On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing for the President’s nomination of Gene Scalia for Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary. The HELP Committee will vote on whether to forward the nomination to the full Senate on September 24 at 10am ET – information about that vote can be found here. Key highlights from the hearing include:
Summary of Discussion Pertaining to Disability and Disability Services:
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) asked Scalia to describe times he protected workers and represented employees. Scalia responded to Senator Collins that he took on a pro bono case for a woman who was deaf and in part had faced disability discrimination
- Senator Cassidy (R-LA) posed a question about the unintended consequences of a $15 minimum wage. Scalia focused in on rulemaking and importance of public comments
- Senator Kaine (D-VA) asked a question about Scalia’s position on 14(c) and Scalia replied he recognized there are strongly held views on both sides, people on both sides believe their approach is in the interest of people with disabilities and if confirmed he would be honored to be part of that discussion.
- Senator Hassan (D-NH) continued the 14(c) disscussion. She also pointed out that a highlight Scalia shares in his career (EEOC v. UPS) actually narrowed protections by the ADA. Scalia responded about the possibility of a variety of accommodations that employers can offer individual workers.
- Senator Casey (D-PA) asked questions around competitive integrated employment and Scalia committed that he would work with Casey to move forward CIE
- Senator Romney (R-UT) in speaking about visa programs Scalia noted that “the labor department programs that supply extra workers to businesses that for example have high seasonal demands or for other reasons are unable to attract American workers to their positions are a central role of the department.” Also Scalia clarified his stance on unions noting that labor unions can be effective advocates for worker safety and discrimination.
- Senator Isakson (R-GA) -Scalia mentioned as a private attorney he had worked with workers to put together antidiscrimination policies to help workers get accommodation under the ADA
- Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) asked Scalia put the Trump administration’s proposed overtime rule on hold and defend the Obama era overtime rule in court
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) concerned about worker safety referenced a story of a nurse who was injured assisting a young person with behavioral health needs featured in a Congressional hearing that ANCOR monitored earlier this year
- Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) raised the issue of increasing the minimum wage.
- Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) discussed disability claims and the UPS case that Scalia defended. He encouraged Mr. Scalia to be a leader on these issues.
Because DOL oversees employment programs for people with disabilities and regulations that cover our members in their functions as employers, ANCOR submitted questions for the record for this nomination. These questions were:
- The healthcare workforce including direct support professionals (DSPs) that provide essential daily life skills supports and employment training to people with disabilities are facing the worst workforce crisis ever despite being one of the fastest growing occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. DSPs alone have a 45% turnover rate every year and they are compensated at only around $11/hr nationally. The crisis was alerted to the President in his first report from the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Will you commit as Secretary to focus on solutions on this workforce crisis? What are some of your core ideas to get the DSP workforce the relief it needs?
- How will you coordinate with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to ensure that changes in Medicaid regulations do not have unintended consequences on the Medicaid funded workforce - and vice versa, that Department of Labor regulations do not unfairly impact Medicaid funded providers and recipients who employ a workforce through this funding?
- People with disabilities experience the highest rate of unemployment, over double the rate of what people without disabilities experience. Can you describe your background with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act and your vision as Secretary to ensure Americans with Disabilities have full access to the economy whether it is as employees in the federal government or in the private sector?