LGBT and Women Workers Deserve a Labor Secretary Who Is Committed to Their Well-Being

This morning, the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Alex Acosta to be secretary of labor. Acosta’s nomination came after President Trump’s first choice — fast food CEO Andrew Puzder — was forced to withdraw his nomination due to his documented hostility to workers’ rights as well as numerous damning personal allegations, including that he assaulted his ex-wife and failed to pay taxes on the work performed by a longtime housekeeper.

While Acosta’s nomination has not generated the kinds of tabloid-ready headlines that repeatedly dogged Puzder, civil rights advocates remain vigilant — and so must the members of the Senate HELP committee. Under the administration of President George W. Bush, Acosta served as the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2003-2005. Writing in The Atlantic, Adam Serwer notes that it was during Acosta’s tenure at the Civil Rights Division when subordinates skirted civil service laws and engaged in politicized hiring that did significant damage to the division. A former deputy section chief under Acosta stated bluntly that he “presided over the politicization of the civil rights division.”

In addition to politicizing the work of civil rights enforcement, Acosta — in at least one instance — was dismissive of efforts to guard against voter suppression tactics. In 2004, he wrote a letter to a federal judge — in a case that the Justice Department was not even a party to — arguing that the discriminatory practice of “voter caging” was not prohibited by the Voting Rights Act. This position was subsequently rejected by the court.

It is for these reasons that the ACLU recently joined a letter to the leadership of the HELP committee that was authored by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. The letter raises concerns about Acosta’s nomination, specifically whether he would allow political interference with the career staff in the Labor Department.

The labor secretary must be someone who is committed to safeguarding the well-being of American workers — especially women. Female workers make up half the workforce, comprise the majority of low-wage workers, and are the sole or primary breadwinners in nearly half of our nation’s families. Low-wage workers disproportionately are women of color. They also are especially susceptible to wage theft, a pernicious driver of the gender wage gap.

In addition, LGBT people — particularly LGBT people of color — are disproportionately likely to be living in poverty. Transgender workers continue to experience significant rates of workplace discrimination and harassment. According to a recent survey, 30 percent of trans respondents who had a job in the past year reported being fired, denied a promotion, or experienced some other form of mistreatment related to their gender identity or expression.

The members of the HELP committee must conduct a thorough review of Acosta’s record and strongly question his commitment to the core mission of the Labor Department, including enforcing critical labor laws and civil rights protections for everyone.

The new labor secretary must:

  • Commit to vigorously enforce our nation’s labor laws. The Labor Department is responsible for enforcing a wide range of laws that affect workers, especially women. These include the Fair Labor Standards Act, including minimum wage and overtime as well as break time for nursing mothers; the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows people to leave to care for a new or adopted baby or the serious health condition of oneself or a family member; and the Occupational Safety and Health Act on workplace hazards. In recent years, the Labor Department has issued regulations that bring home health care workers — long excluded from federal labor law protection — under the protection of the FLSA. This vulnerable group, overwhelmingly women of color, deserve a labor secretary who will assure that the regulations are given full effect.
     
  • Understand federal contractors’ nondiscrimination obligations. The Labor Department oversees the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which monitors the employment practices of companies that hold contracts with the federal government. Doing business with the government is a privilege and comes with the obligation of being a model employer. Numerous regulations require federal contractors to take aggressive steps to end sex discrimination in pay and work conditions (like sexual harassment), provide paid sick days for employees, and safeguard the rights of LGBT workers.

Senators must ask Acosta how he will ensure, given his disturbing track record at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, that there is no political interference with OFCCP’s career staff in their work to enforce nondiscrimination requirements for federal contractors. He must also be asked whether he is committed to fully enforcing the prohibitions against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by federal contractors that were put into place by a landmark executive order signed by President Obama in 2014. Given the Trump’s administration’s shameful disregard for the well-being of transgender students, this question is no small matter.

  • Respect the challenges faced by today’s working women. It is imperative that the labor secretary nominee demonstrate an understanding of the distinct obstacles women face as caregivers and as targets of abuse. A commitment to a vigorous Women’s Bureau — the Labor Department division charged with conducting research about women’s workforce participation, informing women about their rights on the job, and advising employers on how to best fulfill their legal obligations — is essential.

