exploring the congresswoman’s ties to a pro-union organization, and a vote on her nomination has yet to be scheduled […]

Solis has angered some Republicans’ on the panel for deflecting questions on her positions over controversial “card-check” legislation, which would make it easier for workers to unionize, and for whether she supports maintaining right-to-work laws that prohibit forcing workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Those issues, however, are not enough to drag down her nomination and Republicans are unlikely to block the nomination, according to aides and senators.

Still, there is one last issue that could influence the HELP committee’s upcoming vote. The committee is waiting for additional information about her role as an unpaid board member and treasurer for the pro-union group American Rights at Work, while she was a member of the House.

Isakson said they are reviewing whether her role in an organization lobbying Congress violated campaign finance rules, “which I think would just come back to hurt her if we didn’t get that out and cleared out one way or another.”

These are just a series of stall tactics to drag this confirmation out.  Solis’ involvement with American Rights At Work has been gone over plenty of times.  It is a red herring.  Hilda Solis needs to be confirmed now.  Sign the petition.

Solis Nomination Stalled Out Again, Over Husband’s Tax Issue

Hilda Solis’s confirmation in the Senate HELP Committee was abruptly cancelled today after a report surfaced about her husband paying $6,400 to remove a tax lien on his business.

The report, by USA Today, came just before the Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee was slated to meet to consider Solis’s nomination, which had been delayed by questions over her role on the board of the pro-labor organization American Rights at Work. A source said that committee members did not learn about the tax issue until today.

“Today’s executive session was postponed to allow members additional time to review the documentation submitted in support of Representative Solis’s nomination to serve in the important position of Labor Secretary,” read a joint statement issued by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the panel’s chairman, and Mike Enzi (Wyoming), the committee’s ranking Republican. “There are no holds on her nomination and members on both sides of the aisle remain committed to giving her nomination the fair and thorough consideration that she deserves. We will continue to work together to move this nomination forward as soon as possible.”

No new date has been set for the hearing. The disclosure about Solis’s husband comes after tax problems caused trouble for three of Obama’s top appointees, leading two of them — HHS-nominee Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, who was to be chief performance officer — to withdraw.

Senate Republicans have been slow-walking this nomination for weeks, and this revelation gave them another reason to do so.  To be clear, we’re talking about her husband’s business.  Given that she’s in Congress and is in Washington most of the time, I doubt very highly that she has anything to do with it.  In addition, by paying the taxes, Solis and her entire family are adhering to Obama’s ethical standards, not subverting them.

So this is the latest in a months-long obstructionism.  The LA Times reported today that some GOP members were trying to put a gag order on Solis:

Underscoring the bitter debate over a proposal to make it easier for workers to form unions, Republican senators are suggesting that President Obama’s pick for Labor secretary must recuse herself from lobbying for the bill’s passage.

In a written exchange with Solis, Republican senators indicated they are wary of her ties to a tax-exempt group dedicated to helping workers unionize […]

Solis’ Cabinet nomination is in the crossfire. She was a co-sponsor of the bill in 2007 and has served for the last four years on the board of American Rights at Work. Solis receives no salary as a board member or treasurer […]

In their questionnaire, the senators noted that American Rights at Work has lobbied for passage of the bill. They asked Solis whether she would seek a waiver from the Obama administration or avoid any role in passing the legislation.

Solis replied that she does not need a waiver and has no intention of stepping back. She said she was only a member of Congress exercising her powers.

“I am not a registered lobbyist, nor do I in any way meet the statutory requirements for registration as a lobbyist,” she wrote.

The American Rights at Work thing is a complete red herring.  She was a representative figure for those who supported Employee Free Choice in Congress.  She is not a lobbyist.  She supported a bill.  And so denying her free-speech rights seems ridiculous to the extreme.

I don’t know if a family member’s tax issue is enough to sink this nomination (like the last Labor Secretary’s spouse, one Mitch McConnell, has no ethical issues to speak of), but I for one think Solis should be confirmed.  And as for the Employee Free Choice Act, the battle for a fair workplace goes on.  Thousands of people are marching in the streets of Los Angeles today in support of free choice.

Solis Finally Gets A Committee Vote Tomorrow

Good news: Hilda Solis will get a long-awaited confirmation vote to be the Secretary of Labor tomorrow in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  The hold-up was ridiculous, based on “confusion” on Solis’ stand on the Employee Free Choice Act, when it was extremely clear where she stood (in full support), and even more clear that as a legislative issue she would have little to do with the legislation until it was enacted.  Earlier in the day, Think Progress noted that the right wing was attempting to Daschle-ize Solis for completely bogus reasons:

In the wake of Daschle’s departure, the right-wing is gunning for another Cabinet victim – Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), the nominee for Labor Secretary. The Heritage Foundation writes, “Hilda Solis: The Next Tom Daschle?”

According to The Hill, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) “has questioned whether Solis had done lobbying work while she was both a House member and an official at a pro-labor group, American Rights at Work” (ARW) […]

As for the “conflict of interest” that the right wing is highlighting? Solis wasn’t paid for her activities with ARW, and as the Washington Independent pointed out, her role was well-known and ceremonial:

“What would be the charge? Either that she participated in lobbying by being a leader with ARW, or that she erred by originally not mentioning this job in her disclosure documents. Two reasons this might not work: Solis’ role in ARW was well-known and ceremonial (it’s on their Website), and no congressman has hinted that he/she would file a complaint that could make a splash but not be deemed frivolous and politically motivated.”

This is typical right-wing obstructionism designed to score political points.  Let’s hope Solis is confirmed be a wide margin tomorrow.  It’s beyond ridiculous.

Related: CA-32 candidate Emanuel Pleitez, one of at least three to declare for Solis’ seat, has some good thoughts about the culpability of credit rating agencies in the financial meltdown.

CA-32: No Labor Getting The Labor Secretary Confirmed?

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.”

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.

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

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.