In Economics, Legislation Today on January 30, 2009 at 2:45 pm
President Obama made the above statement today as he signed a series of executive orders in the White House that are meant to “level the playing field” for labor unions.
According to the New York Times report of the meeting:
The orders he signed, which union officials say will undo Bush administration policies that tilted toward employers, would require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change, and would make it more difficult for federal contractors to discourage union activities.
The president also announced a new task force on the problems of middle-class Americans, and he named Vice President Joe Biden to chair it. Jared Bernstein, a liberal economist, has been tapped to lead the task force. More information can be found at AStrongMiddleClass.gov.
President Obama and VP Biden at White House ceremony (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
More from the Times:
The president and vice president did not define the “middle class” precisely in terms of income or standard of living, but it seemed clear that they were not speaking of Wall Street people.
“These are the men and the women who form the backbone of our economy, the most productive workers in the world,” Mr. Obama said.
In Political world on January 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm
Mark Green has published an article in The Nation that lists an ambitious but doable series of ten goals for the first term of the Obama presidency. They are: (1) Reduce poverty one-third by 2016; (2) Enhance democracy to stop special-interest vetoes; (3) Get economic growth rates back to at least 3 percent; (4) Move to a clean, green low-carbon economy; (5) Reduce the costs–and expand the coverage–of healthcare; (6) Elevate science over politics in federal decision-making; (7) Restore the rule of law and human rights as American values; (8) Educate children better for the global economy; (9) Fight terrorism by working more cooperatively with allies; (10) Reduce nuclear proliferation.
These are all worthy goals but what caught my eye was Green’s mention of Frances Perkins:
No president can go much farther than his constituency wants. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin put it well in The American Prospect: “When you look at the periods of social change, in each instance the president used leadership not only to get the public involved in understanding what the problems were but to create a fervent desire to address these problems in a meaningful way.” Recall here the oft-told story how Labor Secretary Frances Perkins was urging a sympathetic FDR to adopt labor reforms, and the politician-in-chief replied: Fine. Now make me do it.
Perhaps we all should be Obama’s “Frances Perkins.” Our voices together can help “create a fervent desire to address these problems in a meaningful way.”
In Legislation Today on December 6, 2008 at 10:00 am
The Frances Perkins Center is working on the agenda for a conference May 2nd at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast, Maine. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list for information.) Yesterday, I met with Maine’s Commissioner of Labor, Laura Fortman, and Deputy Commissioner of Labor, Jane Gilbert, to discuss potential conference topics. Our ideas centered around what’s being called the “New New Deal,” focusing specifically on the changes in the U.S. workforce since 1933 and how this new version of a works progress program would affect workers who didn’t fit the 1933 profile.
Today, President-elect Obama released a YouTube and radio address that speaks directly about what he’s considering in this 2009 stimulus package:
To recap what President-elect Obama says, there are the three major pieces of the package at this point:
a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient.
the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.
a sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen. As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway.
Those are important goals. But as we look at the kinds of jobs they’ll create and the workers who will benefit from those jobs, we need to ask ourselves, “Who is being left out?” Will part-time workers benefit? Will women workers be fully represented? Will “contract” workers get any help? How can we make sure that the benefits of a stimulus package reach the broadest possible spectrum of workers?
That’s what we’ll be considering on May 2nd.
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.