As I noted last month, the Labor Department is trying to ramp up its fight against wage theft without two key nominees, whose confirmations have been delayed in the Senate. One of these nominees — Patricia Smith, who has been tapped to fill to position of Department of Labor Solicitor — is being opposed personally by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who sent a letter to President Obama demanding that her nomination be withdrawn.
And Enzi is no longer alone in his quest. He’s getting an assist from the conservative, anti-labor Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF), which is sending this to other Senators:
[AWF] urges you to support Senator Mike Enzi’s (R-WY) call for President Obama’s withdrawal of Patricia Smith’s nomination for Solicitor at the Labor Department…Smith has shown an inherit bias towards labor through her management of New York’s Hour Wage and Hour Watch program.
AWF describes itself as an organization “dedicated to combating anti-worker legislation,” but its idea of “anti-worker” is pretty skewed, since it opposes minimum wage laws and the Employee Free Choice Act. AWF also expelled workers attempting to attend a panel that it organized on Capitol Hill last month.
AWF is actually a “special project” of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), the organization formed by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. But Norquist is also virulently anti-union, saying that one of his goals is to “crush labor as a political entity.” Norquist will not disclose AWF’s funders, but ATR itself is funded by Philip Morris and the ultra-conservative Scaife foundations, among others.
And while Enzi and his cohorts are holding up these nominations, wage theft has become an increasing problem. 68 percent of the low wage workers report being subjected to pay violations in their previous work week alone. Of these, 26 percent were paid less than the minimum wage and 76 percent didn’t receive legally required overtime pay.
This rampant wage theft translated into an overall 15 percent loss of pay. Meanwhile, during her time with the New York State Labor Department, Smith helped win more than $20 million in back pay for thousands of low-wage workers, including a record $2.3 million settlement with the owner of Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Grill in Manhattan.
As AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka said, those in Congress who are holding up the nominees are doing so “because they don’t want those positions filled.” And for the agenda that AWF is pushing, it makes a lot of sense for the Labor Department to have a lot of vacancies.