Last week, President Trump announced the nomination of Eugene Scalia for Secretary of Labor. Following in the footsteps of his father, the late ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Eugene has built his career on preserving and expanding power for banks and corporations. The nomination of Scalia raises major red flags due to his staunch anti-labor positions as well as his advocacy for multi-billion dollar CEOs.
Over the last few decades Eugene Scalia has been anything but a friend to labor. 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. According to Capital and Main, as a member of his law firm he:
..lobbied on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2010 to oppose financial industry regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act, and shut down campaign finance transparency rules proposed by the DISCLOSE Act.
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Scalia’s career also involved stealing pensions from retirees, as well as challenging OSHA programs in order to shield Walmart from spending more money on employee health care plans. Although we’ve grown accustomed to the current anti-worker administration, we don’t know for sure how terrible Scalia will be in comparison to other conservative departments. Steve Smith of the California Labor Federation told the Sacramento Bee:
We’re ready for the worst, but on the other hand this administration from Day One has been vigorously anti-union, so I don’t know how much different it will be under Scalia than it was under Acosta.
Judy Conti of the National Employment Law Project (NELP) also questioned Scalia’s past and suitability for the job of Secretary of labor:
We’re not surprised that the president is nominating somebody like Eugene Scalia. This is a guy that has spent his entire career working to preserve and expand corporate employer power. So far things haven’t been as bad at DOL as other agencies, where you see someone like Betsy DeVos or Scott Pruitt trying to destroy those agencies from the inside out. We really worry that someone like Mr. Scalia could do exactly that.
We all know that the Trump administration has been trying to undermine unions and roll back worker safety regulations, but Scalia’s nomination is a new front in Trump’s war on workers. Federal labor rules across the country, such as minimum wage and workplace safety, are at risk for rollbacks and weaker implementation and enforcement, especially in states with subpar labor laws. Like most of Trump’s cabinet members, Scalia will undermine working people, and will undoubtedly pursue an extremely aggressive anti-union agenda.
Scalia’s nomination is disappointing, but not surprising. As of now, the date of Scalia’s confirmation hearing has not been announced, but working people all over the country should be watching. In the meantime, the labor movement will hold Scalia’s feet to the fire and push Senators to look at his record before rubber-stamping his confirmation.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement regarding the nomination of Scalia:
The secretary of labor needs to be a true advocate for working people. Even when we disagree, we expect a fair arbiter who listens to workers and respects the deliberative process. The Labor Department’s work is essential to protecting America’s working people and should be subject to less influence from corporate lobbyists, not more. Scalia’s views are dangerously outside the mainstream and leave us no choice but to oppose his nomination