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In Transition: Labor Secretary

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jennifer M. Granholm

Current job: Governor of Michigan.

Credentials: Granholm, 49, a Canadian-born graduate of Harvard Law School, has been a popular governor in a state hit hard by economic woes. As governor, she has championed infrastructure projects to put people to work and pushed new job-training initiatives to help workers in shrinking industries transition to new work. Before taking office in 2003, Granholm served as Michigan's attorney general. Before that, she was Wayne County corporate counsel and a federal prosecutor.

What she offers: Granholm has grappled with many of the problems now confronting the nation's workforce: a contraction of jobs and the need to retrain workers for a shifting economy. She also is one of the economic advisers for President-elect Barack Obama's transition team.

Quote: "Our top priority must be jobs. Good-paying jobs. A job for every Michigan worker," she said during her 2008 state of the state address. "This year, I'll continue to go anywhere and do anything to bring jobs to Michigan."

Antonio R. Villaraigosa

Current job: Mayor of Los Angeles.

Credentials: Villaraigosa, 55, became the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles in modern times when he defeated incumbent James Hahn in a 2005 runoff election. Before that, Villaraigosa was a member of the California Assembly, where he ascended to be speaker of the House. He also has served as a Los Angeles City Council member.

What he offers: After being engulfed in personal controversy surrounding his collapsing marriage and an affair with a television reporter, he has built a strong record as mayor of Los Angeles. He also serves on Obama's transition team as one of the president-elect's coterie of economic advisers.

Quote: "Looking around us today, we can see that we are not coming close to preparing our workers to meet the demands of the moment," he said in a 2005 speech. "Much less answering the challenges of tomorrow."

David E. Bonior

Current job: Chairman of American Rights at Work and professor of labor studies at Wayne State University.

Credentials: Bonior, 63, was a member of the Michigan House before serving for 26 years in the U.S. House. He rose to Democratic whip, the body's No. 2 post. He also was campaign manager for the 2008 presidential bid of former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.).

What he offers: Bonior is an outspoken advocate of worker rights and critic of many free-trade agreements who enjoys strong support from unions. Bonior would bring an unequivocal labor voice to Obama's economic team, which some union officials have quietly criticized for being heavily stacked with Wall Street-oriented centrists. He also serves on an economic advisory group that Obama convened after his election. Bonior endorsed Obama after Edwards dropped out of the Democratic primary race.

Quote: "Now more than ever before, we need to continue our efforts to preserve America's middle class," Bonior has written in his blog. "Workers need political solutions that work for them, and they need political leaders who have strength and courage to get them through these tough times."

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