Incoming acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella will take the helm of the department following the resignation Friday of Alex Acosta, who faced scrutiny over his role in prosecuting alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.
But Pizzella, currently deputy Labor secretary, has his own controversial past that will likely come to the fore. Democratic senators and civil rights groups have expressed concern about Pizzella’s prior work with disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the late 1990s and early 2000s to hamper worker protections in the Northern Mariana Islands.
When Pizzella worked on Abramoff’s team at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, the lobbying firm was pushing to prevent Congress from imposing minimum wage laws on the Northern Mariana Islands. At the time, there were “maximum” wage restrictions on the islands of $3.05 per hour for foreign workers, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.