August 14, 2019

KENNEDY URGES TRUMP TO WITHDRAW SCALIA LABOR NOMINATION

Cites record of attacks on workers’ rights and sexual harassment protections

NEWTON, MA — Congressman Joe Kennedy III today urged President Donald J. Trump to withdraw the nomination of Eugene Scalia for Secretary of Labor. Kennedy cited Scalia’s long record of attacking the workers’ rights the Department of Labor is tasked with protecting, as well as his troubling views on protecting employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

Kennedy wrote: “Mr. Scalia’s career is undergirded by a troubling and persistent pattern of fighting to weaken workers’ rights for the sake of corporate profit...The conditions of today’s economy and its workforce demand a Labor Secretary who will advocate to protect the interests of the American worker. Economic indicators like the stock market may portend well for corporations, but wages for lower- and middle-income Americans remain stagnant. Costs for housing, health care, and education are skyrocketing. Factories, such as Philips Lighting in Fall River, continue to shutter and move overseas, despite the massive corporate tax giveaway your Administration promised would encourage companies to invest in their workforces.”

Kennedy also noted a 2001 confirmation hearing in which “Mr. Scalia indicated employers should not be held strictly liable for sexual harassment unless they endorse or ratify the conduct of the harasser...This elevated standard would prevent many women from seeking justice, and I strongly echo those concerns raised nearly twenty years ago in opposition to Mr. Scalia’s nomination.”

The text of the full letter is below:

August 14, 2019

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I write in strong opposition to the nomination of Eugene Scalia as Secretary of Labor. Mr. Scalia has devoted his career to attacking the very workers’ rights the Department of Labor is responsible for protecting, and I urge you to withdraw your selection.

Mr. Scalia’s career is undergirded by a troubling and persistent pattern of fighting to weaken workers’ rights for the sake of corporate profit. As a labor lawyer, Mr. Scalia’s tenure includes advocating on behalf of Walmart to overturn a Maryland law that would have required large corporations to improve the quality of employee healthcare; working to force table-dealers in Nevada casinos to split their hard-earned tips with supervisors; and helping, albeit unsuccessfully, the SeaWorld amusement park to shirk workplace safety responsibilities after an Orca crushed a trainer during a live performance. Mr. Scalia, described as the “godfather of the anti-ergonomics movement,” wrote in strong opposition to regulations that would have protected workers from repetitive-stress injuries on the erroneous basis that “ergonomics is quackery” and “based on thoroughly unreliable science.” In countless other examples, time and again, Mr. Scalia vehemently has fought to undermine the rights of workers for the sake of profit, across various sectors, in every corner of this country.

Furthermore, in his 2001 confirmation hearing for Labor Solicitor before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senators raised concerns regarding a 1998 article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy in which Mr. Scalia indicated employers should not be held strictly liable for sexual harassment unless they endorse or ratify the conduct of the harasser. To illustrate his point, Mr. Scalia argued that an employer of a supervisor who orders his assistant to accompany him on a business trip, repeatedly gropes her, and even goes so far as to threaten her with termination unless she submits, “…should not be liable in any of these scenarios unless it endorsed the conduct.” This elevated standard would prevent many women from seeking justice, and I strongly echo those concerns raised nearly twenty years ago in opposition to Mr. Scalia’s nomination.

The conditions of today’s economy and its workforce demand a Labor Secretary who will advocate to protect the interests of the American worker. Economic indicators like the stock market may portend well for corporations, but wages for lower- and middle-income Americans remain stagnant. Costs for housing, health care, and education are skyrocketing. Factories, such as Philips Lighting in Fall River, continue to shutter and move overseas, despite the massive corporate tax giveaway your Administration promised would encourage companies to invest in their workforces. Given the challenges workers face, your nominee for Secretary of Labor is, as described by Dr. Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, a “…fox-guarding-the-hen house selection...”

If confirmed, Mr. Scalia’s nomination only would serve to shift the scales of economic balance towards corporate power at the expense of workers and their families even more than they already are. I strongly urge you to withdraw your nomination.

Sincerely,

Joe Kennedy III