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Xposted 12/3/2008 8:19 AM PST by BluePalmSpringsBoyz on

The Wall Street Journal reportsthat Pres.-Elect Barack Obama is vetting an openly lesbian labor organizer as Secretary of the Department of Labor: Mary Beth Maxwell.  

More below the flip...

Jonathan Weisman, WSJ reporter, indicates that Maxwell, a community activist, is also the mother of an adoptive African-American son and the founding executive director of American Rights at Work.  Maxwell is backed by former-Rep. David Bonior, a leading candidate for Labor Secretary, and the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Change to Win:

For the rainbow cabinet of the nation’s first African American president, Mary Beth Maxwell is the perfect labor secretary you’ve probably never heard of: a gay woman, community organizer and labor leader with an adopted African American son. And this founding executive director of American Rights at Work is about to get the full-court press.

Maxwell already had the strong backing of former Rep. David Bonior, who despite repeated attempts to get his name removed from consideration continues to be on the short list of potential labor secretaries. Bonior, 63 years old, says it is time for his generation to turn over power to a new generation, and Maxwell, whose labor-backed organization pushes for expanded collective bargaining rights, is his pick.

Some labor leaders from both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, a splinter union group led by the Service Employees International Union, back her as a consensus choice, citing her efforts on behalf of legislation to allow unionization at workplaces with the signing of cards, not secret balloting.

Gay rights groups have already started voicing support for the Maxwell nomination, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC):

Today, the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign will release a letter to President-elect Barack Obama strongly backing her. The catch: The group last week backed Rep. Linda Sanchez for the post.

"You would have received our letter in support of Representative Sánchez’s candidacy for Secretary of Labor last week," HRC President Joe Solmonese writes, asking for a mulligan.

"While we remain supportive of Representative Sánchez’s candidacy, it has come to our attention that Mary Beth Maxwell is also being considered for this crucial position. Given Ms. Maxwell’s long history of leadership on labor issues, HRC is pleased to also endorse Mary Beth Maxwell for Secretary of Labor."

Maxwell's primary challenge to the nomination is what Weisman calls 'star power.'  With Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) nominated for Secretary of State, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) nominated for Homeland Security, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) nominated for Commerce, New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner nominated as Secretary of the Treasury, and Robert Gates remaining at Defense, some labor groups are lobbying for a Labor Secretary with more umph like Gov. Kathleen Sibelius (D-KS) or Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI).

On the other hand, as far as Maxwell being the first openly gay cabinet secretary, that is a questionable assertion.  For one, everyone in Arizona knows that Napolitano is a lesbian.  Just ask anyone from Arizona attending the Palm Springs Village Fest.  And, I have.  If memory serves me correctly, Napolitano even took her partner to her most recent inauguration ceremony in Phoenix.

Also, rumors and questions have always abounded about the sexual orientation of Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno and George W. Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  So, though Maxwell may be the first openly gay member of a President's cabinet, she would not probably be the first gay member there.

In 1993, Pres. Bill Clinton nominated openly lesbian civil rights attorney Roberta Achtenberg to a Federal position as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Thus, Achtenberg became the openly gay person confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

(Update): In response to some questions below regarding Maxwell's qualifications, I am including the following regarding American Rights at Work.  Maxwell as indicated above is the founding executive director of Amerian Rights at Work, a community group that advances Democracy in the American Workplace.

The website unfortunately lacks a mission statement, however, recent issues addressed by American Rights at Work include freedom to form unions, broken labor law, unionbusting, responsible employers, and unions making a difference.  As a result, it would seem apparent that Maxwell would be a refreshing change to DoL.

American Rights at Work is eminently involved in the Employee Free Choice Act.

A growing, bipartisan coalition of policymakers supports the Employee Free Choice Act, proposed legislation that would ensure that workers have a free choice and a fair chance to form a union.  Simply put, the Employee Free Choice Act will allow workers to once again choose to form unions without the fear of being fired.

The legislation would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers' rights.  

Why is this bill so important? It's plain as day: workers are struggling in this country.  Today's workplaces are tilted in favor of lavishly-paid CEOs, who get golden parachutes while middle-class families struggle to get by.

The Employee Free Choice Act can restore the balance, giving more workers a chance to form unions and get better health care, job security, and benefits – and an opportunity to pursue their dreams.

American Rights at Work is educating the public about the anti-union and unionbusting activities of the Employee Freedom Action Committee:

EFAC is a new anti-union front group that attacks Congressional candidates who support the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions. Behind the scenes, the group is a corporate-funded campaign against workers' rights.  

Though it often purports to be "pro-worker," or at least "not anti-union," EFAC serves no interests but those of anti-union corporations afraid of their employees having a voice at work.  EFAC and its allies plan to spend tens of millions of dollars into early 2009 in attempts to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act.


The EFAC invested resources in defeating several Democratic Congressmembers who support unions and the Employee Free Choice Act, including Sen.-Elect Mark Udall (D-CO), Democratic candidate Bruce Lunsford (D-KY), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Democratic candidate Tom Allen (D-ME), Democratic candidate Al Franken (D-MN), Democratic candidate Ronnie Musgrove (D-MS), Sen.-Elect Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen.-Elect Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and various Democratic House members and candidates:

Where is the Employee Freedom Action Committee active?
EFAC has thrown itself into a number of races in the 2008 election cycle, setting up state-based front groups for a local facade.  EFAC and its entities have attacked these candidates for supporting the Employee Free Choice Act:

Coloradans for Employee Freedom
Senate: Mark Udall
CO-04: Betsy Markey

Kentucky (no official group formed yet)
Senate: Bruce Lunsford

Louisianans for Employee Freedom
Senate: Mary Landrieu
LA-04: Paul Carmouche

Mainers for Employee Freedom
Senate: Tom Allen
ME-01: Chellie Pingree

Minnesotans for Employee Freedom
Senate: Al Franken
MN-03: Ashwin Madia
MN-06: Elwyn Tinklenberg

Mississippi (no official group yet)
Senate: Ronnie Musgrove

Granite Staters for Employee Freedom (New Hampshire)
Senate: Jeanne Shaheen
NH-01: Carol Shea-Porter

Oregonians for Employee Freedom
Senate: Jeff Merkley

(Update 2):  Woo Hoo!  My obligatory thanks and gratitude for my first rec'd diary entry.  And my non-obligatory 'boing!'

Originally posted to BlueBeaumontBoyz on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 08:52 AM PST.

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