DOL Nearing Appointment for International Affairs Chief

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By Ben Penn

The Labor Department plans to imminently appoint a new head of its Bureau of International Labor Affairs, with former Republican department official Martha Newton emerging as the presumed pick, sources familiar with the process told Bloomberg BNA.

Newton was ILAB’s No. 2 ranked political official from 2002 to 2006 and is currently a principal at Health Strategies LLC, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also worked on the Trump administration inaugural committee. Newton’s appointment, which doesn’t require Senate confirmation, is scheduled for Aug. 31, a former DOL official told Bloomberg BNA. Other sources couldn’t corroborate the scheduling plans but said Newton is the front-runner and that they expect a final decision in the coming days.

The ILAB chief, known as deputy undersecretary for international affairs, is considered likely to play an important role in the White House push to restore U.S. manufacturing jobs by cracking down on labor abuses overseas. The agency has been overseen by an acting career director since President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The bureau works to ensure global workplaces don’t rely on child labor, forced labor, or human trafficking. ILAB’s four offices research trade issues, participate in trade negotiations, and work directly on enforcement efforts overseas.

The Labor Department didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment. Newton couldn’t immediately be located for comment.

Budget Cuts, Bannon Ally

The next ILAB director enters an agency facing steep proposed budget cuts. The White House and a House appropriations committee called for slashing the bureau’s budget by about 75 percent. The DOL budget is still subject to Senate review.

Newton’s name surfaced as a contender for the position shortly after Alexander Acosta was sworn in as labor secretary in April. At that time, she was said to have been one of two finalists who Acosta interviewed, along with Curtis Ellis, an ally of former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

The consideration of Ellis for the job attracted opposition from labor groups because of his writings for the website World Net Daily, including a column in which he accused Democrats of plotting the “liquidation of white, blue-collar working families.”

Newton, as a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, was seen as the more mainstream candidate with experience inside the agency.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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