Union leaders showed cautious optimism at the nomination of Elaine Chao as Labor Secretary. Wife of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, Chao has a record of conservative public service. She is a fellow at the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation and serves on several boards of directors including Dole Food Co., Northwest Airlines Inc. and the National Association of Security Dealers Inc., parent company of the Nasdaq Stock Market. Chao is also on the National Advisory Board of the anti-feminist Independent Women’s Forum. She was Director of the Peace Corps, President and CEO of the United Way, and Vice President of Bank America Capital Markets Group.
Like several other Bush appointees, Chao’s government career began under Regan in 1983, specializing in transportation and trade issues on the Domestic Policy Council. Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole brought Chao back to Washington in 1986 by as deputy administrator of the Federal Maritime Administration. Chao later became deputy transportation secretary, the highest ranking Asian-American in the executive branch at the time.