FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Workplace Fairness Takes Position on Appointment of Acosta as Labor Secretary
SILVER SPRING, Md. (Mar. 22, 2017) – As the Senate HELP Committee prepares for the confirmation hearing of Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor, Workplace Fairness weighs in on what he must prioritize to be a suitable selection for the post.
While Mr. Acosta’s previous positions in the Civil Rights Division at DOJ and NLRB called for him to recognize and protect the rights of minorities and other under-served communities, his involvement in politicized hiring at DOJ, and his lack of any real record on workers’ rights issues are concerning. Given the lack of information about what he is likely to do as Secretary of Labor, Workplace Fairness has expressed to the HELP Committee what we think is important to consider in his confirmation hearing.
There are three points of particular interest to Workplace Fairness and the working people that we serve.
- A Labor Secretary must guard against politicized hiring in the Labor Department.
- A Labor Secretary must aggressively pursue investigation, litigation, and enforcement against employers who violate workers’ rights.
- A Labor Secretary must commit to providing comprehensive, up to date, easy to understand information to the public about workers’ rights in the workplace and procedures for pursuing remedies.
In light of these things, and the many questionable appointments already being made by the Trump administration, Mr. Acosta must assure us that the Department will engage in nonpartisan hiring in order to most effectively pursue its mission. Mr. Acosta must further provide assurances that he will act to protect and advance the rights of workers by aggressively pursuing enforcement actions against employers who take advantage of workers, especially those who are most vulnerable. Immigrants and members of the LGBT community, for example, are already seeing frightening signs of animosity from the Trump administration that have had a chilling effect on the likelihood that these workers will speak up and pursue justice when their employers violate their rights. The Labor Secretary must be sensitive to these concerns and take steps to address them, lest employers be allowed to run roughshod over the most underserved people in the workforce.
The Department of Labor’s mission is to promote worker welfare and assure workers’ benefits and rights. In order to effectively protect workers and their rights, the Secretary of Labor must also place a high level of importance on continuing to provide workers with comprehensive, accessible information about their rights in the workplace, and transparency about the aims and goals of the Department going forward. It is key to the Department’s mission that workers know their rights, and more importantly, know what steps to take to make a complaint when their rights are violated. Under a new presidential administration, workers and workers’ advocates must be kept apprised of rules changes, and changes in guidance and enforcement actions. But just as importantly, the Department must continue to provide information about all of the established laws and regulations that it enforces.
With the recent spate of agencies removing large sections of content from their websites, workers and their advocates are concerned. Removing vital legal and procedural information from the Department’s website would have a detrimental effect on the enforcement of the laws that protect workers because they may not understand their rights, or know how to seek remedies for employer violations. We must be assured that as Secretary of Labor, Mr. Acosta would recognize the need to keep the people he is charged with protecting informed about their rights, their employers’ obligations, and how they can go about making complaints.
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About Workplace Fairness
Workplace Fairness is a nonprofit organization that provides information, education and assistance to individual workers and their advocates nationwide and promotes public policies that advance employee rights.
Our goals are that workers and their advocates are educated about workplace rights and options for resolving workplace problems and that policymakers, members of the business community and the public at large view the fair treatment of workers as both good business practice and sound public policy.
Workplace Fairness works toward these goals by:
- Making comprehensive information about workers' rights – free of legal jargon – readily available to workers and to advocates and organizations that assist workers;
- Providing resources to support the work of legal services organizations, community-based organizations, law schools and private attorneys that provide free legal information and services to low-income workers;
- Presenting the employee perspective in publications, policy debates & public discussion.
The award-winning Workplace Fairness website, www.workplacefairness.org, has newly updated information throughout the site, as part of the web's most comprehensive resource educating workers about their legal rights in the workplace.
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