PETER SAGAL, HOST:
In January, we interviewed Thomas Perez, the U.S. secretary of labor, who joined us here right on stage in Chicago. It was very exciting because well, did you know we have a secretary of labor? It's true.
BILL KURTIS: Peter began with the obvious question...
SAGAL: Which was what exactly do you do?
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THOMAS PEREZ: Well, actually, one way in which we come in is we're kind of like match.com because we...
SAGAL: Oh, tell me more, yeah.
PEREZ: We help jobseekers who want to punch their ticket to the middle class. We match them up with employers who want to grow their business. And we have 2,500 American job centers across the country. And we do that day in and day out for literally millions of folks.
SAGAL: All right, well, I'm curious because I - despite President Obama's best efforts, this is still a capitalist country. So you...
SAGAL: Kidding - so you can't - when you say you want to raise wages, you can't...
SAGAL: ...Go into Alcoa or Starbucks or whatever and say you must raise your wages because I am the secretary of labor and I have deemed it so and smash your scepter on the ground. So how do you...
SAGAL: ...Actually do that?
PEREZ: Well, we've worked with state and local governments across the country to help raise the minimum wage because the Republican leadership in Congress has refused to do so in Washington. And so...
SAGAL: No, really?
PEREZ: I'm glad you're sitting down.
SAGAL: I know.
SAGAL: All right, I have to ask you about this because if I remember correctly, there was a little bit of controversy about your nomination to be secretary of labor not that long ago in President Obama's administration. I have watched these confirmation hearings, and I have seen terrible things said about people sitting in front of that Senate chamber. And so I want to ask what it was like. I'm assuming that you were slandered in the course of our great political tradition as you were sitting there.
PEREZ: That would be a fair statement.
SAGAL: All right, so people said terrible things about you. Did you practice for the confirmation hearings in any way? Did you have to...
FAITH SALIE: Did you have to reveal your skeletons in the closet, like, ahead of time?
SAGAL: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: Did they do that...
SALIE: Did they - yeah.
SAGAL: ...Whole vetting thing with you?
PEREZ: Oh, absolutely. They know everything about me.
SAGAL: I mean, what was the most...
SALIE: What was the worst...
SAGAL: ...Invasive thing - yeah.
PEREZ: Well, I was in the six-item line and I had nine items.
SAGAL: I don't know if you've ever been on NPR before, but 40,000 people are now writing emails to us in anger about that.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: What was your first job?
PEREZ: My first job - I had three paper routes when I was a teenager. And then I picked up golf balls at a driving range.
PEREZ: And then I went down...
SAGAL: That must have made you agile.
SAGAL: It occurs to me that picking up golf balls...
SAGAL: ...At a driving range is probably excellent training for a Senate confirmation hearing...
SAGAL: ...Because basically, you're dodging around and old white men are trying to kill you...
PEREZ: Sounds about right.
LUKE BURBANK: Can I ask, secretary – secretary, I feel like – along with other people, I’m learning more and more about what your responsibilities and duties are here. When I was in high school, I worked at a place called Bumpy’s Fruit & Yogurt. And my manager, Randy (ph), was a major tool.
BURBANK: Is that something legally that you can address circa 2016?
PEREZ: Unfortunately, there’s this thing called the statute of limitations.
SAGAL: You are, if I’m not mistaken, the fourth cabinet secretary we’ve spoken to. We had two secretaries of energy, one secretary of education and now you. If we get eight, we can trade it all in for one general, so that’s fun.
SAGAL: But I actually am curious because I notice you actually have a bit of an entourage with you. And I was wondering what are the perks of being a cabinet secretary? Do you get, like a chair with a seal on it? Do you get a cape you can wear at formal occasions?
SAGAL: Do you...
POUNDSTONE: Do you get anything for National Secretary's Week?
SAGAL: Well, Secretary Thomas Perez, we've invited you here today to play a game we're calling...
KURTIS: Push, Honey, Push.
SAGAL: Since you are the secretary of labor, we're going to ask you three questions about the other kind of labor, the kind where you get a baby at the end. You probably saw this coming. Answer two questions about the other kind of labor correctly, Carl Kasell will deliver his voice to the voicemail of a listener. Bill, who is Secretary Perez playing for?
KURTIS: Kristy Parks of Seattle, Wash.
SAGAL: All right, so let's see how you labor. Here's your first question. A maternity hospital in China offers a special amenity - not to the mothers but to expectant fathers. What is it? A, stock photos of cute babies to send to your friends and family in case yours comes out ugly...
SAGAL: ...B, pain experience camp, in which electrodes are strapped to the father's belly and they zap him so he can experience what the mother is going through or C, a harness suspended from the ceiling that keeps the father upright in the event he faints during labor.
