Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst voted yesterday to confirm Eugene Scalia as the new United States Secretary of Labor, a man who once argued that it’s OK to force workers with health issues to soil themselves on the job.
Scalia was confirmed as the new labor secretary Thursday afternoon. Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, replaces Alexander Acosta.
Acosta resigned after questions arose about his roll in financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-crimes case.
Scalia once defended Ford Motor Company in a lawsuit filed in Michigan by a woman who had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The woman asked the company whether she could telework rather than working at the office. When Ford denied her request, Scalia argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals the woman should have taken “self-help steps such as using Depends and bringing a change of clothes to the workplace.”
Scalia has proven to be no friend of unions and was labeled the #SecertaryofCorporateInterests by Democrats on Twitter.
I strongly oppose Eugene Scalia's nomination because there’s every reason to expect that as Secretary of Labor he would continue to promote big corporations’ interests over workers’ interests. #SecretaryofCorporateInterests
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) September 17, 2019
“The President has sent us a corporate lawyer who’s fought over and over to stop workplace protections, to undermine workers’ safety, to cut and to depress workers wages over and over and over again,” Sen. Sherrod Brown said on the Senate floor. “Mr. Scalia is an elitist, multi-million dollar corporate lawyer [and] has repeatedly defended companies against whistle blowers.”
“He defended Walmart against its workers. And he’s nominated to be the Secretary of Labor?” Brown said. “He defended a corporation against 30 women who had been sexually harassed at assembly plants. And he’s going to be the Secretary of Labor?”
Scalia worked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he helped Walmart win a case against the state of Maryland. A state law required companies with more than 10,000 workers spend at least 8% of their payroll costs on health care, or pay into a state Medicaid fund.
Scalia also represented Boeing, which he helped defend against a union who claimed the company threatened to move its assembly plant to South Carolina unless the union agreed to a no-strike clause in its contract.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a statement following Scalia’s appointment.
“It is insulting and dangerous that lifelong union-buster Eugene Scalia is the country’s top labor official,” Trumka said. “His track record is well documented, and it’s clear he has yet to find a worker protection he supports or a corporate loophole he opposes.”
“Making the Labor Department — whose mission is to defend the rights of workers and enforce the law — a satellite office of a corporate right-wing law firm flies in the face of working people’s clearly expressed desires,” Trumka said. “We we will not forget this betrayal by the Trump administration, and we will never stop fighting to ensure all working people have the safety protections on the job they deserve.”
In addition to his anti-union past, Scalia has come under fire for op-eds he wrote as a student at the University of Virginia.
In his op-eds, he claimed gay parents are “in conflict with the traditional organization of society” and shouldn’t be treated “as equally acceptable or desirable to the traditional family.”
However, during his confirmation hearing, he said his views had changed and criticized some anti-LGBTQ work policies.
Scalia is the son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
By Paige Godden
Ernst photo by Julie Fleming