Paul DeCamp, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC office, was quoted in the Bloomberg BNA Daily Labor Report, in “Trump Labor Enforcers Use Obama Tactic to Aid Protesting Miners,” by Ben Penn. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

The Trump administration’s move to back Kentucky coal miners who protested unpaid wages by blockading their employer relies on a powerful if rarely used tool criticized as overly punitive to businesses when President Barack Obama wielded it.

The tactic, called “hot goods,” seeks to freeze the movement of goods produced by workers who were shorted on pay. Under prior Republican and Democratic administrations, the Labor Department utilized it against employers in garment, agriculture and manufacturing industries, sometimes to considerable blowback. When it was used against an Oregon berry farm in 2014, the fruit rotted and the department’s Wage and Hour Division administrator was hauled before Congress.

But even in a White House dedicated to overturning many of Obama’s policies, a mix of political forces and public outcry in Kentucky have cleared the path for a nonpartisan, positive reception. …

Aligning with Trump Campaign

It may help that coal, unlike berries, isn’t perishable. But in the case of Blackjewel, the laid-off employees are part of the Trump 2020 campaign’s core target of blue-collar workers. They also work in an industry that Trump promised to revive.

“The use of hot goods does seem to ebb and flow a bit depending on the politics of the day,” said Paul DeCamp, who ran the wage and hour division under President George W. Bush. “It’s a very heavy hammer to swing because hot goods stops the flow of product in interstate commerce. This can happen regardless of whether the particular company that happens to be holding the goods is at fault in any way.”

“For the department to use hot goods in this instance is not particularly surprising given the alignment of interests that we see in this matter,” said DeCamp, now an attorney representing businesses at Epstein Becker Green in Washington. “There seems to be somewhat broad support for helping the workers in this instance and hot goods is a powerful tool for doing that.”


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