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Union Man Bonoir Leads Names Floated For Labor

One of the key elements of any economic recovery in 2009 is job creation. Another is job retention -- figuring out which jobs stay in the U.S. and which go overseas.

Which means the Labor Secretary under an Obama administration will play a key role in helping -- or hindering -- a recovery.

Post reporter Mike Fletcher reports that one name being promoted by union leaders is former House Democratic Whip David E. Bonoir (D-Mich.), chairman of American Rights at Work, a non-profit that pushes for the rights of workers to form unions and for stricter enforcement of worker safety provisions.

Bonoir will be part of Obama's skull session in Chicago tomorrow, preceding his afternoon address on the economy, possibly giving him an inside track on the Labor job.

Why Bonoir?

Buoyed by what they see as their central role in helping President-elect Obama’s victory, union leaders are looking to Obama to name a Labor secretary who supports their priorities.

And unions like Bonoir.

Bonoir's group is a strong backer of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers the right to join a union if the majority of employees at a workplace sign cards saying they want a union. Passage of the act is at the top of organized labor’s legislative agenda.

As a member of Congress, Bonoir joined organized labor in staunch opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

“On the agency front, we are looking for individuals who are going to support working men and women,” said Terry O’Sullivan, president of the 508,000-member Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Other names being mentioned by union leaders are:

-- Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor.

-- Former Rep. Richard A. Gephart (D-Mo.), who is a senior counsel at DLA Piper law firm in the District.

The percentage of workers in unions has diminished by 50 percent to 13 percent in the past 30 years. Labor says that bolstering union membership is crucial to reversing the trend of stagnating wages and shrinking benefits that has ensnared all but the best-paid workers over the past eight years.

-- Frank Ahrens

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By Frank Ahrens  |  November 6, 2008; 6:22 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  
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