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In a big setback to organized labor, a Senate committee on Tuesday sent the nomination of Eugene Scalia as the Labor Department’s top lawyer to the full Senate for consideration. The Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee voted 11-10 in favor of the nomination. Unions had lobbied intensely to defeat Scalia, a Washington labor lawyer and son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, because of his opposition to a Clinton-era ergonomics regulation aimed at enhancing workplace safety. He had criticized the rule as “quackery” and “junk science.” “Mr. Scalia is well-known for his long-standing opposition to workers’ rights and protections,” said committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. “Throughout his career, he has worked against job health and job safety protections for workers.” Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., tipped the party-line vote in Scalia’s favor. Republicans defended Scalia’s views on the ergonomics regulation, saying that a majority in Congress also thought it was a bad rule when it was repealed in the spring. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao urged the Senate to act quickly on the nomination, which has been pending for more than five months. “We urge the opposition not to make this into a partisan litmus-test,” Chao said. Scalia, at his confirmation hearing last month, said he thought ergonomics-related injuries existed. He said the regulation issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year went too far. That regulation was repealed by Congress in March after a legislative battle that pitted business groups against labor unions. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao plans to announce this month if the agency will pursue another regulation or a voluntary approach. As labor solicitor, Scalia would be charged with enforcing nearly 200 labor laws. He would provide legal advice and guidance on virtually every initiative of the department in areas such as safety and health, minimum wage and pension security. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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