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Obama Picks a Bad Penny for Commerce

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Barack Obama’s nomination of Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary was a poke in the eye of the American labor movement. The niece of the founder of the Hyatt Hotel chain and current member of the company’s board, Pritzker is a key player in what UNITE HERE calls “the worst hotel employer in America.”

Go to the union’s Hyatt Hurts website for info on its global boycott and then click to UNITE HERE’s clever and diplomatic call for Pritzker to leave the board and be replaced by a hotel worker.

But even if this appointment can be turned into a tactical advantage for the union campaign, the Pritzker family brand as notorious union busters has many progressives irritated or worse by Obama’s choice. (Recently workers at two Hyatts in Long Beach California won union representation after a tough three-year battle which included the passage of Proposition N, that city’s first living wage ordinance.)

What can I say?

That Romney’s cabinet picks would have been much more hostile to unions than Obama’s? That the president believes Pritzker’s appeal to corporate elites is a good fit for Commerce, a department without jurisdiction on worker issues? That the Pritzker nominee is offset by his choice of a progressive civil rights lawyer to head the Labor Department?

It’s not so bad.

After all, President Obama knows what he’s doing. He’ll help build the labor movement. He’s just waiting for the right time:

Maybe in his third term.

(This post first appeared on Labor Lou and is republished with permission.)

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