Secretary Elaine Chao

 
 
 

Hard Labor: Elaine Chao, Reformer

Reading the newspapers, one might get the impression that no one will miss Elaine Chao, the longest-serving member of former President George W. Bush’s Cabinet, now that she is gone from her post as secretary of labor. On January 12, the Washington Post reported that some Labor Department staffers–and organized labor–were rapturously celebrating her departure.

Days before the Bush administration came to a close, Chao’s detractors partied at Clyde’s, a Washington restaurant. Alexander Bastani, president of Local 12 of the American Federation of Government Employees, reportedly led the crowd in the familiar tune sung in moments of victory, “Na na, na na na na, hey, hey, hey goodbye.” Nor did Big Labor’s anti-Chao karaoke bash end there.

“Sisters and brothers, we are 11 days away,” Bastani was quoted as saying to over 100 cheering members. “Eleven days away from freedom.” Even the cake–yellow with white icing and the words “Ciao to Chao” written on top–was said to “symboliz[e] the end of tyranny at the Department of Labor.” The American Federation of Government Employees’ general counsel, Mark Roth, said that Chao’s Labor Department had been a “terrible place to work for the career workforce”—though it didn’t seem to impede their ability to throw $6,000 parties in Washington, D.C.

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