The Spectacle Blog

Belabored Laborers at Labor

By on 2.7.14 | 11:42AM

Yesterday at NRO I reported, after much investigation, that a host of shenanigans by the Obamite political troops at the Labor Department were destroying morale there and ill serving the public. Poetry contests at OSHA. Glossy, expensive, politically charged posters in every elevator. Pressure to vote in a religious-themed poll. Big outside contracts to promote a national book club. And more -- all backed by multiple accounts of a hostile work environment, within a subtext that a cabal of a certain sort of white males who were the political "in" gang were shutting out career employees, including (whether by happenstance or a weird, deliberate bias) an inordinate number of women, Hispanics, and maybe blacks.

There's actually more to the story -- as was confirmed by an excellent separate report, later yesterday, by Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley, that Local 12 of the American Federation of Government Employees alleging, among other things, "hiring discrimination against black males, black females and Hispanic females." Also, charged the union, long-time employees are being discriminated against.

Then, lo and behold, I saw here at the Spectacle that Natalie deMacedo had linked to the Daily Caller piece and, quite helpfully, put it in the context of an earlier article I had written here about Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. The odd thing, as Natalie noted, is that Perez' history is of aggressive discrimination in the other direction, against white males and in favor of blacks and Hispanics. Surely Perez himself is not deliberately creating an atmosphere of discriminating against Hispanic women.

But -- and here's the rub -- what seems to trump everything is a reckless disregard for the norms and ethics of civil service, carried out by a political "in" group while shutting out and otherwise mistreating (sometimes very badly indeed) even the most diligent and public-spirited of career employees. 

It is not just the career employees who get hurt; it's the public that loses. One source of mine gave an example of what happens, for instance in public affairs, when enforcement actions aren't properly publicized the way career employees long have done, either because the career employees can't get heard by the political appointees or because the political employees are ordering the career folks to waste time on projects like book clubs and internal departmental magazines:

“Enforcement should be important in terms of being fair in publicizing all of the actions as opposed to cherry picking. [But] enforcement cases were not publicized as they had previously been done for a particular program. So the appearance to the public was that you were not doing as much enforcement when that wasn't true. [Publicizing enforcement actions is important because] it gives an idea of what are the core issues that a corporation must comply with; and on a consumer level, it gives them the message about where do you go if they think they are one of the wronged parties. It also lets them know that someone is doing something about an issue that affects their day to day life. [Without consistent publicity,] both sides have little guidance on what is expected. On a corporate level, that is costly, because the litigation that results can be costly” – far more so than compliance in the first place.

In other words, businesses that do try to be in full compliance with all laws might not get the word that certain regulations are now being emphasized, for both emphasized and interpreted in a slightly different way, so they might run afoul of the new emphasis/interpretation without being aware of it until being forced to pay huge fines or large court fees. Those are fines/court fees that surely would have been avoided, at much smaller compliance costs, if the Department employees were allowed to do their jobs right.

Anyway, this all bears watching. Methinks some congressional committees ought to look into all of it.

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