Today's News

Seth Harris: The man with the short list

March 31, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+

Who is Seth Harris, the deputy secretary of labor (the number-two position in the Department of Labor) who sources tell us holds the cards, so to speak, in the selection process leading to the nomination of the next assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health?

According to sources, Harris is expected to compile a short list of probably three names to forward to Labor Secretary Solis for her final selection.

Sources tell us Harris could forward the short list of finalists for the OSHA post any time now, with the announcement of a nominee coming from Secretary Solis by mid-April after she conducts short interviews with finalists, or perhaps only with the top choice.

These face-offs can be unpredictable. One former OSHA chief told us he was only asked about his party affiliation, any campaign contributions, and his voting record. Another former OSHA boss told us he was asked by the labor secretary at the time: “Do you think OSHA is manageable?” Another labor secretary impressed an OSHA chief with her knowledge of the agency. “I don’t know who briefed her, but she knew more about what was going on than I did.”

Timetables and deadlines always stand on shifting sands in Washington, but most OSHA-watchers expect confirmation hearings to be conducted this summer. The new OSHA chief likely will not commence duties until the end of summer. That gives the new agency head a little more than three years in office before the 2012 presidential election.

Of course picking an OSHA chief is never left to one person. Harris is far from alone in deciding who makes the final round in the selection process. Emily Spieler, dean of Northeastern University Law School, was a key contact on the Obama transition team for groups and individuals seeking to promote OSHA chief candidates. And some sources believe the AFL-CIO holds veto power over any potential nominee.

Plus, sources say the White House usually designates a “watchdog” to keep its hand in the selection process. Sometimes the White House influence extends to giving names to a gatekeeper such as Harris for him to pass on to his boss the labor secretary. We can’t confirm this has occurred in the current vetting of names, but certainly the White House wants to be comfortable with the pick to head an agency as controversial as OSHA.

Harris is yet another alum from the Clinton era to join the new administration. He spent nearly seven years serving in the Clinton administration as a senior advisor on policy, legal management, and strategy issues for two U.S. Secretaries of Labor.

Harris holds degrees from the Cornell University School of Industrial & Labor Relations, and New York University School of Law.

Most recently, Harris served as a working group leader on President Obama’s labor, education and transportation transition team, which included review of OSHA. Harris was selected as a transition team member while working as a professor and director of the Labor and Employment Law Program at New York University’s School of Law.

While a law professor, Harris wrote a number of articles critical of the Department of Labor under the Bush administration. In particular, Harris criticized Labor Department regulations that were perceived as expanding the white-collar exemptions from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. A strong proponent of flexible work arrangements, Harris is currently a member of the National Advisory Commission on Workplace Flexibility. In addition, Harris is a senior fellow of the Life Without Limits Project of the United Cerebral Palsy Association.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Scenes from the World of Safety

Sights, signs & symbols from the National Safety Congress & Expo held in San Diego, CA, September 15-18

11/4/14 2:00 pm EST

Eye Injuries: You rarely see them coming. Practical Solutions for reducing injuries to the eye.

The 3M Eye Injury Reduction webinar will provide an examination of how to help solve eye injuries in the workplace. This issue continues to challenge virtually every industry, and the solution is often times multifaceted. 3M will share some new tools and approaches to help you in solving this issue.

ISHN Magazine

ISHN JAN 2015 COVER

2015 January

Check out ISHN's first issue of 2015, which features articles about hearing protection as well as the State of the EHS Nation 2015 Survey.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE ISHN STORE

M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2015

FDO JAN 2015 COVER

 

For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. 

CHECK OUT THE JANUARY 2015 ISSUE OF FDO HERE

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.