Barely five minutes after losing his seat in Congress, Sean Patrick Maloney is out campaigning for a consolation prize: United States secretary of labor.
He has literally zero qualifications for the job.
It’s not like the UVA Law–educated former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee doesn’t have prospects, though. Any halfway decent headhunter would be pushing him for a position at one of the union-busting corporations he gleefully raised money from. Or he could get a job squawking away on CNN about the “woke mob” poisoning the party. Instead, the man who lost Democrats the House needs a big, important job to soothe his ego, and apparently there’s a cabinet post about to come vacant, so why not?
Frances Perkins is throwing up in her grave.
The most famous secretary of labor was born before women could vote and worked her way up to Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet, becoming the longest-serving secretary ever. Perkins got the job after decades of successful advocacy that transformed working conditions in New York City, including in response to the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where she personally watched 163 immigrant women and girls die. Inspired as a young college student by another famed workers’ rights advocate, Florence Kelley, Perkins described diving into “the work which became my vocation,” immediately after graduation. In the run-up to the national gig, she rewrote New York’s fire safety code, fought for minimum-wage laws and unemployment insurance, and set a 54-hour cap on the work week. She was unapologetically pro-labor, and hated by manufacturing and industry. She revolutionized her entire field and changed millions of people’s lives. She had to go to court just to use her maiden name. Failing up was never an option.
To think about a guy who’s gone to the mat for big banks—but who’s never stuck his neck out for workers, even voting twice against Obamacare—filling a giant like Perkins’s shoes is absolutely enraging. Maloney’s voting record in Congress may mostly check out with the AFL-CIO, but he’s hardly a champion for workers’ rights. Unless we’re talking about his right to fudge ethics laws by mingling House and campaign funds to hire a body-man/nanny? Or inadvertently helping George Santos get a job? But seriously, at a time of terrifying corporate consolidation, the Department of Labor is not a place for Maloney to put his feet up while he figures out his next move. The DOL may collect unemployment statistics, but it’s not actually an unemployment agency for out-of-work congressmen. If it were, Andy Levin would be the obvious choice.
Oh, and of course there’s an almost comically overqualified woman of color next in line for the job. Julie Su is already the deputy secretary of labor, having previously served as secretary for California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency. A civil rights lawyer and workers’ rights activist prior, she also happens to be a certified MacArthur “genius” who speaks Mandarin and Spanish. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is pushing her hard. But “Speaker Emerita Pelosi would love to see Sean Patrick Maloney continue in public service, including in the Administration,” per a spokesman. Isn’t there an ambassadorship to Micronesia that needs filling? That’s how they got rid of inconvenient people on The West Wing.
It’s not like Maloney would be the only unqualified white guy in the cabinet, though. Get this: The former mayor of a Midwest town smaller than a New York City Council District now runs the transportation system for the whole country! I still have no idea how Polly Trotenberg works for Pete Buttigieg, whose biggest claim to fame was losing an election for president. From Biden’s perspective, it made some sense, Team of Rivals etc.… but there’s nothing to gain here.
Take the win on Su and move on. Maloney can take care of himself. He always has.