By MARK GRUENBERG
PAI Staff Writer
Washington (PAI) — President Donald Trump has nominated right-wing lawyer and one-time Walmart attorney Eugene Scalia to be Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, he would succeed Alexander Acosta, who was forced to resign.
Eugene Scalia is best-identified as a son of the late conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. But Eugene Scalia’s spent his career advocating big business causes and cases, both before and after a brief temporary stint as Department of Labor (DOL) Solicitor, its top attorney.
‘AS BAD AS HIS DAD’
“He’s as bad as his dad,” one pro-worker Labor lawyer said of Eugene Scalia. “This guy will be full steam ahead” on pro-business deregulation. Top Trump officials dressed down Acosta as too slow on that cause.
Right-wingers hail Scalia, according to several legal analyses, as the “father” of killing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s ergonomics rule. “Under the proposed rule, employers’ obligations would be triggered by ‘symptoms’ of musculoskeletal disorders, which OSHA defines to include ‘pain,’ ‘numbness’ and ‘tingling,’” Scalia wrote.
Then, Scalia claimed, firms must decide if the jobs are “reasonably likely” to be ergonomically hazardous. “If they are, employers are to implement draconian abatement measures, such as reducing assembly line speeds and redesigning equipment, until the ‘hazard’ is gone.”
“This vague and subjective rule would afford little benefit to workers because it is based on thoroughly unreliable science.”
His views were symbolized in an Op-Ed he authored for the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 5, 2000, entitled “Gore, Unions invite OSHA to your home.”
Scalia denounced OSHA’s “advisory” that it start to inspect, and if necessary, regulate home offices. He then charged the agency might force employers to pay for home improvements to make such home offices safer.
FAVORED BY TRUMP’S EVANGELICAL BASE
Several media report Scalia is a favorite of Trump’s evangelical right base, and that Trump got to know Scalia well when considering successors to the seat left vacant when Scalia’s father died.
And when Maryland enacted legislation in 2006 ordering firms that employed at least 10,000 workers in the state to spend at least eight percent of payroll on health insurance for their workers, Scalia was the lawyer who shot it down in the state’s top court. He spoke for the law’s target, notorious anti-worker pinchpenny Walmart.
All the other Maryland firms in that category, including the state’s two other big – and unionized – grocery chains, Giant and Safeway, met that standard. Walmart didn’t. Scalia won; the judges tossed the law. But one attorney familiar with it pointed out the statute ran afoul of ERISA, the federal law which regulates pensions.
Scalia’s anti-worker, ideological record scuttled GOP President George W. Bush’s nomination of him in 2003 to be confirmed as the regular Solicitor of Labor. Scalia was a “recess appointment” to the job when the Senate wasn’t in session, but he was so controversial that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee never recommended him for the permanent post.
Committee Democrats are expected to oppose Scalia’s nomination to DOL’s top job. No date has been set yet for a confirmation hearing before the GOP-run committee.