January 5, 2001
Washington, D.C. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has serious concerns regarding President Elect George W. Bush's nomination of Linda Chavez (not to be confused with the AFL-CIO's Secretary Treasurer Linda Chavez-Thompson) to head the Department of Labor (DOL).
Said Marisa J. Demeo, MALDEF's Regional Counsel "Bush needs to seriously re-consider how he is making his administration "diverse." Demeo added, "A Spanish-sounding surname does not make a person sympathetic to the concerns and needs of the majority of the Latino population. Who exactly is Bush trying to reach in the Latino community through this nomination?"
Chavez has repeatedly taken anti-Latino stances, including bashing affirmative action in education and employment, and bilingual education; as well as supporting English-only initiatives.
Chavez indicated, in recent interview, that she intends to increase economic opportunities and job growth, improve the skills and opportunities for all Americans, and enforce federal rules regarding federal contractors' non-discrimination hiring policies. But how can we truly expect that from a person who, through her columns, speeches and previous work history, has consistently opposed affirmative action in the education and employment fields?
Chavez, most recently the Executive Director of the conservative organization called Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), at one point also headed U.S. English, an organization dedicated to making English the official language of every state and of the country. But U.S. English and its mission is about much more than a symbolic gesture, it is an organization dedicated to ending the use of all government uses of foreign languages, for example, by opposing bilingual voting ballots, drivers license tests in any language but English, and bilingual education. It is also an organization that has a history of hostility toward Latinos and immigrants.
The DOL is charged with enforcing a wide range of civil rights laws in the employment context, including long-standing equal opportunity and affirmative action laws. Each of these laws not only prohibits employers that contract with the federal government from discriminating, they also require affirmative action. Can we trust Chavez to vigorously enforce these laws?
Finally, the DOL is charged with implementing and funding numerous employment training programs, including such programs as Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers, Welfare-to-Work, and Apprenticeship Training. The DOL must ensure that its own activities and those funded by the DOL are accessible to those persons with limited English skills. "How much effort and force will Ms. Chavez place on these laws that are designed to provide fair access to limited English proficient individuals when she opposes the use of other languages by the government and for learning opportunities?" asked Antonio Hernandez, President and General Counsel of MALDEF.
We call upon the Senate to seriously consider whether Linda Chavez will vigorously enforce the laws the Department of Labor is charged with implementing, particularly as they affect minorities and limited English speaking low-wage workers.
(MALDEF is a national non-profit, civil rights organization which protects and promotes the civil rights of Latino through advocacy, community educational outreach, leadership development, higher education scholarships and, when necessary, through the legal system.)