Thursday, March 07, 2013

More than a penny's worth of troubles for possible Obama Commerce pick Pritzker

UNITE HERE protester, October, 2011
Almost a year and a half ago I listened as a member of the UNITE HERE union said this at an Occupy Chicago rally about President Obama's possible choice to be his next Commerce Secretary: "That's why we're out here together with everyone here in Chicago demanding that billionaires like Penny Pritzker pay their taxes."

Pritzker's family owns the Hyatt Hotel chain. For four years Hyatt housekeepers---who don't make a lot of money--have worked without a contract. Penny is a member of Hyatt's board of directors.

The P:ritzkers owned  Union Tank Car Company until 2008, when they sold sixty percent of their interest to Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. That year, after extracting tax breaks for the East Chicago, Indiana plant, the factory closed and over 500 union workers lost their jobs. But while the Pritzkers still owned the firm, Union Tank Car opened a new plant--a non-union one--in Louisiana. Of course they received tax breaks to built that facility.

Pritzker's name was tossed around as a possible Commerce Secretary in 2009. Labor is ready for her, as the National Journal reports:
In addition to the family drama surrounding its fortune, the Pritzker family has also had multiple disputes with the IRS over offshore tax havens. Additionally, some labor groups have accused Hyatt Hotels of worker-safety violations. Since then, labor leaders, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, have called for a boycott of the hotel chain. If she is nominated for the post this time around, labor leaders could raise these concerns.
Penny Pritzker and her family even has a bank failure on their résumé.

Will Big Labor acquiesce if Obama nominates Pritzker to his cabinet? If so, what kind of payback can the union bosses expect?

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