Elaine Chao’s Nomination Might be a Big Problem for One Big Trumper. Here’s How...

RedStaters know I’ve written before about Rep. Bill Shuster’s supposed air traffic control privatization scheme that Heritage has called out involving quite a few union giveaways (which is, incidentally, why the air traffic controllers’ union is just fine with it).


In the weeks since Trump’s win, the Shuster plan seems to have been given a boost, first by Shirley Ybarra being part of the transition  and then by the nomination of Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation. As a reminder, Ybarra, generally in favor of public-private partnerships, called the system that would be instituted by the Shuster plan “corporatized” (as opposed to “privatized”). And Chao is generally seen as a pretty pro-private sector voice in public policy, too.

But there is a problem. There’s a hurdle that comes with Chao’s appointment when it comes to Shuster’s proposal. The former Labor Secretary doesn’t exactly have a reputation as being a friend to Big Labor, unlike Shuster who was supported by unions in his re-election bid against a Tea Party insurgent. So, to the extent she’s on board with privatization, it’s probably going to have to look pretty different from what Shuster is proposing in order to measure up for her.

Here are some of the things that Chao did as Labor Secretary that all of us probably think are awesome, but that hint at why she might not support a “reform” that involves giving a big union— the one taken head on by Ronald Reagan, no less— exactly what they want on an array of items.

  • In 2002, Chao reportedly “intervened personally to tell the union’s [International Longshore and Warehouse Union] bargaining committee that the administration is prepared to prevent any strike [against union members’ employer, Pacific Maritime Association]. It’s worth noting that per Heritage, one of the things that is objectionable about Shuster’s bill is that under it, “the president could no longer intervene to end a strike by firing the strikers.”
  • In 2003, while Chao was Labor Secretary, the Department issued rules increasing financial disclosure requirements for unions. Unions with an income of $250,000 or more were required to disclose expenditures of $5,000 or more. “The current financial disclosure forms that unions file provide little of value to rank-and-file members about their union’s finances and operations, and they have failed as an effective deterrent against financial misconduct…Too many workers are being hurt by the wrongdoing of a few,” Chao said.
  • In 2004, union members protested after the Labor Department instituted rules on overtime pay. Chao said that “under the new rules, workers will know their overtime rights, employers will know their responsibilities and the department can more vigorously enforce these protections,” obviously a highly objectionable statement and set of objectives. Per Heritage, no federal salary cap will apply to air traffic controllers under Shuster’s proposal. one tends to think given Chao’s 2004 action, that’s not likely to sit well with her.
  • In a 2009 op-ed, Chao said that during her tenure as Labor Secretary “the Labor Department secured more than 1,000 union fraud-related indictments and 929 convictions. This enforcement record was accomplished even though the enforcement office accounts for less than 0.1% of the department’s budget.”
  • In 2009, she also said that during her tenure at the Department, they got “union officials to reimburse tens of millions of dollars in embezzled and misspent money.”

It would be great if Chao’s appointment, plus Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress, could be used to push FAA reform in a legitimately conservative, as opposed to cronyist, direction. It’s a challenge Republicans are facing across the board, and the President-elect isn’t setting a great example. But we must continue to advocate for what is good and smart, not what is popular or populist or Trumpist.


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