Alexis M. Herman nominated by President Clinton to become the first
African American (woman to head the Department of Labor, will be one of
three Black members of Clinton’s second-term cabinet.
Herman previously served as director the White House Office of
Public Liaison, which provides links to civil rights and other groups.
Under President Jimmy Carter, Herman was appointed as director of
the Women’s Bureau at the Labor Department in 1977, where she served
until 1981. However, the Alabama native and graduate of Xavier
University in New Orleans is much better known for her work as chief of
staff to the late Ron Brown when he was chairman of the Democratic
Herman’s appointment followed a heated debate involving organized
labor and other groups. Labor unions had favored former Sen. Harris
Wofford (D-Pa.) for the post, while African American groups supported
Herman and Hispanics campaigned for Rep. Esteban E. Torres (D-Calif.).
In making the final announcement of the appointments of cabinet
nominees on domestic policy issues, Clinton praised Herman, 49, as a
“I understand work and I understand workers,” Herman said in a
short speech accepting the president’s nomination. She cited her past
service at the Labor Department and efforts to open up Mississippi
shipyards for minority workers as examples of her labor background.
But Herman is largely unknown to job-training leaders in higher
education and elsewhere who praised Reich for focusing on the links
between education and employment. Most analysts expect Herman to seek
continued support for school-to-work aid and community colleges, among
other education initiatives.
And, if past patterns continue to how, the appointment of a Black
Secretary of Labor could mean benefits for historically Black colleges
and universities in terms of federal contracts and research grants.
Department of Commerce funds to HBCUs increased 335% since 1992
when Ron Brown was named Secretary of Commerce. Similarly, Energy
Department contracts and grants to HBCUs climbed 173% under Secretary
of Energy Hazel O’Leary. Having Herman at the Department of Labor may
create similar opportunities for HBCU’s to become more deeply involved
in programs such as the school-to-work initiative.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
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