Obama’s Labor Secretary, “not just pro-labor, but doctrinaire”
Secretary Hilda Solis’ staff and public comments at AFL-CIO meetings, her recent disparagement of Tea Party members, and her big Labor Ohio comments make it clear that DOL is closed for everyone but Bug Labor Bosses. November’s Corporate Counsel article provides some new examples:
She is not just pro-labor, but doctrinaire, says Ray Haynes, a former Republican senator who sat on the Health and Human Services budget subcommittee with Solis when they were both [CA] state senators. “She was the tool of organized labor in the legislature,” says Haynes. If they needed something, they went to her, he says: “And she did it every time, regardless of whether it was a good idea or not.”
Aided by $80 million in stimulus funds, the agency ramped up its army of field personnel in 2010—focusing on the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and OSHA. Solis added 300 wage and hour investigators—an increase of more than a third—and 100 OSHA inspectors.
The agency has recently turned its attention to businesses that allegedly cheat full-time workers by improperly labeling them as independent contractors. Not only do employers not have to pay benefits, but they can avoid paying overtime, unemployment insurance, and taxes as well.
In September, Solis announced a triple threat … The Labor Department, 11 states, and the Internal Revenue Service will begin sharing information in order to cut down on the practice. The department signed memorandums of understanding with the IRS and the states—including Connecticut, Utah, and Hawaii, among others—that will give each independent authority a crack at collecting from employers charged with dodging the law.
“I think about it as the traffic cop approach to law enforcement,” says top Labor Department lawyer Patricia Smith. Drivers who are tempted to speed will ease up on the gas pedal while driving through an area known to be heavily patrolled, she says. By the same token, Smith hopes the coordinated enforcement effort will have a broadened effect on employer behavior.
Whatever the issue—the Labor Department is pushing ahead with an aggressive and comprehensive agenda. That push will continue for at least as long as this president remains in office.