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"chou" Fed To The Dogs (it's Ugly).


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I'm watching CSPAN's coverage of a Senate hearing on the Department of Labor's upcoming rule changes that could force many people to lose overtime benefits (but extend overtime benefits to 1.3 million "white collar" workers who currently don't get overtime). Elaine Chou, Secretary of Labor, is on the hot seat. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) seems to be her only friend. Patty Murray (D-Washington) is taking potshots at the vagueness of the proposed rules. But, her biggest and most dangerous foe appears to be Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania). Specter is on the Subcommittee For Labor & Health and (ulp) claims that Chou has "stiffed" him on appointments to discuss the proposal.

Chou said, point blank, that the proposed changes would have no effect on labor agreements. But Murray (and impliedly, Specter) reminded her that the only reason major employers put overtime clauses into their agreements with labor is because current Labor Department rules mandate them. Remove the mandate and "future" labor agreements would take on an entirely different light. Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, is now testifying to that effect ... and is not a happy camper.

March could be an interesting month ... since that is when the "final proposal" for rules changes is due. If these rules become law, I suspect it will be a nail in the coffin of a 2nd term for President Bush. I'm frankly surprised that Bush would allow his Labor Secretary to tamper with such things during an election year. Even Republicans (Specter is just one) are beginning to worry. No wonder. The entire House of Representatives and a full one-third of the Senate are up for re-election this year as well. If Bush ticks off organized labor too much, he'll lose his value as a spokesman to help fellow Republicans in their Senate/House races. And, voters may extend blame to their Senate/House Republicans.

Bush's popularity ratings are high in areas of security. But security may not be enough of a factor to sustain that popularity if too many middle class workers feel disenfranchised by the administration and a Republican controlled legislative branch.

P.S. Want a different view of the 2004 Presidential election? Visit THIS PAGE to see a rundown on the candidates ... from the viewpoint of Al-Jazeera.

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Al-Jazeera's election news seems to be fairly objective-but a third party won't ever make it in this country except as a spoiler. I certainly hope that Nader doesn't try it again..

Wouldn't surprise me to see the reactionaries in the White House cook labor--I hope you're right and it causes a public storm.

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I found Al-Jazeera's take on the individual candidates a lot more even-handed than what I've seen in the Western media. Kind of refreshing, actually. Bush appears to be attempting to lock up certain niches of the electorate - Latinos (with his immigrant amnesty deal) and non-unionized white-collar workers (the Labor Department scuttling of overtime for some blue-collar workers). But in doing so, he's also scuttling good relations with conservatives in his own party ... so much so that he might even convince some of them to vote for a (ulp) Democrat.

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