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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript


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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript


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MS. MADDOW: With the proverbial blood still staining the floor from the Senate fight over the stimulus, you want to know what the next fight is going to be after this? It's Republican opposition to Labor Secretary-nominee Hilda Solis of California.

At first glance, this sort of looks like a typical nominee fight, a typical speed-up/slow-down personnel fight. But don't be fooled. This is the start of an ideological battle royale, where the parties are going to try to prove the reasons why they ought to exist.

Mrs. Solis's confirmation vote was delayed this week, ostensibly because her husband only recently paid off $6,400 of unpaid tax liens on his business, liens that dated back 15 years -- not an ideal situation for a Cabinet nominee, obviously, it's true; another Democrat with a tax issue. Ooh, what's with the vetting? What's Obama doing?

But is this really the holdup on Hilda Solis, a repaid tax lien on her husband's business? Consider the fact that Republicans have been holding up Mrs. Solis's confirmation since December, when no one knew about the old spousal tax lien.

The Solis nomination fight is the first act in what's probably going to be the biggest, most ideologically polarized policy fight we will see this year, including stimulus, including health care. This big fight is going to be about EFCA. EFCA? I know -- lamest acronym ever, but I'm telling you, hugest fight ever.

EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act, it's a bill that would make it easier, essentially, to form unions. Workers would get a choice of whether they want an election, like they have now, or an easier system by which a majority of workers just has to send in cards saying they want to unionize.

Sounds like a little change, really, not that big a deal, but the forced election thing now has the effect of stopping a ton of unionization drives. So this little change would probably mean a lot more Americans who wanted to join unions would actually get a union. More unions, more unions -- nothing freaks out Republicans like the idea of more unions.

Hilda Solis, a labor advocate, gives Republicans an opportunity to draw an early line in a fight that they will do anything to win. And if you think that is TV liberal hyperbole, well, think back to the auto bailout fight. You will recall that the Republicans insisted that the government unilaterally reduce wages of big three auto workers to bring them down to the non-union wages paid by foreign-owned plants in the U.S. Republicans insisted on a pay cut for blue-collar labor to try to break the unions.

Republicans are fighting Solis to gear up for fighting unions. Unions are definitely ready to fight them back. How about the Democrats, though? Where are they in this fight?

Joining us now is Congressman Phil Hare, Democrat of Illinois. He's on the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Congressman Hare, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

REP. HARE: Well, thank you for having me, Rachel. It's great to be here.

MS. MADDOW: Why do you think that Republicans are holding up the Hilda Solis nomination for Labor secretary?

REP. HARE: Well, I think it's really -- as you said, I think it's a lot about EFCA. It's labor's single biggest piece of legislation that's coming up. We're going to be considering it in the House Education and Labor Committee fairly soon.

This is a good, decent woman. And, you know, there are other things besides EFCA. You know, we've had three mine disasters since I've been elected two years ago. We have OSHA that basically doesn't do anything. And, you know, I think that they're drawing the line in the sand, as you said, and I think we have to push back on this.

Hilda Solis is a wonderful person. She's smart. She's energetic. She knows what she's doing. And she'll make a great secretary of Labor. So I think this has everything to do with the push-back coming from EFCA. And heaven forbid that we would let workers, you know, sign a petition to join a union.

And by the way, in this bill the opposition always says, "Well, you know, you have to have the secret ballot." If the workers want a secret ballot under this piece of legislation, they can have it. So their argument just doesn't stand. But, you know, it's, I think, the typical way that they've been doing business here.

MS. MADDOW: I just want to reiterate that point, because it's so important. The fight about EFCA already, even before it's got into a legislative stage, is already very skewed. I mean, EFCA, what it would do would be to give workers the choice of whether they wanted the secret ballot election, like they have now, or whether they wanted to do card check. Right? It leaves it in the hands of the workers?

REP. HARE: Absolutely. And currently, you know, when I go back to my district, I talk about this is a fairness issue. Currently, if the workers who are unionized don't want to be represented anymore, they sign a petition at 50 percent plus one. They present the petition to the manager of the plant, and the union is, for all intents and purposes, decertified. They don't have to negotiate with them. But heaven forbid that we would want to allow workers to join the union using the very same thing.

And again, as I said, this is exactly -- this argument about the sacred secret ballot -- Rachel, we had people come into our committee and testify that the people who, when they were going in to vote in their secret ballot elections, that were identified as union supporters, when they were walking down the hallways, the lights mysteriously went out for an hour to hold up the election.

So, look, this is serious business here, and these folks understand. But at the end of the day, I believe we're going to pass it from the House with a substantial number of votes. I believe that we're going to get it out of the Senate and I believe it's going to become the law of the land, and I believe it will raise the middle class up.

But more importantly, to hold a good, decent person like Hilda Solis up on what is just absolute nonsense, from my perspective -- you know, we've got a lot of work to do. We have to keep workers safe. We have to have OSHA. The last eight years, by the way, we've had one OSHA standard, and that was -- we had to sue the president of the United States to even get that.

And, by the way, the former secretary of Labor, I should mention -- I was on that committee for two years -- I saw her two times, one in a car with Mitch McConnell, her husband, when he was running for election in Kentucky, and the other was the day Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States. This is not an activist secretary of Labor we had here either.

MS. MADDOW: Do you think that this is the issue on which Republicans are going to sort of try to define their reason for existing, that unionization is going to be the issue around which they coalesce and they really fight to the end?

REP. HARE: Absolutely. They're dug in, and we're dug in too. This is going to be a battle. But, look, we Democrats believe in the simple matter of being fair. If people can decertify with a petition, they can join a union with a petition. That's all we're asking for. And when we do, you know, we only have 12 percent of the country now that is currently organized. We can do much better.

And, you know, when you hear about this, if you look at the polls, most people, well over 60 percent of the people, will say they would join a union if they were given the opportunity. So give them the opportunity. I mean, that's all we're asking for in the bill. If they want the secret ballot, they're more than welcome to have the ballot.

MS. MADDOW: Representative Phil Hare, Democrat of Illinois, thank you, sir. It's a pleasure to have your insight on this.

REP. HARE: You're welcome, Rachel.

MS. MADDOW: Enjoy your weekend.

REP. HARE: Nice to be here. Thank you very much.

MS. MADDOW: Thank you.

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