Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee will hold the first hearing on President Obama's nomination of Thomas Perez to be secretary of labor on Thursday. The lawmakers should take the opportunity to ask Perez some pointed questions. We suggest a few below:
1) Do you agree with the president's efforts to roll back the previous administration's changes to the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act that required union officers to disclose potential conflicts of interest and report payments from union trusts? If so, how do you think it serves the interests of either union members or transparency and fraud prevention to require less disclosure?
2) Do you agree with the administration's efforts to eliminate the advice exemption under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act? This is the change that would require disclosure of contracts between management and the attorneys who advise them on labor law. If yes, can you please explain how this does not violate attorney-client privilege?
3) As secretary of labor, do you intend to continue the administration's push for so-called Card Check legislation, which would effectively eliminate the federally monitored secret ballot elections commonly used in workplace representation contests? If so, would you support any rule change to make decertification as simple, as well?
4) As the Justice Department's top civil rights attorney, you went to great efforts to arrange a quid pro quo deal in 2009 with the city of St. Paul, Minn. That deal involved the city dropping out of a case that could have resulted in a Supreme Court decision clarifying how the legal theory of "disparate impact" applied in discrimination cases in exchange for the federal government dropping out of two cases involving that city. This deal undermined one case requiring St. Paul landlords to get their buildings up to code and another case that would have required the city to use up to $200 million in federal grant money for the intended purpose of helping low-income people. Do you still believe this was a good swap? What, if anything, do you have to say to the tenants and low-income individuals who were left out of this deal?
5) Given that you went to such lengths to preserve the federal government's ability to use disparate impact theory in discrimination cases, how do you intend to use it as secretary of labor? Since the theory holds that outcomes, not intent, are enough to prove discrimination, and you have discretion to regulate federal contracting, are we likely to see new employment quota regulations for minorities under your tenure?
6) The previous secretary of labor, Hilda Solis, told the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh in 2009, "I am proud and humbled to be your humble servant as labor secretary." Do you agree with the administration's apparent position that the Department of Labor should be a servant of organized labor? Or do you think it should be a neutral overseer between labor and management?
7) If the president were to ask for your counsel regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's Jan. 25 decision declaring unconstitutional two of his recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, would you encourage him to withdraw his appeal to the Supreme Court?