The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus noticed that Obama’s labor secretary nominee Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) was a little less than forthcoming at her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday:
Should President Obama lift the Bush-era executive order requiring that federally funded construction projects be open to both union and nonunion contractors?
“Senator, I would just say to you that that is an item of great interest to me. I think that that is something that I am not able to speak to you [about] at this time but will like to review and then come back to you personally on that matter.”
What about giving private employers more leeway to implement comp and flextime arrangements?
“I would like to explore that more with this committee. . . . But that’s something that I think I’m not prepared to give you a complete answer on at this time.”
Should states continue to be allowed to enact right-to-work laws prohibiting workers from being required to join unions or pay dues?
“I don’t believe that I am qualified to address that at this time.”
And what about the hottest-button labor issue, legislation that would let unions organize if a majority of workers sign cards?
Solis wouldn’t comment — despite the fact that she, not to mention the president-elect, co-sponsored the measure. Indeed, she said, she and Obama hadn’t even discussed it.
“My position as a nominee for President-elect Obama to serve as secretary of labor doesn’t, in my opinion, afford me the ability to provide you with an opinion at this time.”
You get the point.
Solis didn’t seem stumped by these questions. Perhaps she simply decided — or was instructed by her handlers — to say nothing controversial, nothing that would bind the new administration, nothing that would either enrage its labor allies or alienate Republicans and moderate Democrats.
The new transparency, it seems, has its limits.
From secret ballots to pension fund oversight to financial transparency, organized labor has a laundry list if issues designed keep the public out of union boss business. After Solis’ testimony we are not a single step closer to knowing where Obama really stands on any of these issues.