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Will Yesterday’s Filibuster Agreement Fix The Broken Senate?

Senator Harry Reid

Senator Harry Reid

Yesterday Senator Harry Reid laid out his ultimatum to the Senate Republicans.  He called it his ‘nuclear option’.  Reid said that if the Republican Senators did not remove their objections on Presidential appointees that he would change the rules of the Senate to take away that option completely.  The Republican Senators eventually caved.  They will remove their objections and allow up and down vote on these nominees.

Yeah we won, sort of.   When all the dust settles, Americans do win this battle.  The Senate will confirm the Thomas Perez (Department of Labor), Richard Cordray (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), Gina McCarthy (EPA), and Fred Hochberg (Export-Import Bank nominee) with an up and down vote.  They also agreed to remove the NLRB nominees and replace them with two new nominees, which the Republicans have agreed not to block.

That is good news.  We are making progress and we should have two new board members on the NLRB before the August recess.

The Communication Workers of America have been pushing very hard for changes in the Senate.  They started a campaign called ‘Fix the Senate’ in which they are calling for Senator Reid to change the filibuster rule and go back to speaking filibuster. The speaking filibuster rule made Senators stand in front of the Senate when they wanted to block a bill.

CWA President Larry Cohen released this statement:

“It’s likely that we’ll see four of the seven nominations go forward as part of the agreement reached by the Senate, and that’s positive. This encourages us that we can move toward a 21st century democracy when, as in this case, we build a broad coalition like Fix the Senate Now to mobilize Americans and make sure their voices are heard.”

Cohen also raised his concerns about the nominations to the NLRB.

“Today’s Senate action does raise this question: of the seven nominations, why were two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board singled out?

President Obama will nominate two good candidates to the NLRB who will stand up for the workplace rights of 80 million working Americans.”

Why WERE the NLRB nominees singled out? That is a very interesting question.  Will the Republicans Senators hold true to their word that they will not object to two new nominees?  Are they doing this to delay the appointment of these members in an underhanded attempt to effectively shut down the NLRB?

Cohen continues, “Our path for change remains the Fix the Senate Now coalition, an organization of unions, civil rights and community groups, greens, people of faith and others. We will continue to work together to fix the broken Senate and to ensure that a Democratic majority on the NLRB is confirmed before the August recess as the Senate has assured.”

Sen. Mitch McConnellWhile everyone agrees that today’s actions by the Senate are a big step forward, however did we really win anything?  We may have won this battle, but the war is far from over.  How long will it be before the Senate Republicans block another nominee, or another piece of legislation?  We still need to push to change the filibuster rule in the Senate.  The Senate has become a black hole due to the fact that the minority blocks every bill the majority is pushing.  These obstructionists have created a system where the minority has all the power and they are abusing it.

Will this new ‘let’s work together’ attitude continue past the end of the week?  Lets not forget the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that was made about filibustering every bill back in January.  That agreement seemed to last about a week before the Republicans went back to their old bad habits.  Only time will tell who is telling the truth and who is not.


Thomas Perez: What are they so scared of?

Yep, they were ready.

Less than 50 minutes after President Obama nominated Thomas Perez to be our next Secretary of Labor, Rush Limbaugh was already attacking him.  (Rush didn’t even know what position Perez had been nominated to – but he was quite certain he could tell his listeners “exactly who this guy is”.)

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was already vowing to use parliamentary rules to block Senate action on the nomination.  Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) were right there, giving the press their talking points.  Even Investors’ Business Daily weighed in, with an editorial calling Perez “radical” and “a boatload of trouble.”

The GOP messaging campaign was primed and ready to go, well before the nomination was even made.  Listen to the words they use: “New Black Panthers”, “Hugo Chavez”, “illegal immigrants”, “hardcore Islamist groups”.  Political code words, galore.

Now look at the GOP talking points from an objective perspective.  Someone has sifted through this man’s entire career, looking for anything and everything they could exaggerate or stretch into an innuendo.  Things that happened at the Department of Justice, before Perez got there?  Quotes taken out of context?  Unsubstantiated accusations made by one political commentator, repeated as “fact” by others?

Gotta wonder what they’re so scared of.

Yep, looks like it’s going to be an ugly confirmation fight.  Need a primer to separate fact from fiction? Media Matters has a good one, here.

Statement by AFT President Randi Weingarten on Nomination of Thomas Perez as Labor Secretary

Washington—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten released the following statement on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez to head the U.S. Department of Labor.

