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Meet Trump's New Labor Secretary

Trump has chosen management side lawyer Gene Scalia to run the Labor Department

Brian Young's picture
Jul 19, 2019

On Thursday, Trump announced that he will be nominating Gene Scalia to be the next Secretary of Labor. This appointment comes just a week after former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was forced to resign over his prosecution of child sex offender Jefferey Epstein.

Scalia may sound familiar since he is the son of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The appointment of Gene Scalia was welcomed by many in the business community, even it was a surprise to many. The assumption was that acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella was going to be appointed as the full-time Secretary, but Trump may have worried that his connections to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff would prevent Pizzella from being approved.

Scalia is a strong pick in favor of big business and is someone who is not friendly to organized labor. Currently, he is a partner at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington. In this capacity, Scalia worked as a management-side lawyer, including working on a case for WalMart. One of the cases in which he represented Walmart was in 200 for the case Retail Industry Leaders Association v. Fielder, where he helped the company evade the so-called ‘Walmart Law” passed by the Maryland state government, which would’ve mandated firms with 10,000+ employees, who DON’T pay around 8% of total payroll towards employee healthcare (employer-based health insurance, which Walmart doesn’t provide, no surprises there) to pay the difference between this 8% standard and their actual health insurance costs. This revenue would’ve been used to help fund the state healthcare system, but thanks to Mr. Scalia, he was able to help the Walton Family avoid paying their fair share. He also served as the attorney defending SeaWorld against federal safety regulations that were created after a trainer was killed by an orca whale during a show in 2010. Other big companies he has worked for include Boeing, Metlife, Ford, UPS and Wynn Casinos.

Scalia has also built a reputation for himself over his opposition to a number of Clinton era regulations that would have protected workers on the job. These regulations, known as the “ergonomics rule” would have required that companies alter workstations, redesign their facilities or change their tools and equipment if their employees suffered work-related repetitive stress injuries. In 2001, Scalia who was then George W. Bush’s Chief Legal Officer at the Department of Labor, led the opposition to the implementation of the ergonomics rule referring to it as “quackery and Junk Science.”

While the AFL-CIO has not yet released an official statement opposing Scalia’s nomination, it would appear that it’s only a matter of time. Their opposition in 2001 prevented Scalia from being approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate. He was only made Chief Legal Officer when Bush granted him a recess appointment. However, with Republicans in charge of the Senate, it is unclear whether unions will be able to block his appointment this time.

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