Senator Murray votes to confirm Jocelyn Samuels, a champion of workers’ rights, to the EEOC
Senator Murray votes against Republican EEOC nominees Andrea Lucas and Keith Sonderling, cites their long records of fighting for corporations instead of workers
Murray: “As the coronavirus continues to impact workplaces across the country, workers are facing unprecedented challenges… They need a champion at the EEOC who will work tirelessly to defend their rights. Jocelyn Samuels is that champion.”
***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL REMARKS HERE***
(Washington, D.C.) –Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, voted to confirm the nomination of Jocelyn Samuels to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Murray highlighted Samuels’ years of experience in the federal government—including at the EEOC itself—and her long record fighting to protect workers from discrimination. Jocelyn Samuels was confirmed to the EEOC by a vote of 54-42.
“As the coronavirus continues to impact workplaces across the country, workers are facing unprecedented challenges. And they need a champion at the EEOC who will work tirelessly to defend their rights. Jocelyn Samuels is that champion,” said Senator Murray. “With almost 20 years of experience in the federal government—including at the EEOC itself—she has spent her career working to address discrimination and ensure no one is treated unfairly because of their age, race, or disability.”
Senator Murray also voted against the nominations of Andrea Lucas and Keith Sonderling to the EEOC, citing their long records fighting for corporations instead of workers. Despite Senator Murray’s strong objections, both nominations were confirmed, by votes of 49-44 and 51-42.
“But unfortunately the other two nominees already approved by the Senate—Andrea Lucas and Keith Sonderling—will likely have disastrous consequences for workers’ rights. These are two people who have spent their careers working to protect corporations—not workers,” continued Senator Murray.
The EEOC enforces workplace discrimination and harassment laws, protects LGBTQIA+ rights in the workplace, and works to address the gender pay gap. In January 2019, the agency lost a quorum after Senate Republicans stalled a Democratic nomination for more than a year. Despite longstanding practice to confirm minority party nominees to independent agencies, and requests from Senate Democrats to return to this norm, Republicans jammed through their nomination of Chair Dhillon over Democratic objections in May 2019, and refused for over a year to nominate and confirm a Democratic nominee. At Senator Murray’s urging, Jocelyn Samuels was finally nominated in March 2020, and advanced out of the HELP Committee in June.
Senator Murray’s full remarks are below, as prepared for delivery.
“M. President, I rise to speak about three critical matters impacting the families in Washington state and across the country today.
“First—I’d like to say that even though the wildfires in my state are being contained thanks to the skilled work of brave and dedicated firefighters.
“Wildfires and the health impacts of its smoke are still creating hazardous conditions throughout the Pacific Northwest. And until we begin addressing the drivers of these natural disasters—like climate change—we know these crises and the suffering they bring will only continue getting worse.
“Second, I’d like to talk about three nominees under consideration for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.
“One of these nominees—Jocelyn Samuels—is exactly who workers need right now.
“As the coronavirus continues to impact workplaces across the country, workers are facing unprecedented challenges. And they need a champion at the EEOC who will work tirelessly to defend their rights. Jocelyn Samuels is that champion.
“With almost 20 years of experience in the federal government—including at the EEOC itself—she has spent her career working to address discrimination and ensure no one is treated unfairly because of their age, race, or disability.
“I’m confident she will be an excellent Commissioner and I am proud to vote to confirm her nomination–and strongly urge my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting her nomination.
“But unfortunately the other two nominees already approved by the Senate—Andrea Lucas and Keith Sonderling—will likely have disastrous consequences for workers’ rights. These are two people who have spent their careers working to protect corporations—not workers.
“As a lawyer, Andrea Lucas has never defended workers.
“Her only legal experience is defending corporations when workers tried to fight back against sexual harassment, age discrimination, and disability discrimination.
“This is exactly the opposite of the type of experience and values needed for an EEOC Commissioner—which is why I voted against her nomination.
“And Keith Sonderling’s record is no better. During his time at the Trump Administration’s Department of Labor, Keith Sonderling worked to churn out policies that hurt workers.
“From his joint-employer rule that lets massive corporations off the hook for minimum wage, overtime, and equal pay violations, to his initiative that gives companies a ‘get out of jail free’ card for wage theft, Keith Sonderling’s legacy at the DOL has made it harder for workers to fight for their rights—and easier for companies to abuse them.
“For those reasons, I also opposed his nomination.
“Finally, M. President, right now our nation is facing truly trying times. 200,000 lives have been lost to COVID. Millions are unemployed. And we just lost a treasured American hero—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“So much hangs in the balance now—and people are already voting and organizing to make sure their health care, their rights, and their futures are protected in this election.
“For those nationwide who have already cast their ballots, and who will vote in the coming weeks, for the future of our country, and to help ensure trust in our democracy—the people must have a voice in this nomination.
“The next President should choose Justice Ginsburg’s replacement, as she wished—to spare our democracy the painful chaos of making such a decision so close to an election.
“People are speaking out—and the Senate must listen, as Majority Leader McConnell insisted only a few years ago.
“But unfortunately, it seems like my colleagues on the other side are content to ignore these cries, just like they’ve neglected the cries of our constituents for a COVID relief package that meets this moment instead of short-changing communities.
“Because nothing—nothing—is more important than pushing through their ideological agenda: to jam as many partisan judges on the bench as possible—especially on the Supreme Court—and tip the balance of our federal judiciary even further against everyday people, packing our courts to ensure that we can’t make progress to defend affordable health care and pre-existing conditions protections, address the climate crisis, strengthen protections for workers, or do anything on the critical issues people in my home state of Washington and around the nation care deeply about and that have been blocked time and again by the Republican Party.
“I will be doing absolutely everything I can to make sure everyone from Washington state to Washington, D.C.—and my Republican colleagues here in Congress—know just how much is risk if President Trump gets to appoint another hard-right nominee an unprecedented 41 days before a presidential election.
“Look, it is truly impossible to understate the consequences for families and communities across the country, now and for generations to come.
“President Trump has made it clear he wants a nominee who will gut protections for pre-existing conditions, take health care away from millions of people nationwide, and do everything they can to undermine basic rights, freedoms, and protections through the court—including crucial worker protections that Justice Ginsburg herself helped secure and the EEOC is tasked with enforcing.
“So I urge all my colleagues to join me in voting to today to honor an important part of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy.
“Vote for the nomination of Jocelyn Samuels.
“And then let’s keep fighting for people’s health care, for protections for pre-existing conditions, for workers’ rights, voting rights, LGBTQIA+ rights and for the vision of a just and equal country Justice Ginsburg fought so hard to advance.