Pre-anti-Labor Day announcement

From the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Bush uses recess to fill wage-hour job
BY ALEX DANIELS

Posted on Saturday, September 2, 2006

URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/Business/165401/
WASHINGTON — Over the objections of congressional Democrats and labor leaders, the Bush administration has given Paul DeCamp, a Labor Department lawyer, a recess appointment to head the agency’s wage and hour division.

The announcement late Thursday means that DeCamp will serve in the position through the end of the current session of Congress, which is expected to go through the end of the year, without facing a vote on the Senate floor.

That is “an insult to America’s workers,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

As a private attorney, DeCamp represented Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in the largest classaction sex-discrimination lawsuit ever brought against a private employer. In the case, Dukes v. Wal-Mart, which is pending in the 9 th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, a class of nearly 1. 6 million current and former employees claim the retailer failed to pay and promote women at the same rate as their male counterparts.

Wal-Mart, which had no immediate comment on DeCamp’s appointment, denies the allegations.

Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, the Republican chairman of the Senate committee, praised De-Camp’s “strong qualifications.”

“I am deeply disappointed that opponents of Mr. DeCamp’s nomination are willing to leave this very important position without a Senate-confirmed leader,” Enzi said in a statement.

As head of the department’s wage and hour division, DeCamp, now a senior policy adviser in the Labor Department, will be in charge of enforcing a variety of laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Migrant and Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

As the November midterm congressional elections approach, some Democrats have focused on Wal-Mart in their campaigns, portraying the retailer as a bad place to work.

Kennedy said DeCamp had a clear record of hostility to protecting overtime and wages, and he criticized DeCamp’s handling of wage-and-hour complaints during his time working on the department’s Katrina efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

Kennedy charged that overtime violations in the Gulf Coast have been rampant since last year’s hurricanes, and criticized the Labor Department’s efforts to process workers’ claims.

“Appointing DeCamp to enforce laws he doesn’t believe in and protections he doesn’t support is another example of the low priority that the administration gives to the rights and well-being of America’s workers,” Kennedy said in a statement.

During his confirmation hearing last month, Democrats on the committee peppered De-Camp, who they noted had never advised an employee in a labor case in his career, with questions on his role in the Wal-Mart classaction suit.

DeCamp maintained that the case should not be given classaction status, because the working environment differs greatly from store to store throughout the chain.

In his prepared statement to the committee, DeCamp vowed to enforce wage-and-hour rules “justly, fairly and vigorously.”

“I believe in our wage-andhour laws and the essential purposes they serve,” DeCamp said.

DeCamp also said he would make it a priority to review and update child-labor regulations, which he noted haven’t been substantially revised in about 30 years. “I believe those regulations should reflect current information regarding the risks posed to minors in employment,” he said, without further elaboration.

Copyright © 2001-2006 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com

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