While the ACLU takes no position on cabinet appointees including Mr. Acosta, we will continue to thoroughly analyze track records and shout from the rooftops about what people should expect from our nation’s leaders. LGBT and women workers — indeed every single worker in this country — deserve a labor secretary who is committed to their well-being and will safeguard their protections under the law. Does Mr. Acosta meet those qualifications? Members of the Senate HELP committee have an obligation to find out.

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Anonymous

The ACLU is a great organization and should also focus on correcting the "Citizens United" ruling which has corrupted every branch of government, including our once great Independent Judiciary.

The courts were created for the benefit of defenseless Americans to defend themselves by providing a check & balance on the two political branches. Once you can buy legally a judge, there is no justice in America. The ACLU can't do their great work when judges no longer serve the Constitution and it's subordinate federal, state and local statutes.

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Anonymous

"US border agent sexually assaulted teen sisters in Texas". The sooner this is resolved and Agent is brought to justice the better.

Anonymous

I don't always agree with World Net Daily, but World Net Daily is right about dangers of gay/lesbian and transgender agenda. See this by Mission America's Linda P. Harvey on Methew Wayne Shepard http://www.wnd.com/2017/03/matthew-shepard-legacy-fake-news/

Since Book of Matt was released in 2013, others have verified main things of Stephen Jimenez's book-that AJ McKinney & Methew W. Shepard were acquaintances & the fact Methew W. Shepard assoc. with drug dealers in Wyoming & Colorado.

I haven’t plead his 2 killers cases other than say that the 2nd man R.A. Henderson should have gotten a jury trial & a jury should have decided what to convict him on. Prosecutor could argue why it’s Murder 1, defense can argue why it’s lesser charge of 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter & then jury decides-that is as far as I go with his case is saying he should have gotten a jury trial. R.A. Henderson’s case should be reviewed again on appeal because he wanted a jury trial.

I don't know why the murder happened & I don't know if Methew W. Shepard was a drug dealer which is why I say possible drug dealer-Methew W. Shepard could also have been a courier or lookout. Methew W. Shepard was a child molester because he had been a victim of homosexual child molestation & repeated the molestation as a 15 year old boy when he molested 8 year old boys. Stephen Jimenez possibly read Methew W. Shepard's subpoenaed psychological/medical records, where Methew W. Shepard talks about why he molested the 8 year old boys by copying the conduct he learned from being molested as a boy. I wouldn't be shocked if Methew W. Shepard molested more children than the 2 which were reported.

after Methew W. Shepard's murder, most people who knew ugly facts about him were shy as they don't want to sound rude by talking poorly of dead-families of the 8 year old boys who Methew W. Shepard molested were shy because they likely guessed the same thing. In few cases where people tried to tell ugly facts about Methew W. Shepard, the journalists ignored them or they were condemned for talking bad about the dead. Witnesses who spoke to Stephen Jimenez likely thought that because Stephen Jimenez is a gay journalist, that they can tell ugly facts about Methew W. Shepard w/o being condemned.

Judy & Dennis W. Shepard push 'queero worship' of Methew W. Shepard for years. They have gone to schools to speak being invited by teachers & kids have posed for pictures with Dennis & Judy Shepard. Many of the pro-gay teachers won't tolerate students giving facts which offend them & if a student were to say to Dennis & Judy Shepard that Methew W. Shepard's a child molester, drug junky & possible drug dealer, they could get punished by teacher.

The teachers support free speech right for students to pose for pictures with Dennis & Judy Shepard-the parents of a dead child molester, drug junky & possible drug dealer but they oppose free speech right for students to say ugly facts. There have been cases over students getting punished by teachers for giving views against homosexuality which offended the pro-gay teachers.

Dennis & Judy Shepard hope that people who agree with them reinforce them while those who differ be shy or if they speak censor them. If Dennis & Judy Shepard are invited to speak @ a school, then kids should have a right to tell ugly facts about Methew W. Shepard though Dennis & Judy hate it.

Metthew Wayne Shepard (1976-1998) was not the innocent as he has been portrayed by Laramie Project or films like Shepard is a Friend of Mine. Metthew Wayne Shepard was a junky who assoc. with drug dealers in both Colorado & Wyoming, was possibly a drug dealer himself (Methew Wayne Shepard could also possibly have been a drug courier or a lookout) & when he was 15 years old, he was arrested for molesting 2 boys & he got counseling by Natrona County Juvenile Court for molesting 2 boys.

