Trump supporters counting on labor-friendly DOL chief
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President Donald Trump faces significant challenges wherever he looks, but he also has a real opportunity to help a group of Americans who proved critical to his victory and are now looking to him for leadership — the working men and women of this country.

After years of being largely ignored by policymakers, working Americans finally got a break under President Obama, and will need the continued leadership of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE to maintain and expand on this progress.  

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Community organizations and legal advocates must remain vigilant to ensure that the Department of Labor upholds the president’s promises and keeps the interests of workers at the forefront. To do otherwise would squander all of the good work of the last eight years and betray the hopes of the president’s most stalwart supporters.

 

The country made great strides during the last eight years in bolstering workers’ rights. Together, the White House, the Labor Department, and key allies, such as legal advocates and community-based organizations, fought to advance the interests of working Americans.

Protecting this progress and taking further steps to help American workers should be one of the Trump administration’s top priorities. President Trump’s new nominee for secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta, may be qualified for the job, but no matter who will ultimately hold this position, he or she will be expected to implement the president’s promises for the working men and women in this country. 

President Trump has been given another bite at the apple. In line with the department’s mission, the new secretary of labor should approach the office with a commitment to advancing the interests of working Americans and providing the men and women of this country with a fair, safe and equitable workplace.  

A fair minimum wage, the need for paid family leave, the vigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, and health and safety standards shouldn’t be partisan issues. Republicans and Democrats alike support these common-sense protections. President Trump and the new labor secretary should make it a priority to enforce these protections and uphold the workplace values all Americans endorse.

The Department of Labor and the person who heads it — no matter who it is — aren’t alone in this effort. Policy advocates, worker organizations and the legal community have all helped to develop the needed reforms and implement them through public outreach, organizing, and vigorous litigation where violations occur.

These very same organizations will continue to fight for the effective implementation and enforcement of these rights. But even with their active participation, the Department of Labor must continue to be the leader in safeguarding and expanding protections.

Whether or not Acosta is confirmed as the next secretary of labor, the individual in this role will be charged with defending the interests of working Americans and enforcing the spirit of the laws meant to guarantee their rights on the job.

Regardless of the views held by the nominee, his or her positions on workers’ issues must reflect the mission of the Labor Department — preparing the American workforce for new and better jobs, improving working conditions nationwide, and nurturing fair competition among law-abiding businesses.

Many who voted for President Trump did so believing that he would help level the playing field for American workers, especially for those who have struggled to regain their footing since the Great Recession. President Trump’s Department of Labor must be ready and willing to help hard-working Americans.

It can do so by building on the advances made during the Obama administration, like continuing to vigorously enforce workplace laws and supporting additional measures that keep the American Dream within reach for all working Americans, including raising the minimum wage and enacting paid family leave.

This country is looking to President Trump to protect the interests of working Americans and ensure everyone has the opportunity to share in our national prosperity. As during the Obama administration, community-based organizations and legal advocates must continue to play a pivotal role in safeguarding the rights of workers.

Standing up for workers in Washington, state capitols, and courtrooms nationwide is essential to this effort. But ultimately, it is up to the secretary of labor to set the tone and lead by example.

The choice is simple — give American workers the strong Department of Labor they need and have had in the recent past, or turn back the clock on workers’ rights and, once again, leave them forgotten in the margins of society.

It is our hope that President Trump will recognize the opportunity to do the right thing for workers and that his nominee will uphold the mission of the Department of Labor. You cannot make America great again if you leave working men and women behind.

 

Michael Hancock is of Counsel at Cohen Milstein and a member of the firm’s Civil Rights & Employment practice group. Hancock is the former assistant administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of contributors.