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Reagan Picks Woman to Be Labor Secretary : Ann Dore McLaughlin, Former Interior Dept. Official, Is Expected to Win Senate Approval

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Times Staff Writer

President Reagan on Tuesday nominated Ann Dore McLaughlin, a former Interior Department undersecretary and career public relations executive, to be secretary of labor.

If she is confirmed by the Senate, where no serious opposition is expected, McLaughlin would replace William E. Brock III, who resigned last month to run the presidential campaign of Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.).

McLaughlin, who also has served in public relations posts at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the Treasury Department but has no professional experience in labor relations, “will give the Labor Department decisive and forceful handling,” Reagan said when he presented his nominee at a ceremony in the Rose Garden. “Besides,” he quipped, “if she’s handled John McLaughlin this long, she can handle anything.”

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TV Talk Show Host

The nominee is married to John McLaughlin, a well-known conservative political commentator and television talk show host.

With the resignation in September of Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole to work full-time on her husband’s campaign, McLaughlin would be the only woman in the Reagan Cabinet.

McLaughlin noted that the first woman to fill a Cabinet post, Frances Perkins, was labor secretary in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration. “As the second woman to undertake this privilege, I am indeed aware of the challenges,” she said.

There appeared to be little sentiment among Democrats or labor unions for opposing the nomination.

“We’re going to take a pretty good look at her, but it doesn’t seem like she’s drawing any serious opposition,” said Paul Donovan, a spokesman for the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which is headed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). He said the panel has not decided when it will begin hearings on the nomination.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, senior Republican on the committee, called the choice of McLaughlin “an inspired one. Ann has the ability and background to run the department.” He added that “she is well-respected and her experience in government will bring a special expertise to the Labor Department.”

AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland said his organization was “able to work constructively” with the Labor Department under Brock and expects “a similar relationship” with the department under McLaughlin’s leadership.

“Despite her lack of experience in the labor area,” he said, “we will do everything in our power to help her carry out the purposes for which the Department of Labor was created.”

Another union official, who spoke on condition that he not be identified, said McLaughlin probably would have little impact in her new position. “She’s going into a department whose budget already has been set for the next 12 months. She’s really got very little flexibility. She’s going to be perceived as a token woman on the Cabinet.”

Reagan and McLaughlin did not address any issues facing the department, including a backlog of pending regulations in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

If confirmed, however, she can be expected to lead the Administration’s fight against a broad agenda of legislation being pushed in Congress by labor unions.

Minimum Wage Bill

Among more than a dozen bills moving through Congress are measures to raise the minimum wage, frozen at $3.35 an hour since 1981, to require 60 days of advance notice of plant closings and large layoffs and to mandate employer-provided health insurance.

McLaughlin, 45, joined the Administration in 1981 as an assistant secretary of the Treasury and became undersecretary of the Interior in 1984. She resigned last March, and has since served on corporate boards and as a consultant to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In the Richard M. Nixon Administration, she was director of public affairs for the EPA and served as communications director for Nixon’s reelection campaign.

Staff writer Henry Weinstein in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


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