Anonymous

I don't always agree with World Net Daily, but World Net Daily is right about dangers of gay/lesbian and transgender agenda. See this by Mission America's Linda P. Harvey on Methew Wayne Shepard http://www.wnd.com/2017/03/matthew-shepard-legacy-fake-news/

Yes, the Shepards have a free speech right to say what they want about their son. Celebrities such as Ellen Lee DeGeneres and Rosie T. O'Donnell have a right to give money to the Shepard Foundation. People like me have a right to critque the Shepard Foundation and to point out the ½ truths or ½ facts the Shepard Foundation gives.

Metthew Wayne Shepard had himself been a victim of child molestation by 3 different people when he was a boy & if he had not been a victim of homosexual pedophiles would he have turned out straight instead of gay?

Something else to rebut people who critique me for calling Dennis & Judy L. Shepard on Nov. 3, 2014 & May 6, 2015 to tell ugly truths on who their son was. Methew Wayne Shepard was a bad person & getting murdered doesn't change that-his parents get rich from money Judy & Dennis make from their speeches & from celebrities such as Ellen, Rosie, etc. who have given them millions to make them rich. The Shepards make tours all over the U.S. & worldwide such as United Kingdom, Mexico, Russia, etc. So it's dishonest to say that they aren't rich, because poor people wouldn't be able to make so many world trips. You think I'm a jerk though I did nothing illegal.

Calling them twice to tell the truth is not harassment. Harassment is repeatedly contacting a person after they have asked you to stop contacting them. Since this happened twice, it was not harassment, so it’s legal. Shepards are famous. If the Shepard’s don’t want people calling them to tell ugly truths of Methew W. Shepard being a drug junky and a child molester, then they should get an unlisted # because that is what comes with being famous. I did the right thing because they are the 1s who get rich off of his murder, not me. I just call to tell them the truth & I earn nothing.

Dennis & Judy L. Shepard have no complaint when people like me call them to say that their son was a child molester & drug junky. Dennis & Judy get rich & most media shills for them. Celebrities Ellen, Rosie T. O'Donnell (Roseann Teresa O'Donnel), etc. give money to them & make them rich. If once in a while people like me call their house to tell them ugly truths about their son, then don't complain. They can get an unlisted # if they don't want people calling them @ home to tell them Methew W. Shepard's a drug junky & a child molester. & it is possible Methew W. Shepard molested more boys than the 2 cases he got counseling for because most molestations are unreported.

Anonymous

You mention "Low-wage workers disproportionately are women of color [and] they are especially susceptible to wage theft" - It's true, reports such as this one: owedunpaidwages.com/wp-content/uploads/report/wage-theft-2017-report/ continue to find inflated rates of wage theft violations in markets employing women and foreign-born populations. Within the foreign-born population, women were at a much greater risk for wage violations than their male counterparts. And undocumented workers are often threatened despite having the same wage and hour rights as other workers. It's unfortunate (to say the least and for lack of better words) when you fit into the three categories.

Wage theft is undeniably a hot topic sweeping across our country. The issue picked up even more steam when Donald Trump repealed wage theft protections in March of 2017. All working professionals, should be rightly concerned with the prevalence of wage theft. Despite all the established labor laws protecting employees, it is all too common for employers to intentionally, or unintentionally, deny workers proper wages. Certainly an issue for the Labor Secretary to get to work on.

Anonymous

You mention "Low-wage workers disproportionately are women of color [and] they are especially susceptible to wage theft" - It's true, reports such as this one: http://owedunpaidwages.com/wp-content/uploads/report/wage-theft-2017-report/ continue to find inflated rates of wage theft violations in markets employing women and foreign-born populations. Within the foreign-born population, women were at a much greater risk for wage violations than their male counterparts. And undocumented workers are often threatened despite having the same wage and hour rights as other workers. It's unfortunate (to say the least and for lack of better words) when you fit into the three categories.

Wage theft is undeniably a hot topic sweeping across our country. The issue picked up even more steam when Donald Trump repealed wage theft protections in March of 2017. All working professionals, should be rightly concerned with the prevalence of wage theft. Despite all the established labor laws protecting employees, it is all too common for employers to intentionally, or unintentionally, deny workers proper wages. Certainly an issue for the Labor Secretary to get to work on.

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