Acosta is out. But his acting successor’s track record is anything but good when it comes to labor.
“Incoming acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella will take the helm of the department following the resignation Friday of Alex Acosta, who faced scrutiny over his role in prosecuting alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.
But Pizzella, currently deputy Labor secretary, has his own controversial past that will likely come to the fore. Democratic senators and civil rights groups have expressed concern about Pizzella’s prior work with disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the late 1990s and early 2000s to hamper worker protections in the Northern Mariana Islands.
When Pizzella worked on Abramoff’s team at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, the lobbying firm was pushing to prevent Congress from imposing minimum wage laws on the Northern Mariana Islands. At the time, there were ‘maximum’ wage restrictions on the islands of $3.05 per hour for foreign workers, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
‘Foreign workers pay up to $7,000 to employers or middlemen for the right to a job in the CNMI. When they finally reach the Commonwealth, they are assigned to tedious, low paying work for long hours with little or no time off. At night they are locked in prison-like barracks,’ one government report found.
Abramoff was sentenced to six years in prison on fraud-related charges in 2006. He served four years and was released in 2010 . . .
‘You’ve been nominated to a position where you’ll be closely involved with enforcing minimum wage laws and other worker protections. Yet, as we discussed in my office, one of the key issues you lobbied on was to block bipartisan legislation for basic worker protections in the Northern Mariana Islands, where garment manufacturers could produce clothing labeled made in the U.S.A. without having to comply with U.S. minimum wage laws,’ former Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told him at the time.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights accused Pizzella that fall of working with Abramoff to lobby for policies ‘that essentially allowed for unchecked slave labor to be performed with the imprimatur of the “Made in the U.S.A.” label on goods and clothing.'”
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