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Labor nominee an advocate for workplace balance, U. of I. expert says

12/19/2008

Jan Dennis, Business & Law Editor
217-333-0568; jdennis@illinois.edu

Robert Bruno
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Labor expert Robert Bruno says the nominee for labor secretary would work to restore equality in the workforce.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for labor secretary would work to restore equality in a U.S. workforce that has seen the balance of power shift too far toward management, a University of Illinois labor expert says.

Robert Bruno says U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis, a California Democrat, has a deep legislative background in line with Obama’s pledge to press an ambitious labor agenda that would seek to strengthen unions, protect jobs and bolster the middle class.

“Perhaps most importantly, Solis has endorsed the long overdue need for major labor law reform to bring some equity back into the labor-management relationship,” said Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations.

The new labor secretary is expected to lead the push for a new law, the Employee Free Choice Act, aimed at making it easier for workers to unionize. Organized labor has called the measure its top priority when Obama and a new Congress take office next month.

Solis, 51, the daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants, also would be an advocate on issues ranging from the environment to the problems facing families as the nation tries to rebound from its deepest recession in decades, Bruno said.

“Congresswoman Solis has a proven record of supporting a broad-based working families agenda,” he said. “Her votes in Congress reflect a person attentive to the needs of the diverse populations currently struggling in the labor market.”

Solis also has built an extensive record on environmental issues during four terms in Congress, Bruno said.
Her legislative accomplishments include spearheading a bill to provide workers with training for “green-collar” employment, an initiative in step in Obama’s promise to address the nation’s energy needs and create new jobs.

“She has long pushed for the development of ‘green’ jobs and technology,” said Bruno, who has written two books and studies working-class and union studies issues.

Bruno helped arrange a panel including Solis that will speak next month at the annual meeting of the Labor and Employment Relations Association.

Editor’s note: To contact Robert Bruno, call 630-487-0013; e-mail bbruno@illinois.edu