President Trump’s pick for new labor secretary is, predictably, drawing support and opposition from the right and left segments of the U.S. political spectrum. The president announced his selection last week via Twitter, naming Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.
Tweeted Trump: “Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience....”
Scalia, a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, held positions in the Labor Department under George W. Bush, the Justice Department under George H.W. Bush and the Education Department during the Regan administration. A graduate of the University of Chicago law school, he served as a special assistant to George H.W. Bush’s attorney general, William Barr – the same William Barr who holds that position today, under the Trump administration.
In an article in Forbes, Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, said Scalia has spent his career “fighting for the interests of firms over workers,” such as when he represented Walmart in its resistance to spending more on employee healthcare and banks seeking to “avoid and evade post-crisis regulations.”
Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute said Scalia “has spent his career fighting for the interests of financial firms, corporate executives, and shareholders rather than the interests of working people."
However, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton tweeted that Scalia “is an outstanding lawyer who has vigorously defended the Constitution over a long career in government and private practice. I’m confident he’ll be a champion for working Americans against red tape and burdensome regulation as Labor Secretary.”
The Washington Examiner notes that Scalia “is well-versed in the minutiae of labor law, federal regulations, and agency procedures.”
Scalia was part of a team that successfully represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a challenge to an OSHA effort under the Clinton administration to require workplaces with injury and illness rates above the norm for their industry to either voluntarily develop comprehensive safety programs with OSHA or face more frequent inspections. The program went down to defeat in federal court because the administration had adhered to the proper rulemaking process.
The Chamber issued a statement calling Scalia "an excellent choice to serve as Secretary of Labor, especially as the Department completes work on several critical rulemakings. He is whip smart and knows the Department’s mission and operations well from prior service as Solicitor."
If he is confirmed, this will be the fourth Republican administration in which Scalia has served.