5 reasons the Senate must reject Andrew Puzder as Labor secretary
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Next month, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Andrew Puzder, CEO of the fast food corporation that owns Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, who is President Trump's nominee for secretary of Labor. If the Republican-controlled committee supports Puzder, he can then be confirmed by a simple majority vote of the full Senate.

Over the past century, many political and intellectual giants, both Democrat and Republican, have held this key Cabinet post: Frances Perkins, who was an integral member of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal Administration; Arthur Goldberg, President Kennedy's secretary of Labor who would later serve on the U.S. Supreme Court; Willard Wurtz, secretary of Labor in the Lyndon Johnson administration and a central actor in the War on Poverty; George Shultz, secretary of Labor in the Nixon administration and President Reagan's secretary of State; and John Dunlop and William Usery, who both served in the Ford administration and who were among the nation's greatest labor arbitrators.

Puzder's name does not belong anywhere near this distinguished list. Previous Labor secretaries have lead major corporations; that's not the issue here. It would take far too long to list all the reasons why Puzder is uniquely unqualified for the position, but below are five major reasons the Senate must reject him.

1. Puzder's corporation, CKE Restaurants, is a persistent labor law violator.

The fast-food sector is rife with unlawful behavior and CKE is one of the worst offenders. According to a major study by the Department of Labor, 60 percent of CKE restaurants had at least one Fair Labor Standards Act violation. The fourth-worst offender in an industry rife with bad actors, CKE has faced several class-action lawsuits on wage theft.

Puzder simply cannot be trusted to enforce a law his own Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants habitually violate.

2. By all accounts, Puzder cares little for his own employees.

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Earlier this month, CKE announced layoffs when it relocated its corporate headquarters from California and St. Louis to Nashville, Tennessee. According to one former management employee, keeping employees informed was a low priority. As a former CKE director told Bloomberg BNA, "his choice was always: 'they don’t need to know; they just need to know where to show up to work.'"

 

Puzder's former director of franchise development stated that Puzder did not prioritize employees' welfare because his primary responsibility was "to the shareholders and to the franchisees to be able to deliver profits." "Shareholders and profits first, workers last" is not a good motto for the new secretary of Labor.

3. Puzder apparently believes that workers in his industry should be replaced by machines because machines "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," as he told Business Insider in March 2016.

Andrew Puzder, job destroyer and champion of automation: So much for the Trump administration's supposed focus on job creation.

4. All indications suggest that Puzder would benefit powerful corporations at the expense of American workers.

He opposes an overtime rule that would raise wages for millions of American workers. Employees at Puzder's restaurants report being pressured to work "off the clock" as they approach 40 hours in order to avoid overtime payments. Puzder, who pulls in a multimillion dollar salary, opposes increasing the federal minimum wage and his restaurants pay poverty-level wages.

We do not need a Labor secretary from the 0.01 percent who believes that $7.25 per hour is an acceptable living wage.

5. Puzder opposes holding fast-food and other corporations responsible for the unlawful behavior of their franchisees.

Since Puzder was nominated, workers from Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have come forward in droves with stories of mistreatment, including sexual harassment, and many say management failed to act on their complaints. Puzder doesn't know or doesn't care about the appalling record of his CKE restaurants.

He should be held accountable for this habitual lawbreaking, and his failure of leadership should disqualify him from consideration for secretary of Labor.

None of these arguments concerning violations of workers' rights will cut ice with the Republicans on the Senate Labor Committee. A multimillionaire who has donated $1.3 million to GOP politicians — including Trump and Labor Committee member Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTim Scott: Moore 'should find something else to do' Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog Hey, NYT, friendships are built on something deeper than race MORE (R-S.C.) — Puzder could be confirmed with full Republican support.

But that support is simply a reflection of the GOP's extreme anti-worker agenda, not an endorsement of Puzder's suitability for this important position.

In his actions and statements, Puzder is the polar opposite of the distinguished statesmen and women who have served as past secretaries of Labor. He is perhaps the least-qualified Labor secretary in the history of congressional hearings on the position. He mistreats his own employees, opposes a living wage, prioritizes corporate profits and denies responsibility for labor law violations.

Andrew Puzder is uniquely unqualified to serve as secretary of Labor and the Senate must reject his confirmation.

John A. Logan is professor and director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.

This piece was updated on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017 at 6:43 a.m.


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