Unions denounce new labor secretary nominee Eugene Scalia

Stephon Johnson | 9/5/2019, 11:56 a.m.
President Donald Trump found another nominee for labor secretary that’s angered unions and labor activists.

President Donald Trump found another nominee for labor secretary that’s angered unions and labor activists.

After former labor secretary Alexander Acosta resigned after widespread criticism of his role in handling the Florida prostitution chargers against the late Jeffrey Epstein, Trump nominated conservative lawyer Eugene Scalia.

Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU, said Trump’s new appointment might be worse than the previous.

“Eugene Scalia has built his career advocating on behalf of banks and corporations like the Koch brothers, Walmart and Goldman Sachs and has had a significant role in rigging the system against working people whether white, Black or Brown,” said Bragg. “To now put him in charge of the very agency tasked with protecting workers’ rights and safety is an appalling joke made at the expense of working people everywhere.”

Bragg’s sentiments were shared by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. He said if a person’s past determines their future then labor’s in for a fight against Scalia.

Scalia, the son of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has fought ergonomics standards, threatened to destroy workers’ retirement savings, challenged the expansion of health care and dismissed repetitive injuries as ‘junk science,’” Trumka said. “His extreme views are in direct conflict with what America deserves from a secretary of labor.”

In a statement, the White House said that Scalia “is a renowned labor, employment and regulatory lawyer.”

Scalia’s not new to government work. In the mid-to-late 1980s, Scalia served as a speechwriter to Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. In the early 1990s, he served as a special assistant to Attorney General William P. Barr. In 2001, Scalia joined George W. Bush’s labor department as Solicitor of Labor responsible for regulatory and enforcement matters. He’s currently a senior fellow of the Administrative Conference of the United States and has served as a lecturer in labor and employment law at the University of Chicago Law School.

The California Labor Federation wanted to remind Americans of other things Scalia has done.

“Over the last few decades Eugene Scalia has been anything but a friend to labor,” read CLF’s statement. “He spent his early career at a law firm as a partner and a member of its labor and employment practice group, but none of his work actually benefited working people. While at his firm, Scalia made a name for himself by fighting labor regulations and lobbying on behalf of Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries and other corporate giants.”

In 2010, Scalia lobbied on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose financial industry regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act. He also helped shut down the proposed campaign finance transparency rules by the DISCLOSE Act, which would’ve helped to disclose dark money spending.

Trump took to social media to praise his latest nomination.

“I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to nominate Gene Scalia as the new Secretary of Labor,” said the president on Twitter. “Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience working with labor and everyone else.”

Bragg begged to differ. He said he’s not looking forward to fighting the Trump agenda some more, but labor has no choice but to.

“In every conceivable way, Scalia has fought to undermine the right of people to join unions and has rolled back protections for consumers and whistleblowers,” stated Bragg. “The Senate must only confirm a Labor Secretary who will carry out the Department of Labor’s mission to protect workers and families and not, yet another creature emerging from the swamp.”