PEREZ: I think it's A or C.
SAGAL: You're either going to go for the stock photos...
SAGAL: ...Of cute babies or C, a harness suspended from the ceiling.
PEREZ: I'm going to go with C then.
SAGAL: You're going to go with C.
PEREZ: I call that a hint.
SAGAL: No, actually it was a traumatic memory, really.
SAGAL: No, actually the answer was B, pain experience camp.
SAGAL: And I have a feeling...
PEREZ: I never would've gotten that...
SAGAL: That's why - you know, so the men get these electrodes so they can understand what it's like.
SALIE: No they don't, no they don't.
SAGAL: Not only is it I'm sure ineffective in recreating the experience, I'm sure no man has ever volunteered for this - just the wife saying you go over there.
SAGAL: You try it out. All right, you still have two more chances...
SAGAL: ...Secretary Perez. We can do this. You can choose a lot of different kinds of birth experiences in various parts of the world. Your baby can start their life just the way you want, including which of these - A, in Denmark, a baby delivered to a warm tub of melted chocolate...
SAGAL: ...B, in Taiwan, an all Hello Kitty-themed birthing suite...
SAGAL: ...Or C, in Alabama, a calving-style birth in a repurposed barn.
SAGAL: One of these is something that you or your pregnant wife could choose to do because that's how they want to deliver a baby.
SAGAL: I heard Paula getting excited about the chocolate one.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah, I wanted to do a rebirthing when I heard that.
SALIE: I think that’s how the Universal Unitarians baptize.
SAGAL: Yeah, they’re generally very nice.
PEREZ: Yeah, I was just in Europe last week, so I bought some chocolate. So I'm going to go with chocolate.
SAGAL: Is that - really - is this how you handle the questions?
POUNDSTONE: Did you notice any baby things in it?
LUKE BURBANK: Was there an umbilical cord?
SAGAL: Really, so you're enjoying - you're enjoying some fine European chocolate, and you're like you know what'd be great coated in this chocolate? A newborn infant.
POUNDSTONE: Is this really the man to bring more people into the middle-class?
PEREZ: OK, I'm going to rethink this.
PEREZ: I just don't want to think that about Alabama, so I'm going to go with B.
SAGAL: You're going to go with the Hello Kitty-themed birthing suite?
SAGAL: Yes, you're right.
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POUNDSTONE: Wow, oh, jeez.
SAGAL: Hello Kitty - people really like Hello Kitty.
POUNDSTONE: I think that's worse than the Alabama thing.
SAGAL: No, it is the only licensed Hello Kitty-themed birthing suite in the world.
BURBANK: Don't go with the imitators.
BURBANK: I learned that the hard way,
SAGAL: I'm sure you did. All right, this is very exciting. We have one more question. If you get it right, you both win our prize and just to make it interesting, you still get to be secretary of labor. So...
SAGAL: ...Here we go. Do not get - despite what we just told you - all snooty about other countries' birthing rituals. There is a place in Hawaii, which (laughter) President Obama would have you believe is part of the United States.
SAGAL: There's a place in Hawaii that offers expectant mothers what service? Is it A, dolphin-assisted birth, B, post-partum lava treatments or C, placenta coladas.
PEREZ: Oh, I'm going to go with A.
SAGAL: You're going to go with A, dolphin-assisted birth, you're right...
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SAGAL: ...Dolphin-assisted birth.
PEREZ: There we go, thank you, thank you.
SAGAL: The idea as advertised is that these dolphins will somehow guide your new baby into the world with its snout or something.
SAGAL: But despite lots of press, nobody has ever actually tried this, so we don't know what would happen. I think it would be cool if you tried it because then the dolphin would, like, take the baby and just juggle it on its snout and swim out to sea.
UNIDENTIFIED PANELIST: (Imitating dolphin).
SAGAL: Bill, how did the secretary of labor do on our quiz?
POUNDSTONE: Flipper, come back.
KURTIS: Well, Secretary Perez, you got two right, and that's a win...
PEREZ: All right.
KURTIS: ...In our book - 2 out of 3.
PEREZ: Thank you.
SAGAL: Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, thank you so much for being on our show.
PEREZ: Thank you.
SAGAL: Thank you so much, Secretary, for doing this. Pleasure to be with you, Secretary of Labor Perez.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORKING IN A COAL MINE")
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Well, I've been workin' in a coal mine, going down, down. Workin' in a coal mine, oh, about to slip down. Workin' in a coal mine, going down, down. Workin' in a coal mine, oh, about to slip down.
SAGAL: When we come back, we cover the entire spectrum of all music by talking to Trisha Yearwood and Ice Cube. You fill in all the stuff in between. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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