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Labor Secretary: Stop Blaming Workers

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis addresses the Labor and Employment Relations Association forum at GW.

Public sector workers should not be blamed for the country’s economic problems, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) during its national policy forum at The George Washington University School of Business.  She also said that collective bargaining rights must be preserved.

“The public and policymakers may not understand what’s been given up by workers already,” said Solis, pointing to layoffs and slashed job benefits.  She said many workers are legitimately worried about their retirement plans and others don’t know if they’re going to receive a paycheck or a pink slip.”

The labor secretary’s remarks came in a keynote address during the June 6-7 forum, which was cosponsored by LERA and the Department of Management at the GW School of Business.  The gathering included presentations on retirement security, public employee pensions, immigration policy and its effect on labor, the effect of corporate lobbying on labor policy and the increased role of finance in the economy.

Solis told the audience that disappointing employment figures have overshadowed the auto industry’s important success story.  The remarks came just days after her agency released May unemployment figures that showed joblessness inching up to 9.1 percent, from 9 percent.

Solis cited new labor-management collaboration as the reason Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. posted strong, first-quarter earnings.  GM had earnings of $3.2 billion.  Ford saw first-quarter profits of $2.6 billion—its strongest in 13 years—and Chrysler saw its first profit in five years: $116 million.

“Some conservatives have argued that we can have strong economic growth or strong unions but we can’t have both,” Solis said.  “I tell you I’ve seen, it and we can have both.”

The forum drew union representatives, experts from think tanks, academics from several universities, U.S. government officials, lawyers and health care executives.  In addition to Solis, speakers included Vice President Joe Biden’s former chief economist, Jared Bernstein, and Ford’s vice president of labor affairs, Martin Mulloy.

Posted by gwsb on June 13, 2011 | Filed under: GWSB News.

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