Solis Sure to Be Confirmed, Chamber's Labor VP Predicts
Forget about honeymoons or wait-and-see. With President-elect Barack Obama moving his stimulus plans ahead even before his inauguration, three events this week in Congress are expected to show immediately how well the new president's emboldened Democratic majority can perform. Two votes tomorrow will put labor union priorities of equal pay for women and overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's Ledbetter pay discrimination decision on a fast track, but the Senate confirmation hearing Friday for Labor secretary-designate Hilda Solis is even more important.
Solis is on record supporting most of big labor's goals, including equal pay. The AFL-CIO said Monday that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on Wednesday; both passed the House in the last Congress but failed to pass in the Senate. The Ledbetter case, decided by the high court in May 2007, said Lilly Ledbetter had no right to sue for pay discrimination because she had waited more than 180 days after her first paycheck to file the lawsuit. Plaintiff Ledbetter had worked for many years at a Goodyear plant before discovering she was being paid less for equal work than the lowest-paid male co-worker.
Randy Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president for Labor Policy, said in a news conference today that the Chamber will not compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act and will rely on a Senate Republican filibuster to stop it and the other two measures, which may be combined into a single bill that would produce a "tough fight" in the Senate for the Chamber. As for Solis, "I'm sure she will be confirmed. We look forward to working with her," Johnson said. He said the Ledbetter bill is very broadly worded and potentially will allow abritration panels to set work rules at sites where labor and management and a mediator can't resolve contested issues. OSHA reform, plant closing notification, and other important labor bills will be brought up soon in the House, where Democrats will pass them, he predicted.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will begin its confirmation hearing on Solis, D-Calif., at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, Jan. 9. Only one witness is currently listed on the committee's Web site: Dr. Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, a Washington, D.C., public health non-profit that works to make prevention of disease a national priority. To watch a webcast of the hearing, visit this site.