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By Ben Penn
The next administration will get to work on framing the labor agenda within hours after Donald Trump is sworn into office.
About 30 political appointees, called the “beachhead” team, will assume government posts at the Department of Labor the afternoon of Jan. 20, sources with knowledge of the plans told Bloomberg BNA. One source described them as “almost all very junior people,” while another said there are some members with labor-management experience.
Further, a small number of senior career staff at the agency has been asked to show up to work Jan. 20, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The employees may also be expected to work through the weekend.
It’s unclear who will be running the new political operation or what their initial objectives will be. During the transition, the department’s point of contact with the beachhead team was Wayne Palmer, who as recently as this week still worked at the Center for Presidential Transition. Palmer’s LinkedIn profile does not reveal a background in labor. He was chief of staff for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) from 1995 to 2007.
The Trump transition office and Palmer were not immediately available to comment.
The sources said the beachhead crew is independent from the landing team. It’s unclear whether new political appointees are coordinating with Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder, who awaits a Senate confirmation hearing now scheduled for Feb. 2.
Trump’s DOL landing team, charged with gathering information on the agency’s programs, conducted more than 30 meetings with the agency’s career staff during the transition. The landing crew included a former Wage and Hour Division deputy administrator and the DOL chief economist, both of whom served under President George W. Bush.
Outgoing Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu, in a Jan. 4 interview, told Bloomberg BNA that the landing team engaged in “collegial and collaborative” discussions with the DOL. However, he said the transition to power under President Barack Obama involved more senior DOL personnel.
A Trump transition aide disputed that characterization, saying there are in fact “serious discussions” taking place.
The current plan is for DOL Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Edward Hugler, a career official, to become acting labor secretary when Labor Secretary Thomas Perez leaves office Jan. 20. Subagencies will also be temporarily operated by senior career personnel. They would all retain those jobs until top political appointments are nominated and Senate confirmed.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at email@example.com
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