02.15.2013 1

Labor turnover struggles

The Department of Big LaborBy Rick Manning — There are strange rumblings out of the scandal ridden Labor Department as those left behind in the wake of former Secretary Hilda Solis’ sudden departure both jockey for power and dive for cover to avoid being tainted in the financial malfeasance surrounding the Job Corps program.

Job Corps Scandal

Subcommittee Chairperson Patty Murray and ranking member Johnny Isakson jointly signed a letter demanding that Jane Oates, the Labor Department official with oversight responsibility over the Job Corps program appear before their Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) subcommittee to explain the dramatic cuts in Job Corps slots and where approximately $60 million went that was supposed to fully fund the program.

The hearing was originally scheduled for February 12, but Oates is rumored to have used her pull as a former staff person for Ted Kennedy to get the public beat down delayed.  Now with Murray no longer serving as the subcommittee chairperson, the date for rescheduling is up in the air.

The real bad news for Labor Department Obama officials is that incoming subcommittee chairman Bob Casey, Jr. from Pennsylvania has already publicly chastised the Department on the issue demanding an Inspector General investigation.

What Casey may not know is that the Labor Department has not had an actual Inspector General for 1,313 days and counting, or since July 13, 2009.  The word on the street is that the person currently in charge of the office was actively dissuaded by former Secretary Solis from pursuing the investigation.  It is also rumored that Solis and the aforementioned Oates requested that the Office of Management Budget allow them to reallocate program dollars to fill the shortfall in the Job Corps program and were told no.

Interesting rumors that an aggressive member of Congress might want to determine if they are more than just water cooler talk.

After all, Acting Secretary Seth Harris, who as Deputy Secretary under Solis is waste deep in the scandal himself.  Harris has reportedly removed Ms. Oates from heading an internal group dealing with the scandal.

Meanwhile, Ms. Oates appears to be being set up by someone at Labor, as she found herself under fire before a House congressional committee last week as a result of what some believe to be a deliberately sabotaged hearing.

House Committee members were reportedly outraged when documents that they had been requesting for months showed up after hours the night before Oates was to appear.

In one of the stranger document presentations in a city of historic document dumps, the materials were on an encrypted disk that was slipped under the door of the Committee after hours with a post it note attached.

When staff and Members found the sticky note disk, they were understandably irritated, and Ms. Oates bore the brunt of that ire.  I guess someone at DOL doesn’t like her.

It should be interesting when Democratic Senator Casey and others start digging more deeply into the scandal, as Obama’s Labor team plays every person for themselves.

Acting Secretary Seth Harris makes a play

The Washington Post had a Valentine’s Day kiss for Acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris who has raised his profile considerably since being given the Acting title.  Here is what the Post’s Emily Heil wrote,

“ Basically, if the department’s newsletter was US Weekly, he’d be its Lindsay Lohan.

Harris has changed his Twitter handle to “ActingSecHarris,”and he’s been busy churning out quotes for press releases, with at least nine statements bearing his words.

Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio said all the activity has more to do with Harris’ personality and style than his ambitions. “I’ve known Seth Harris for 20 years, and he’s just an enthusiastic and exuberant person,” he said. “He brings that to everything he does, and he’s been an enthusiastic and exuberant acting Secretary.”

Isn’t it good to know either that Harris is enthusiastic and exuberant or that his public relations flack only has two adjectives in his vocabulary.   It sure sounds like more than one Labor official is desperately seeking to hold onto power.

One wonders if Heil asked if Ms. Lohan, er, Mr. Harris has moved into the Secretary’s digs on the second floor of the Labor Building as rumblings from within the Department indicate.  It would have also been interesting if she had confirmed the chatter that Smith already has a personal chef working out of the Secretary’s office who is preparing his “power” lunches.

Ironic – Labor Department Labor Union not happy with Harris

It is no secret that organized labor strongly supported Obama both for election and re-election, and you would think that in the Labor Department all would be well, as those who worked for big labor and spout the words of standing up for the little guy have occupied the Department for four years.

Yet, something has run afoul at Labor.  American Federation of Government Employees Local 12, which represents unionized employees at DOL sent the following letter to its members on February 1, 2013.

Dear Members:

At our meeting today, of about fifty members, there was general consternation about the fact that Seth Harris is Acting Secretary of Labor when he is mostly responsible for the Department’s 16th out of 19th ranking in the Best Places to Work in Government which was recently published. (The Department ranked in the middle of the pack during the Chao administration. ) I believe it is fair to say the consensus was that most employees are concerned with the morale of the Department if Mr. Harris and Assistant Secretary Kerr remain in positions of power.

One of our members who attended this meeting suggested afterwards that employees submit question to Acting Secretary Harris about our low ranking in the Best Places to Work in the Government,  or managers taking bonus pool money for themselves, or the attempt to contract out parking. I think that is a wonderful ideal.

I strongly encourage you to follow up with Acting Secretary Harris about issues of morale. If only a few employees write, then nothing will change. But if hundreds of you write, we can be the change we believe in.

In Solidarity,

Alex Bastani

One can bet that Harris and Filicchio both hope that no one on the Hill or in Obama’s nomination team hears about the labor unrest at the Labor Department.

It just might get even more embarrassing than it already is.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the Vice President of Public Policy & Communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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