Secretary Elaine Chao


The Stiletto's Sharp Idea

Secretaries of labor, if they are republicans, generally come and go quickly. Organized labor and its many congressional allies are so relentlessly hostile to Republicans, the secretaries grow weary of constant guerrilla warfare, and depart: their average tenure since 1960 is just 24 months—less than half the 47-month average for Democratic secretaries.

But the current secretary, Elaine Chao—as slender as a stiletto, and as steely—is not going away. She is the first real conservative to serve as Labor secretary. One reason John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, says he has “never seen a secretary of Labor who is so anti-labor” is that Chao wants to compel union leaders to provide useful information to union members about how their mandatory dues are being spent. She proposes strengthening the reporting requirements of a 1959 disclosure law.

The junior senator from Massachusetts, John Kennedy, made his support for that law central to his presidential campaign. He served on (and his brother Robert was on the staff of) a Senate committee that had drawn attention to union corruption. Think such corruption is a thing of the past? Visit the Labor Department’s Web site,, and peruse the one-paragraph summations of about 290 convictions since October 2000.

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