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Alexis Herman Advocates Women

By Kevin Galvin
Associated Press Writer
Friday, December 20, 1996; 12:49 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A longtime advocate for women and minorities, Alexis Herman became known for her deft handling of delicate relations with key groups as director of the White House Office of Public Liaison.

She may find her interpersonal skills put to the test as President Clinton's new labor secretary, a post that labor leaders and key lawmakers didn't want her to get.

Herman, 49, who developed her political contacts when she served as chief of staff to the late Ron Brown at the Democratic National Committee from 1989 to 1991, is a native of Mobile, Ala., and the product of a politically active home.

Her father sued the Democratic Party to let blacks vote and became Alabama's first black wardsman. When she graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans, she returned home to help desegregate her old high school.

She was appointed by President Carter to direct the Women's Bureau at the Labor Department in 1977.

Appointed by Clinton in 1993, Herman became the president's chief emissary to the Congressional Black Caucus and other black interests. She played a key role in the publicity campaign Clinton waged to win congressional passage of his sweeping crime bill in 1994.

She also worked closely with labor's rival, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to build support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which union leaders considered harmful to labor.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and the leadership of the AFL-CIO had opposed her nomination, publicly backing former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford for the labor post.

Labor officials privately complained that Herman lacked familiarity with issues important to working families and could not be as persuasive a spokesman for labor as the outgoing secretary, Robert Reich.

They also raised questions about troubles her lavish spending habits at the DNC and her connections to Brown could pose in confirmation hearings.

© Copyright 1996 The Associated Press

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