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America’s workers need a tireless laborer with an open mind

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President Donald Trump has nominated Andy Puzder to be secretary of Labor.  I was elated when I heard about the choice; Andy will make an excellent advocate for the workers of this country.

I’ve known Andy personally for many years.  He went to law school in St. Louis and lived in the area (part of which I represent in the House) during the 80s and 90s.  I met him then and have known him ever since, and I know him to be a man of unusual integrity and humanity.

{mosads}Andy is firmly pro-life. He has never wavered in his beliefs and Andy acts on his convictions.  Early in his legal career, he was active in Lawyers for Life, a pro-life advocacy group. While he did not author the 1986 Missouri House Bill on abortion (as has been reported by some news outlets), the first of three sections of the bill was based on a 1984 Stetson Law Journal article Andy co-authored that proposed extending inheritance and other rights to unborn children.

In those activities, Andy worked closely with my mother-in-law Loretto.  That’s how I first got to know him.

But let’s be clear, Andy has been asked by President Trump to serve as secretary of the Department of Labor, and the last time I checked, the Department has nothing to do with the issue of abortion.  

What that important job does entail is getting Americans back to work, protecting workers’ rights, and ensuring that businesses and workers have every opportunity to succeed.  Andy knows every side of that issue, and he will listen to all sides as secretary of Labor. 

Andy comes from a working class background.  He worked his way through law school, doing construction and landscaping jobs, at the same time as he was supporting a young family.  He knows what it is like to depend on a paycheck, to juggle bills, and to come up a little short at the end of the month.  He knows the importance of strong worker protections in the law.

He is also a successful CEO of a successful company, so he also knows how government regulations often have the unintended effect of hurting the very workers they are supposed to help.  That’s why, as a CEO, he has spoken out so strongly in the last few years for regulatory reform. That is also why he is the right man to implement the president’s vision of a strong economy and a healthy labor market that increases the demand for labor and therefore the wages that workers receive.

One key to Andy’s success is his ability to find solutions to complex challenges, whether that’s raising a family or running a business or motivating employees to bring their best every day. It’s in Andy’s DNA to listen to all viewpoints and get people to work together.  An excellent illustration is his work for Common Ground Network for Life and Choice, a group Andy helped found in the 1990s.

Common Ground is a consensus-building project that brought together pro-life and pro-choice advocates in order to find practical solutions to the many issues that touched on abortion. These include teen pregnancy, contraception, and adoption. The Chicago Tribune here nicely describes what Common Ground is all about: “The concept is frequently misunderstood. It is not an attempt to fashion a compromise on abortion, but to find other issues, such as adoption and teen pregnancy, on which the two sides can agree.”

In a 1996 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Andy said this about his work for this project: “Common ground, for me, is reducing abortion and increasing women’s choices.”

Mind you, much has been said and fabricated about Andy’s company, but lost in the noise are the facts that 63 percent of CKE’s employees are women, 69 percent of the company’s general managers are women, and a great number of restaurant owners have ascended from hourly positions. This speaks volumes about Andy’s commitment to providing women with not only jobs, but also opportunities.

Working together on shared goals, despite differences in ideology, is vital for a Cabinet secretary, especially at this time when our country is so divided.  Andy has that ability.  It’s one reason the Senate should confirm this outstanding nominee, and let him get to work on behalf of creating more jobs, higher wages, and real opportunity for the American worker.

Rep. Wagner represents Missouri’s 2nd District.

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

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