If the Senate confirms President Trump’s pick to lead the Dept. of Labor, attorney Eugene Scalia, he would face key construction-related issues. Near the top of the list is turning DOL’s recently proposed apprenticeship regulation into a final version.
Looking at the department’s pending construction items, Vincent Sandusky, chief executive officer of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), says, “Without a doubt, the biggest looming and intense battle is going to be around the DOL proposal on the industry-recognized apprenticeship programs.”
In June, DOL issued a proposed rule that would allow industry groups to apply to set apprenticeship training benchmarks in various industries. The proposal would exempt construction, “at least initially,” it says. Construction has long-established apprenticeship programs and more active apprentices than any other industry.
The building trades strongly back the exemption. So do contractor groups like SMACNA that have joint training programs or other relationships with the unions. But the Associated General Contractors of America and Associated Builders and Contractors oppose the exemption. Sandusky says both sides “are weighing in heavily” on the DOL proposal.
Trump says that Scalia, son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected … as a lawyer with great experience working with labor and everyone else.” Scalia faces strong opposition from Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed the presumed nominee as “someone who has proven to put corporate interests over those of worker rights.”
Scalia is a partner with law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and has represented employers and business groups in labor-related cases. In the George W. Bush administration, he was DOL solicitor, its chief legal official, for about a year.
If approved, Scalia would replace Alexander Acosta, who led DOL from April 2017 until departing July 19 in the wake of controversy over his handling of a 2007 plea agreement while U.S. Attorney in Florida, according to media reports. The plea deal was with Jeffrey Epstein, who faces new, recently unsealed federal sex-trafficking charges in New York. Acosta on July 10 defended his actions in Florida and welcomed the New York prosecution as “the absolutely right thing to do.”
While the confirmation process plays out, Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzella is serving as acting DOL secretary.