The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 04, 2019

Union-buster Scalia confirmed as labor secretary

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI)— The GOP-run Senate committee that deals with workers’ issues OK'd Donald Trump’s nomination of right-wing corporate lawyer Eugene Scalia by a 12-11 party-line vote on Sept. 24 – and then he was installed later that week as Labor Department secretary by the full Senate.

The lickety-split confirmation process for Scalia, son of the late right-wing U.S. Supreme Court justice, came over strenuous objections from both the panel’s Democrats and workers and their allies - along with strong support from the business community.

“We’ve seen this awful nominee for the Secretary of Labor’s job who spent his career busting unions,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), told a nearby outdoor rally of workers protesting Trump’s edicts against federal workers and their unions.

But corporate interests from A to Z supported Scalia, who previously made a name by leading business lobbying to kill the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s ergonomic rules.

"The president’s new choice for Labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, built a reputation as a skilled litigator by upending regulations on behalf of the business community," says Roll Call, "from worker injury cases under 1990 disabilities legislation to an Obama-era rule requiring financial advisers to put clients’ interests first."

And Scalia was also Walmart’s lawyer when the vicious anti-worker retailer sued to overturn a Maryland law a decade ago saying that any firm with more than 10,000 workers in the state had to devote at least 8 percent of payroll to health insurance for its workers. Walmart won in court.

“Last week’s hearing confirmed my worst fears,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the panel’s top Democrat. “Scalia will be a yes-man for President Trump’s anti-worker agenda, not a champion for working families, that he will let companies off the hook, not hold them accountable, that if confirmed, he will be a Secretary of Corporate Interests, not a Secretary of Labor.”

Scalia “dodged seemingly every opportunity to take a strong stand as a champion for the workers and families the Department of Labor serves,” she added. But “he didn’t shy away from defending his record helping corporate clients hack away at the rules meant to protect workers and families or hesitate to praise President Trump and the so-called ‘virtually unprecedented benefits’ workers are seeing under this Administration’s anti-worker agenda.”

“He has fought against workers seeking the wages they were cheated out of, people with disabilities seeking a job opportunity, employees seeking a safer work environment, families seeking reliable advice as they plan for retirement, and even survivors seeking justice for workplace harassment and assault. In other words, the very people we need the Secretary of Labor to fight for.”

A statement supporting Scalia's confirmation from Christel Slaughter. chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Council, said "Mr. Scalia is uniquely qualified to ensure that small business has a legitimate voice in the Department’s regulatory agenda, so the burdens of federal mandates can be minimized without damaging the Department’s responsibility to oversee retirement security, health insurance options, wage requirements, and worker safety."

The AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers, the Steelworkers and other unions actively opposed letting Scalia succeed Trump’s prior Labor Secretary, scandal-scarred Alex Acosta. 

“Eugene Scalia has spent his entire career making life more difficult and dangerous for working people,” which is why the fed opposes him, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. 

Said United Steelworkers President Tom Conway: “Scalia has made his fortune over decades by fighting to ensure that the big guys – corporations – don’t, in fact, have to abide by regulations intended to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the little guys – wage earners, job seekers and retirees. That is who Trump chose to protect wage earners: A corporatist so egregious that when former President George W. Bush wanted Scalia as Labor Department solicitor, Bush had to give him a recess appointment because Republicans in the Senate balked at approving him."