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Organized labor is urging the Senate to defeat the nomination of Eugene Scalia as the Labor Department’s top lawyer, contending that his views are extreme and hostile to workers. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, in a letter to senators released Thursday, said Scalia is “simply the wrong person for the job.” A confirmation hearing is set for Sept. 20. The labor federation has debated for months whether to fight the nomination of Scalia, a Washington, D.C., labor lawyer who is the son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Sweeney’s letter is the first move in labor’s decision to oppose the nomination. “The president has nominated an individual whose extreme views on key worker protections place him outside the mainstream and make him unsuited to hold this important position,” Sweeney said. The AFL-CIO’s chief objection is Scalia’s criticism of Clinton era ergonomics regulations that Congress killed in the spring. In 1999, he wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the then-proposed rule “relies on doubtful evidence that repeatedly has flunked the courts’ ‘junk science’ test.” Labor Department spokeswoman Sue Hensley said the AFL-CIO’s position was “disappointing but predictable.” Scalia “is highly qualified and supported by a broad spectrum in the labor law community,” she said. “And the AFL-CIO’s opposition centers almost entirely on Scalia’s position on ergonomics — a rule that a bipartisan majority in Congress rejected as extreme.” Scalia as labor solicitor would provide advice and guidance on virtually every policy, legislative, regulatory and enforcement initiative of the department in areas such as safety and health, minimum wages and pension security. The position is regarded as a top lieutenant to Secretary Elaine Chao. “The AFL-CIO did not make the decision to oppose Eugene Scalia’s nomination lightly,” Sweeney wrote. “We recognize that the president has the authority to nominate individuals who reflect his policy views and that President Bush’s policy views differ substantially from ours.” Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that will consider Scalia’s nomination, has “serious concerns” about Scalia’s views on work place safety, said spokesman Jim Manley. As a lawyer, Scalia has represented businesses that oppose federal ergonomics regulations and has fought regulatory efforts at the state level, including California. Chao is expected to decide later this month whether the department will pursue a new regulation aimed at reducing workplace injuries or a voluntary approach. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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