While President-Elect Obama has named a number of cabinet secretaries with alacrity, the post of labor secretary still is open. Rumors are swirling around several prospects: Governor Jennifer Grandholm of Michigan, who says she’s not being vetted; Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; and Mary Beth Maxwell.
Mary Beth Maxwell? You may not recognize that name. She’s an openly gay union activist who founded American Rights at Work, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes efforts to strengthen unions. Check out their list of board members — it’s an all-star group. And she has a great reputation among many labor leaders. Here’s an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article about her from yesterday:
Maxwell already had the strong backing of former Rep. David Bonior, who despite repeated attempts to get his name removed from consideration continues to be on the short list of potential labor secretaries. Bonior, 63 years old, says it is time for his generation to turn over power to a new generation, and Maxwell, whose labor-backed organization pushes for expanded collective bargaining rights, is his pick.
Some labor leaders from both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, a splinter union group led by the Service Employees International Union, back her as a consensus choice, citing her efforts on behalf of legislation to allow unionization at workplaces with the signing of cards, not secret balloting.
Since Frances Perkins’s day, there have been many women secretaries of labor — from both parties. But to pick someone who’s an open union activist — now that would be a breath of fresh air.
If you read the WSJ article, be sure to catch the posted comments.