“At a time when workers’ rights of all kinds—from the right to fair and equal treatment in the workplace to the right to safe working conditions and beyond—must be defended more resolutely than ever, I congratulate Thomas Perez on his nomination to serve as the next Secretary of Labor. I urge the Senate to confirm his appointment swiftly.

“Mr. Perez has an extensive background as a champion for fairness and dignity on the job, and as a person who takes on discrimination and exploitation wherever he encounters it. As the son of immigrant parents, he has spent his entire career demonstrating his commitment to equality for all who call America home. I look forward to Mr. Perez having the opportunity to bring his dedication to making the American dream attainable for all hardworking families to the U.S. Department of Labor.”

The United Steelworkers Support Perez for Department of Labor

(PITTSBURGH) – The United Steelworkers (USW) released this statement today from International President Leo W. Gerard in support of President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez as the administration’s new Secretary of Labor:

“All workers should be thrilled with President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor. Mr. Perez has a long and distinguished record of standing up and fighting for the rights of his fellow Americans. He has worked hard to protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable workers from discrimination and exploitation.

“Whether the issue was civil rights, immigration, education, health and safety, wages, health care or veterans’ affairs, Mr. Perez has been on the side of working people every step of the way throughout his career.

“Most of all, Thomas Perez understands the challenges that working families face in this country and he has proven that he will be an aggressive champion for them. He’s exactly the kind of advocate Americans deserve as their Labor Secretary, and we look forward to his swift confirmation.”

The USW represents about 850,000 workers in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glassmaking to mining, steel, oil, paper, tire and rubber to the public sector, service and health care industries.

The SEIU Says President Obama Makes Right Choice for DoL Secretary

After President Obama nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez to be the next U.S. Secretary of Labor, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“President Obama has made an excellent choice in nominating Thomas Perez to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. During his time as Labor Secretary in Maryland, Mr. Perez’s had a strong record of enforcing labor laws, especially wage and hour and other violations that stood in the way of workers earning a fair wage. Enforcing these labor laws help to close the income gap between the wealthy and everyone else.

“His driven leadership of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department also makes him a highly qualified nominee. During his time at the Justice Department, Mr. Perez has initiated many important challenges to state and local laws that sought to infringe on the civil rights of minority communities and of all Americans.

“The Senate should move quickly to confirm Mr. Perez. Should he be confirmed, we look forward to working with Mr. Perez to protect workers’ rights, to pursue commonsense immigration reform and to address the many other challenges facing working families in our country.”


With 2.1 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers—not just corporations and CEOs—benefit from today’s global economy.  www.seiu.org

IBEW Praises President Obama’s Choice For Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez

Thomas Perez, Photo courtesy of US DOJ

Thomas Perez,
Photo courtesy of US DOJ

IBEW leaders are praising President Obama’s March 18 nomination of civil-rights attorney Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor.

Says IBEW President Edwin D. Hill:

Thomas Perez is the right choice to help continue to work of outgoing Secretary Hilda Solis in making the Department of Labor a leading force for workers’ rights, safety on the job, and high-skilled training. With workers’ rights increasingly under attack, it’s good to have a labor secretary who understands that his No. 1 job is to uphold working standards and uplift working families.

Perez, an assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, has a long history of advocacy for workers’ and civil rights. He previously served as Maryland’s secretary of labor where he fought for tougher regulations to end workplace fraud and helped boost the number of apprenticeship programs.

Baltimore Local 24 Business Manager Roger Lash, who served under Perez as director of the state’s apprentice and training program, says:

Tom is a no-nonsense person who really cares about working people. He’s a great choice. He’s also a supporter of progressive, get-it-done government. He really held our feet to the fire to make the department work smoothly and efficiently

In Maryland, Perez worked against the practice of misclassification of workers as independent contractors, which costs workers and taxpayers millions of dollars each year. He was one of the driving forces behind the 2009 Workplace Fraud Act, which provided for tougher penalties for employee misclassification.

Baltimore Building and Construction Trades Council President Rod Easter, who is also a Local 24 member:

Perez is the best choice for working people, no question. He supports our values – fair play, inclusion and good jobs.

The son of Dominican immigrants, Perez worked in the civil rights division of the Justice Department in the 1980s. Leaving the federal government in 2001, he went on to win a seat on the Montgomery County Council, a suburb of Washington D.C. During his tenure on the council, he was known for his vocal support of workers’ rights.

As the Baltimore Sun reports:

George Leventhal, a Democratic member of the council, recalled a 2004 case in which he and Perez were subpoenaed by Comcast for their support of an employee who was fired by the cable company for trying to unionize about 300 employees. Comcast later dropped the case and reinstated the employee.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice

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