Solis doesn't mention union bill at business group breakfast

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis neglected Thursday to mention the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in remarks to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), one of the contentious union bill's biggest opponents.

Instead, the former California congresswoman, speaking before a breakfast meeting of the trade group's members, concentrated on what both the business association and the Obama administration agreed upon: the $787 billion stimulus package.

"This is just one down-payment. It won't last long but we have to produce something," Solis said.

Thanking NAM for their support of the recovery effort, which was key to its passage on Capitol Hill, Solis said there are a number of areas for the trade association and the administration can work together in to help right the tough economy, whether it was creating jobs in the renewable energy industry, more workforce training or expanding college education.

"The long and the short of it is there are good opportunities for us in the future," Solis said.

Solis is the first Obama administration official to speak at a NAM event, according to the trade group's president and CEO, former Michigan Gov. John Engler (R). The business group is known for its Republican ties but has reached across the aisle in the past, most recently in its support of the stimulus package.

One area where NAM and the administration will not find agreement is on EFCA, which would make union organizing much easier if passed. Business groups have lobbied heavily against the bill, believing it will lead to more strikes and work stoppages. Unions have supported it though, arguing it would give workers better wages and benefits by extending collective bargaining rights.

The White House is behind EFCA as well. Though not involved in the battle over the bill as much as some unions have wanted so far, both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have called for Congress to pass the legislation in public speeches.

Solis herself was a vocal supporter of EFCA while in Congress. The Democrat co-sponsored the legislation in the House and her backing of the bill served as a point of attack for Senate Republicans during her lengthy confirmation process for Labor Secretary.

-- Kevin Bogardus