L. A. Times

Thursday, January 4, 2001

Chavez Opposes 'Special Treatment'

By LEIGH STROPE, Associated Press Writer
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON--President-elect Bush's choice to be labor secretary, Linda Chavez, doesn't believe women face a "glass ceiling" in the workplace that keeps them in lower-paying jobs, a review of her writings shows.

She also has suggested that the rising number of sexual harassment lawsuits has made America "a nation of crybabies." And she once criticized the Americans With Disabilities Act as "special treatment in the name of accommodating the disabled."

Democrats and union leaders who oppose her selection are rifling through her prolific writing to seize material they hope will rally support against her nomination as the Senate prepares for her confirmation.

But the Bush team hopes Chavez and her conservative views will appeal directly to workers, who don't always agree with the political positions taken by their unions and which spent millions to oppose Bush's election.

"Coming from a working class family that taught her the values of hard work, fair play and educational attainment, Ms. Chavez embodies the values of working Americans," Bush spokesman Tucker Eskew said Wednesday.

"She has worked for a labor union, she understands the issues that matter to working Americans," he said.

Her father, who did not finish high school but was an avid reader, painted houses while her mother spent long hours working in restaurants and department stores.

Chavez worked for one of the nation's largest teacher's unions before rising to become a top official for the Civil Rights Commission during the Reagan administration.

She gained national attention for her views against affirmative action and made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. In recent years, she has been a prolific conservative columnist and television commentator.

She also founded the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank that researches race, ethnicity and assimilation issues and which has supported English-only education.

A review of her columns shows Chavez has supported increased immigration as a way of filling jobs and fueling the economy but has strongly opposed affirmative action. She also has declared it "may be good business" for companies to discriminate against workers who refuse overtime.

While Bush has touted her credentials, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has called her appointment as labor chief "an insult to American working men and women" and called her an "avowed opponent of the most basic workers' rights."

A review of her writings also shows she:

  • Suggested a vote by the American Medical Association to form a union "ought to strike fear in the heart of every American."
  • Believes the increase in sexual harassment lawsuits is making the United States "a nation of crybabies," and that "with men are so often the target of such witch hunts, it's no surprise that a few strike back."
  • Argues against the "glass ceiling" blocking women from higher-level jobs, saying instead that women make different job choices than men and often put their families first.
  • Wrote that "discriminating against employees who won't work overtime or who will put in fewer hours per week in a salaried position isn't irrational, it may be good business."

    Eskew said Chavez's "columns certainly represent a vigorous intellectual approach" and predicted she would make a "dynamic and exceptional nominee."

    "Linda Chavez was chosen for her intellect, her ability to work hard and work well with others, even others with differing points of view and her reputation for keen understanding of public policy issues," he said.

    Chavez's columns at times are pointed. She once criticized World Cup women's soccer champion Michelle Akers for supporting a federal Equal Pay Initiative. Akers and her teammates had boycotted training because they were paid less than the men's soccer team. Chavez argued the men's team generated more money than women's.

    "Michelle Akers and her teammates would be better off placing their faith in the market to reward their skills than in some bureaucratic 'pay equity' scheme," she wrote.

    During her tenure as staff director of the Civil Rights Commission, Chavez, a former Democrat, alienated liberals in Congress and civil rights groups by reversing established agency positions and opposing the use of quotas to help women and minorities make up for past discrimination.

    "Affirmative action creates problems with standards and increases racial friction," Chavez, the product of a father with roots in Spain and a mother whose ancestors were from England and Ireland, told USA Today in 1995. "And it's simply not just."

    Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times