Seth D. Harris

Acting Labor Secretary Mocks ‘Small-Government’ Conservatives, CEOs

by JERYL BIER, The Weekly Standard  |  published on March 20, 2013


Acting Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris addressed the Annual Legislative Conference of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) on Monday. As part of a scathing attack on attempts to reform public employee labor unions, Harris told a joke that he said was “making the rounds a few years ago”:

A unionized public employee, a small-government conservative, and a CEO are sitting around a table with a plate that has a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the conservative and says: “Watch out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.”

Ironically, of course, since the IAFF is a public employee labor union, there are no CEOs. Rather, the firefighters work for the taxpayers, hardly the greedy CEOs caricatured in Harris’s joke.

Harris’s assault did not end with the joke. He further accused those attempting to reform public union labor practices as wanting

to tear apart that bargaining table until it’s a pile of firewood. Their goal isn’t to give you a little haircut; their goal is to cut off your head. Their goal, through a campaign of denigration, distortion and demonization, is to destroy public employee unions as we know them, to eliminate them as a force in American life.

Harris took a further swipe at “pundits and professional political hatchetmen,” suggesting that they blamed firefighters and their fellow public union members for the 2008 financial crisis:

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