Never mind workers' rights; Labor nominee doesn't believe in workers
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It appears that Andy Puzder, President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Trump Jr. declines further Secret Service protection: report Report: Mueller warned Manafort to expect an indictment MORE's choice to head the Department of Labor (DOL), doesn't believe in workers, let alone workers' rights.

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Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., which owns Hardee's and Carl's Jr. burger chains, has said on the worker-free restaurant: "[Machines are] always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case."

No wage demands, requests for holidays or fear of racial discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuits, just polite upselling — machines are apparently Puzder's ideal employee, although not exactly consistent with Trump's claim that he will function as a "job creator."

But it's not only Puzder's cavalier statement on replacing American workers with machines that gives cause for concern. His extreme anti-worker record on wage theft, overtime pay, minimum wage, gender equality and violations of workers' rights is equally troubling.

Wage theft and wage-and-hour compliance: One critically important division of the Labor Department, the Wage and Hour Division, has primary responsibility for cases of wage theft (i.e., the denial of wages that employees are rightfully owned).

The fast-food industry is one of the nation's worst violators of wage-and-hour laws, and it turns out that Puzder runs a company that has been accused of committing wage theft. Store managers in California, for example, are currently involved in a wage-and-hour class-action lawsuit against CKE Restaurants.

Even with this inside knowledge of the issue, it seems unlikely that Puzder will take a strong line on egregious violators in fast food and other low-wage industries. The Obama DOL has conducted almost 4,000 investigations at the nation's 20 largest fast-food companies. It found evidence of more than 68,000 violations and recovered $14 million in wages for approximately 57,000 workers.

Among the 20 top companies, Puzder's corporation was the fourth worst offender.

Overtime rule: Puzder opposes a new DOL rule — temporarily blocked by a federal judge in November — that would have given a significant pay increase to 4.2 million American workers. The DOL rule doubled, from $23,660 to $47,476, the threshold below which workers would be entitled to overtime pay.

Puzder, in common with other anti-worker CEOs, views the rule that would put money in the pockets of millions of Americans as a "regulatory maze" that inconveniences corporations.

Minimum wage: Puzder is a critic of raising the federal minimum wage from its pathetically low level of $7.25 per hour. (Never mind that every time the American public gets to vote on increasing minimum wages, they do it.)

Progress on raising the minimum wage at the state and local levels has been one bright spot for low-wage Americans during the past few years. Puzder is a sworn enemy of these efforts and the Fight for 15, the nationwide movement launched in 2012 to win $15 per hour plus a union for fast-food and low-paid workers in other sectors.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): Puzder has been a stern critic of the Obama NLRB, especially its position on the "joint employer standard," whereby billion-dollar corporations such as McDonald's have been held partially responsible for the labor law violations committed by their franchisees, over which they exercise significant control.

By holding responsible the parent company, which has real power to improve labor conditions, the NLRB's joint employment standard promises greater workplace protections for millions of low-wage workers in sectors where unlawful behavior and poor conditions are commonplace.

But Puzder wants powerful corporations to be able to evade all responsibility for these actions.

Gender equality and affirmative action: Puzder has said little on this, but the signs are not good. On his fast-food company's misogynistic and demeaning advertising campaigns, Puzder has commented: "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American."

It seems likely that Puzder will roll back DOL enforcement on affirmative action and equal employment opportunity, administered through its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

In Trump's "Alice in Wonderland" reality, Puzder, who also opposes the Affordable Care Act and celebrates the use of vulnerable guest workers, has a "record of fighting for workers."

Under a Trump DOL, it seems likely that states like California and Washington will try to step up activity in areas such as wage and hour regulation. But for millions of workers in other states, Puzder's appointment will mean poverty-level wages, long hours with no overtime, poor enforcement of wage theft laws, weaker safety standards and all-around greater misery at the workplace.

Trump's secretary of Labor will be a reliable friend to billionaire corporations that pay low wages, violate laws and exploit vulnerable workers.

But for hardworking Americans, Andrew Puzder could prove the biggest predator in the swamp.

John A. Logan is professor and director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.