Policy Watch: Two more foxes nominated to run hen houses in the Trump administration

Two officials with a history of anti-worker behavior nominated to be worker advocates

Late last week, President Trump announced his nominees to several key positions at the Department of Labor (DOL). Trump nominated Cheryl Stanton to serve as his Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administrator, a position responsible for enforcing our nation’s basic wage protections. Since 2013, Stanton has headed the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, an agency that does not handle wage enforcement. Much of her career has in fact been dedicated to representing employers, not workers, in wage and hour cases. Stanton has also faced her own wage and hour litigation. The Center for Investigative Reporting recently revealed that she was sued last year for failing to pay her house cleaners. If confirmed, Stanton will be tasked with holding employers accountable when they steal workers’ wages. Her history of siding against workers certainly raises the question of how vigorously she will approach this task.

Trump also nominated former coal mining executive David Zatezalo to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Zatezalo formerly served as chief executive of Rhino Resources, a coal company that had numerous clashes with MSHA officials during the Obama administration. Following the Upper Big Branch mine disaster on April 5, 2010, MSHA stepped up its enforcement efforts, and identified a number of health and safety violations at Zatezalo’s company. In fact, in 2011, MSHA sought a federal court injunction against Zatezalo’s company. If confirmed, Zatezalo will be charged with ensuring safety standards in our nation’s mines. Twelve coal miners have died on the job to date this year.

Ending DACA puts worker rights and wages at risk

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that it will “wind down,” and in six months, end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a Department of Homeland Security initiative put in place in 2012 that temporarily deferred the deportation of approximately 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. DACA has been an unqualified success and has benefited not only the DACA recipients themselves, but also the country and the economy. The vast majority of DACA recipients are employed and contribute to federal, state, and local tax revenues. Ending DACA is an incredibly cruel action, one that will send these young people, who have not done anything wrong, back into the shadows. Fear of arrest or deportation means unauthorized workers are much less likely to speak up if their employers steal their wages or if they are required to work in unsafe conditions. This hurts not just them, but also the U.S. workers who work alongside them. In other words, ending DACA is not just inhumane, it will also harm the wages and labor standards of all U.S. workers.

House and Senate move forward with DOL funding

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees both moved forward this week on Labor-HHS-Education funding bills and amendments. The Senate’s bill, now ready for the floor, fortunately rejects many of the Trump administration’s harmful proposed cuts to worker services, maintaining funding for enforcement in WHD, job training and apprenticeship services, and the International Labor Affairs Bureau. The Senate’s bill also rejects the harmful proposal to merge the responsibilities and authority of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) into the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The House bill Labor-HHS proposal, on the other hand, comes with a laundry list of anti-worker riders that would restrict any DOL oversight or enforcement of the Davis-Bacon Act, and of an Obama-era executive order encouraging the use of project labor agreements on federal construction projects. As we’ve documented before, research shows that suspending Davis-Bacon protections does not provide any significant cost savings for the federal government, and only takes money out of construction workers’ paychecks.