Grading the cabinet

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 29, 2009


SUZANNE BUMP | Labor and Workforce Development | B+

• Popular among her peers

• Quietly gets things done

Bump arguably has the most political skill, and connections, of anyone else in the cabinet (at least, until Jim Aloisi came along — see Bernard Cohen, Transportation and Public Works). She is enormously well-liked on Beacon Hill.

Labor groups, after suffering through 16 years of Republican appointees, could not be happier. "I've noticed a big difference from organized labor's point of view," says Francis X. Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council. "They are responsive to our concerns, and the concerns of our members."

That's not to say that the unions run the show — nobody is calling this a thoroughly labor-friendly administration.

But whereas past administrations — especially Mitt Romney's — would exclude unions from any policy input, and then battle them after announcing decisions, Bump has given labor a seat at the table. Department of Labor Director George Noel and Apprentice Training Program Director David Wallace get singled out for praise.

Concern has arisen recently about the nuts-and-bolts operation of the department, with accusations that it was unprepared for the past few months' surge in unemployment claims. How Bump responds, and how she guides workers through the continuing turmoil, will determine her long-term success.

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