As more than 2,500 environmental and labor activists gathered this week in Washington D.C. at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference, the nation's chief green jobs advocate-in-waiting, Labor Secretary-Designate Hilda Solis, remains in political purgatory thanks to conservative objections to a long overdue piece of legislation that will make it easier for workers to form unions.
Rep. Solis has not only been a champion on environmental issues, but has also been a key proponent of the Employee Free Choice Act, a vital piece of legislation that would allow workers to form a union when a majority have signed cards in support of unionization. This would help end the organized campaigns of intimidation, firings, and other reprisals by management that frequently accompany National Labor Relations Board-sponsored elections.
(The bill was passed by the House last Congress, but died at the hands of a Senate filibuster under veto threat from former (!) President George Bush. It is now at the top of organized labor's agenda and President Obama has said he will sign it.)
The bill has become the latest delusional obsession of the right-wing and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are now preparing to spend more than $100 million to defeat the legislation. Their allies in Congress have warned of economic apocalypse if the law were to pass and have already began a scare campaign arguing that the law would eliminate the secret ballot for workers. (At present, it is management who chooses between "card check" and an election; the Employee Free Choice Act would do just what its name indicates--it would give the choice to workers.)
Sierra Club members overwhelmingly support the Employee Free Choice Act because they know it's the right thing for workers, the right thing for America, and simply the right thing to do. But we also know that companies that treat their workers right are much more likely to treat the environment right too.
Conservatives are now using Solis' confirmation fight to fire some of their first shots in the legislative battle royale to come. (Before the bill has even been formally introduced in either the House or the Senate, the U.S. Chamber revealed that it has already spent more than $10 million on its effort to defeat the measure.)
They are attempting to manufacture a controversy around her role as Treasurer of American Rights at Work, a pro-labor advocacy group (of which the Sierra Club is also a part). Solis' position was purely honorary and did not involve lobbying or compensation, yet conservatives are now claiming that Solis both violated Congressional ethics rules and now must recuse herself from lobbying on the Employee Free Choice Act for two years.
Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was finally due to vote on Solis when unfortunate--but in no way disqualifying--news broke that her husband's business (of which he is the sole proprietor) had several outstanding tax liens, which he paid as soon as he learned of them. The vote was then canceled.
The tax matter is unrelated to Solis herself and should have absolutely no bearing on her confirmation. Undoubtedly, however, conservatives will use the issue as yet another smokescreen to mask their true objective: killing the Employee Free Choice Act and the Solis nomination along with it.
Call your senators today and tell them enough is enough and that it's time to confirm Hilda Solis: (202) 224-3121