Senate Republicans approve corporatist Scalia as Labor Secretary

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Talk about greasing the skids for a Trumpite: The GOP-run Senate committee that deals with workers’ issues OKd Donald Trump’s nomination of right-wing corporate lawyer Eugene Scalia as by a 12-11 party-line vote on Sept. 24. The full Senate followed, also totally on party lines, 53-44 on Sept. 26.

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. Nevertheless, he will be in the Secretary’s chair.

“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 and for defending Seaworld, whose killer whale drowned its female trainer.

And Scalia was also Walmart’s lawyer when the monster 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% of payroll to health insurance for its workers. Two of the only three – including unionized Safeway stores – did so. Walmart didn’t. Scalia and 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 account-able, that . . . 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,” Murray said.                             

The Jewish Labor Committee joined the unanimous union opposition to Scalia with a Sept. 24 demand that senators reject the nominee. Executive Director Arieh Lebowitz added several other items to the list of Scalia’s anti-worker actions.

“Scalia is on the wrong side of the wage theft issue,” Lebowitz said. “He defended Wynn Las Vegas Casinos arguing that employers had the right to take employees’ tips and redistribute them to other workers, including supervisors.”

“He helped reverse stricter transparency regulations the Obama Administration required of financial advisors who recommend investments for retirees,” and Scalia even “lobbied against President Obama’s executive order requiring a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for federal contract workers.” 

“Workers in the United States need a Secretary of Labor who will defend their rights and interests, not one who, as his resume indicates, will advocate on behalf of corporate interests,” Lebowitz said.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Steel for Wind Power

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

Siemens Gamesa last month laid off 130 workers at its turbine blade manufacturing plant in Iowa, just months after GE Renewable Energy decided to close an Arkansas factory and eliminate 470 jobs.

The companies reported shrinking demand for their products, even though U.S. consumption of wind energy increases every year.

America’s prosperity depends not only on harnessing this crucial energy source but also ensuring that highly skilled U.S. workers build the components with the cleanest technology available.

Right now, the nation relies on imported steel and turbine components from foreign manufacturers like China while America’s own steel industry—well equipped for this production—struggles because of dumping and other unfair trade practices.

Steel makes up the bulk of turbine hubs and the wind towers themselves. It’s also used to make the cranes and platforms necessary for installing the towers.

Yet the potential boon to America’s steel industry is just one reason to ramp up domestic production of wind energy infrastructure.

American steel production ranks among the cleanest in the world, while China has the highest carbon emissions of any steelmaking nation and flouts environmental regulations.

The nation’s highly-skilled steelmaking workforce must play an essential role in the deeply-needed revitalization and modernization of the nation’s failing infrastructure. Producing the components for harnessing wind energy domestically and cleanly is an important step that will put Americans to work and position the United States to be world leaders in this growing industry.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work