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Poor Little Rich Girl Penny Pritzker Opposes Employee Free Choice

url.thumbnail.jpgPenny Pritzker, the finance chair of the Obama campaign who is now a member of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, has a somewhat different opinion on the Employee Free Choice Act than the President does.

She is joining together with other billionaires to fight bill, which would "make it easier for unions to organize hotels they own." She has "told the president she is opposed to the measure, known as card check, said a person familiar with the situation."

Pritzker ran committees that generated a record of more than $745 million for the Obama campaign plus $53 million for the inauguration.


“The president and his supporters don’t agree on every issue, nor does anyone expect them to,” said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor. “But clearly many like Ms. Pritzker, who the president asked to serve on the President’s Economy Recovery Advisory Board, are supportive of his overall economic agenda.”

Fellow billionaire Lester Crowne explains that it is concern for workers rights, rather than rapacious greed, that motivates them:

Voting privately is “an American prerogative and shouldn’t be overturned,” said Crown, 83, whose family holdings include the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, California, and the Little Nell hotel in Aspen, Colorado. “The recommended legislation is absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

Pardon me for a moment here while I compose myself. I always get choked up when rich and important captains of industry take time from their busy schedules to think about the little people.

Workers at the Pritzkers’ Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, California, initiated an organizing drive last year. Managers called meetings and told employees that joining a union could cost wages and benefits, said Rigoberto Gutierrez, 55, who has worked in room service there for 12 years.

“They tried to scare us,” he said. “They told us we could lose everything.”

Mr. Guitierrez probably just doesn’t understand that when a self-made woman like Penny Pritzker — who owes her fortune to inherited family wealth hard work and business savvy — wants to give him the benefit of her experience, he ought to be just a bit more grateful.

And what a superb history of business acumen Pritzker has demonstrated, particularly at Superior Bank:

Under Ms. Pritzker’s chairmanship, the bank "embarked on a business strategy of significant growth into subprime home mortgages," according to a 2002 report by the United States Treasury Department.

Its subsequent seizure by the FDIC was "one of the costliest savings and loan failures in a decade," said the New York Times. Details, details:

For years, Superior reported healthy profits and paid nearly $200 million in dividends to its owners. But the profits came through "flawed" accounting, while the dividends were made "without regard to the deteriorating" condition of Superior, according to a 2002 report by the FDIC. Several months after Superior’s collapse, the Pritzkers, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to pay $100 million to the FDIC immediately and another $360 million over 15 years. Some of that money has been going to reimburse depositors.

This isn’t the first time Pritzker has disagreed with the President. She evidently "took note of Obama’s public statement on Feb. 9 that executives shouldn’t use federal bailout money for Las Vegas trips."

The Pritzker family’s plans to open a Grand Hyatt next year in Las Vegas next to the Bellagio? Pure coincidence.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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