Elaine has littered the Department of Labor with individuals holding a blatant, corporate agenda. Letting corporate lawbreakers off the hook, while waging an assault on America’s union movement, are just two of the dubious initiatives that have defined Elaine’s tenure.
- DOL Industry Insiders
- Hostility to Unions
- Reduced and Ignored Fines
DOL Industry Insiders
In addition to rewarding her husband Sen. Mitch McConnell’s former staffers with valuable positions in the DOL, Elaine has made the agency a haven for corporate insiders and conservative ideologues. For example:
Richard E. Stickler
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health (2006-present)
Richard Stickler managed mines where several fatalities took place and withinjury rates double the national average. That didn’t stop President Bush from nominating Stickler for a recess appointment after the Senate failed to confirm him.
Scalia became solicitor after a contentious confirmation process, bringing to the job a record of opposing ergonomics standards and making outlandish statements on unions and safety protections. Even worse, Scalia refused to recuse himself from the 2002 contract negotiations between longshoremen and the Pacific Maritime Association, a client of Scalia’s law practice before he joined the department.
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (2006-present)
Prior to his nomination Foulke was as a partner at Jackson Lewis, a well-known unionbusting law firm that trains companies on “How to Stay Union Free” and issues publications highlighting their corporate clients’ success at preventing organizing in the workplace.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health (2001-2004)
A Utah coal operator, Lauriski was selected to run MSHA despite a dismal record on mine safety and health. During his tenure Lauriski blocked work on more than a dozen new mine-safety regulations in the agency pipeline. Heresigned in 2004 following an Inspector General report addressing allegations of questionable no-bid government contracts and other agency problems.
D. Mark Wilson
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Employment Standards Administration (2002-present)
Hired by Elaine, Wilson previously worked with her at the corporate-funded Heritage Foundation, where he issued a report titled “How to Close Down the Department of Labor” and blasted labor’s “excessive burdens on businesses.”
Howard M. Radzely
Deputy Secretary (2007-present)
Prior to becoming deputy secretary, Radzely was the Labor Department’s solicitor and is best known for giving Wal-Mart advance notice before his agency investigated its stores for child labor violations.
Assistant Secretary for Policy
While working as a congressional staffer prior to his employment at the Labor Department, Spear shepherded legislation to allow employers to avoid OSHA enforcement actions by merely hiring private consultants to offer advice on health and safety issues.
National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health
Elaine appointed Stanley — then vice president of safety and health for AK Steel, a company known for its anti-union tactics — to serve on the advisory committee for issues pertaining to safety and health in the workplace.
Hostility to Unions
Elaine never seems to pass up an opportunity to use her position as Secretary of Labor to wage an ideological war on organized labor.
Opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act: When the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill enhancing workers’ ability to collectively bargain in the workplace, was introduced in Congress in early 2007, Elaine and Mitch tag-teamed and immediately began misleading the public about the legislation and working for its defeat.
- Speaking to a group of corporate insiders, she stated, “It is very important this bill be defeated on the Hill and defeated soundly.”
- Trying to minimize the substantial role unions play in the American economy, Elaine boasted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “unionization has shrunk in the past 50 years, from 35% of the private sector workforce in the 1950s to 7.4% today.”
- Mitch became the chief obstructionist of the bill. As the Senate’s Republican leader, he openly obstructed the Employee Free Choice Act by not only voting against cloture but also spearheading the Senate filibuster.
Accusations: On more than one occasion, Elaine has publicly expressed her real feelings toward labor unions.
- Invited by top labor leaders to speak at a major meeting in 2003, Elaine took the opportunity to accuse them of corruption — neglecting to mention how the leaders themselves work with the government to expose corruption in their own ranks.
Cozy Relations with Anti-Union Ideologues: Elaine has been caught red-handed in her dealings with front groups and associates of Richard Berman, a virulent corporate lobbyist and founder of the anti-union front group Center for Union Facts.
Red Tape for Unions: Since her confirmation in 2001, Elaine has placed less emphasis on worker health and safety and more emphasis on tactics designed to harass and stifle the unions representing workers.
- Elaine reduced OSHA spending by 8 percent and MSHA spending by 9 percent, all while increasing the budget for union oversight by 20 percent.
- Elaine even sought $57 million, a rise of 84 percent, in funding for the Office of Labor Management Standards for fiscal year 2008.
Elaine’s efforts have paid off. The amount of information unions are required to report increased by at least 60 percent during her tenure, reinforcing the goal of Chao’s anti-union ally Grover Norquist, who reportedly proclaimedthat “Every dollar spent on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can’t be spent on other labor union activities.”
Reduced and Ignored Fines
Elaine’s loyalty to corporate interests seems evident from her agency’s record of weakening penalties for employers who break the law.
- Safety and Health Violations: During Elaine’s first years as Secretary of Labor, the average OSHA fine for a willful safety violation decreased 26 percent, from $36,487 in 2000 to just $26,888 in 2002. The average fines for companies that fail to fix safety violations also fell an alarming 68 percent, from $7,687 to $2,448.
- Mine Penalties: Elaine’s MSHA did not impose fines on nearly 4,000 violations of federal mine safety and health laws, even including a violation responsible for the fatal hemorrhaging of one Kentucky miner.