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Good Riddance


June 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Labor Secretary Frank Zorrilla resigned earlier this week. He won’t be missed.

At least not by the private business sector, the one that creates close to a million jobs, real jobs, not the 300,000 government jobs, far too many of which are artificially created to keep our high unemployment from going higher and to buy votes.

The latest exit from Gov. Sila Calderon’s cabinet (at this point, who’s counting?) was triggered, presumably, by the governor’s very public and very strong reprimand of the secretary following his earlier comments in support of the pending antimonopoly legislation.

Without specifically addressing the merits of that particular piece of legislation, Gov. Calderon not only chastised Zorrilla for his support of the antimonopoly bill; she elaborated by saying the secretary had been told in the past to refrain from making comments on pending legislation that happened to be contrary to the administration’s public policy on economic development and job creation.

In an effort to keep his dignity, Zorrilla resigned. It wasn’t the first time the governor very publicly disavowed a member of her own cabinet.

All the same, the reason Zorrilla won’t be missed, particularly by businesspeople, has nothing to do with his apparent disagreement with the governor over a particular matter of public policy. Sure, public dissension within the chief executive’s cabinet is nothing to be relished, particularly when it happens so often. But everyone must agree that if the disagreement is irremediable, the chief executive must prevail and the secretary must exit, voluntarily or otherwise.

The reason Zorrilla had to go is that he had disqualified himself earlier that week from continuing to serve as secretary of labor.

In discussing his support for the pending antimonopoly bill, Zorrilla lashed out at megaretailers, specifically Wal-Mart. He reportedly said they weren’t welcome on the island because they represent unfair competition to local businesses and their alleged control of the market isn’t good for consumers or workers.

Now, by constitutional mandate, the labor secretary is supposed to serve as an arbiter in disputes between workers and management in the public and private sectors. The labor secretary isn’t the secretary of workers, as Zorrilla’s predecessor, Victor Rivera, would have it. He is the labor secretary. As such, he is required to remain impartial, precisely because he may be called upon to arbitrate a dispute between management and labor in a given company or industry.

After his comments disparaging Wal-Mart, who could possibly believe Zorrilla could serve as an impartial judge in any labor dispute involving that company or any other big employer, especially if the companies aren’t locally owned?

Plus, who, in heaven’s name, does Zorrilla think he is to so cavalierly disparage the employer (through Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Supercenters, Sam’s Clubs, and Amigo) of no fewer than 14,000 breadwinners in Puerto Rico? We wish we had had the opportunity to ask the secretary before his exit if all the retail businesses Wal-Mart has allegedly displaced, with its supposedly voracious appetite to swallow up the whole market, combined employed even half that number.

We say: Enough with all the bashing of businesses and businesspeople! If government officials and legislators don’t let up, we soon will find ourselves with no new local or nonlocal business investment to create jobs here on the island.

The governor has gone on record saying she will veto any legislation that would adversely affect the sector that creates jobs in Puerto Rico. We resoundingly applaud her for such a courageous stance, particularly in an election year.

For everyone’s sake, we recently published in two consecutive editions no fewer than 20 full pages (without ads) to help stop the vote-hungry election-year madness of this Legislature, including the whole list of pending antibusiness legislation on pages 18 through 23 of our June 3 edition.

We trust the governor will make good on her word to veto any of those bills if our legislators have the gall to send them her way.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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