Perez Is the Wrong Choice for Labor

The expectation for President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Department of Labor was never particularly high among those in the business community. After four years with former Congresswoman Hilda Solis – an early and ardent supporter of the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA) – at the helm, most people expected the [resident to nominate another ally of union bosses and antagonist to employers. But even I was surprised by the selection of Thomas Perez, a Justice Department lawyer working within the Civil Rights Division.

It doesn’t take very long to review Mr. Perez’s biography and come to the conclusion that he is woefully ill-equipped to – among other things – “advance opportunities for profitable employment” as stated in the Labor Department’s mission. Outside of being incredibly controversial on a number of fronts, even playing a prominent role in a 258-page report by the agency’s inspector general that the media described as “harsh,” it seems Perez’s main calling card for a cabinet-level appointment is that he previously headed Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and spent some time as a Montgomery County councilman.

The truth is Perez’s stances are deeply troubling and his resume is devoid of any experience which will sensitize him to the real-life needs of American businesses. His resume does not scream of someone who is prepared to shrink, much less manage, an oversized agency with nearly 18,000 employees that plays an important role in forming and implementing policies that directly impact America’s economy.

The facts speak for themselves: since President Obama took office, labor force participation rate has declined from 65.7 to 63.5 percent. Currently, more than 20 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed, or have given up seeking employment altogether. The number of people in our nation seeking jobs stands at more than 12,000,000 and nearly 8,000,000 individuals are working part-time largely due to a stagnant economy.

These are not statistics that inspire confidence, and if President Obama was true to his word that his priority is getting America’s economy back on track, he would do better than Perez. America’s employers are operating in an environment of uncertainty, and as any economist or business expert can attest, doubt does not lead to more jobs and greater growth, yet that’s what Perez’s selection communicates.

With issues such as the persuader rule, which would require employers addressing labor issues to disclose to the government and presumably union bosses which lawyers and consultants they hire, and the Labor Department rolling back laws requiring public disclosure by union bosses that have uncovered fraud and misuse of worker dues, there is little reason for job creators to be hopeful that a Labor Department under Perez would be any more welcoming than the agency under the stewardship of his predecessor.

In fact, there is plenty of reason to be concerned about Perez’s nomination. For instance, The Detroit News recently reported, “[President] Obama praised Perez for his stint as secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor from 2006-2009, where ‘he helped implement the country’s first statewide living-wage law, because he understood that a minimum wage should be a wage that you can live on.’” In truth, fewer people in Maryland have any wage at all because minimum wage laws increase unemployment – especially among youth. Maryland’s living wage law mandates government contractors pay $11.30 an hour – an amount well above the national $7.25 minimum wage. It has hit young workers especially hard. Youth unemployment in the state is over 20 percent, with black youth unemployment over 40 percent.”

For those of us who have been in the trenches battling against this administration’s efforts at every turn to reward Big Labor bosses who spent 1 billion dollars electing President Obama and his allies, we are just pleased Richard Griffin, the disgraced member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who was recently named in an embezzlement and racketeering suit for his possible role in a cover up, was not named as the nominee for labor secretary. But the truth is that Perez isn’t much of an improvement, with a record that is shallow in issues germane to the job and that can only be described as extreme in other areas, even when speaking generously.

The problems confronting our nation are serious, and that is particularly true in relation to an economy that has failed to make substantive and meaningful gains since the Great Recession. Instead of making political selections, the president owes it to Americans to appoint people who have proven track records of delivering in their area of jurisdiction. In this case, it certainly appears President Obama fell short. Once again, the employees and employers struggling to survive in a difficult economic environment are likely to pay the price for his poor choices. While it is comforting to know Richard Griffin won’t be in the White House Cabinet Room any time soon, the thought of Perez being there is disconcerting, to say the least.

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