The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Labor’s feeling unappreciated by Obama

In Political world on December 1, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Back before Thanksgiving, Ben Smith at Politico published this story: Labor sec. not on econ team. Here are a few excerpts:

Obama’s team of treasury secretary and four top economic advisers, introduced as the hands that will steer America’s economy, had no particular ties to the labor movement. And Obama’s secretary of labor was not introduced as part of that team — a suggestion that that post will retain its second-tier status and quiet voice in matters central to economic policy.

“I wish that [the secretary of labor] would have been among them,” former Michigan congressman David Bonior, a labor stalwart and member of Obama’s transition team, said of the group at the Chicago press conference. “I hope they take that job seriously.”

Meanwhile, today, Steve Fraser at The Nation is unhappy with all the ex-Clintonites in the new administration. He writes about the Obama appointees in Beyond the Bailout State,

A suffocating political and intellectual provincialism has captured the new administration in embryo. Instead of embracing a sense of adventurousness, a readiness to break with the past so enthusiastically promoted during the campaign, Obama seems overcome with inhibitions and fears.

and contrasts that with FDR’s transition:

Meanwhile, Felix Frankfurter (another confidant of FDR’s and a future Supreme Court Justice), aided by the behind-the-scenes efforts of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, fiercely contested the influence of the corporatists within the new administration, favoring anti-trust and then-new Keynesian approaches to economic recovery. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins used her extensive ties to the social work community and the labor movement to keep an otherwise tone-deaf president apprised of portentous rumblings from that quarter. In this fashion, she eased the way for the passage of the Wagner Act that legislated the right to organize and bargain collectively and that ended the reign of industrial autocracy in the workplace.

Is there just cause for handwringing? That remains to be seen. Keep in mind that Roosevelt didn’t officially appoint FP as his secretary of labor until just five days before his inauguration, which took place on March 4th, 1933.

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