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5/09/2005

U of L honors Labor Secretary Elaine Chao...why???

One would expect that when public buildings are named in honor of some individual it is because the person being recognized has accomplished a great deed or excelled in their field of work to such a degree they stand out above their peers. That is what one would expect, but in today’s political environment where control, money and PR mean everything, that is not what happens. For example, take the decision by U of L’s Board of Trustees to name a new library auditorium addition for Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

In explaining why U of L made its decision, U of L President Ramsey said, Chao “is very positive in her comments about the University when she speaks publicly, and her husband is one of the most senior senators in the U.S. Senate” and she “frequently attends sporting, cultural and social events that the University sponsors.” [Courier-Journal, April 24, 2005] So, Chao says good things about U of L, goes to some basketball games and is married to Mitch McConnell. Ah ha! Now I get it, it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not Chao is worth is a worthy Secretary of Labor.

In fact, Chao’s record as Labor Secretary is anything but exemplary. Consider the following:
Chao’s first act as Labor Secretary was to scuttle pending ergonomics regulations that were ten years in the making and would have protected millions of workers from exposure to repetitive motion injuries.


Chao used an opportunity to address international union presidents to berate, criticize and accuse organized labor of corruption. Based on her remarks and record, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has called Chao the worst Secretary of Labor in history.

Chao supported Bush’s rescission of Clinton’s Executive Order on Project Labor Agreements on federal construction projects.

Chao has championed the rollback of the Fair Labor Standards Act that will result in millions of working losing eligibility for overtime pay.

Chao’s Labor Department has cut several important training and education grants formally awarded to organizations with ties to organized labor and moved them to profit making corporations with ties to McConnell and other important senators.

Chao named David Lauriski to head the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration where Lauriski alienated the United Mine Workers and racked up one of the poorest mine safety enforcement records in history.

Chao and Lauriski waited until after the fall election to release a long-awaited report that found that federal mine inspectors miss “systematic” safety problems that cause accidents and fatalities.

While millions of workers remain unemployed, millions of jobs are going overseas, millions of workers are without health care, millions are losing their retirement savings, millions are exposed to unsafe working conditions, millions less are eligible for overtime, Elaine Chao and her Department of anti-Labor have focused on making unions file additional unnecessary reports, rolled back longstanding worker protections, and ignored the pressing concerns of millions of American workers.

U of L’s decision to name the library auditorium addition for Elaine Chao is a slap in the face of America’s working men and women and only shows how far U of L’s trustees will go to curry favor with Mitch McConnell.

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