Andrew Puzder: the Anti- Labor Secretary

Linda Greenhouse, the long-time Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, has a vision
of the first meeting of the Trump cabinet: seated around the table are Cabinet officers who have been chosen because they oppose the missions or long-term policies of the agencies that they have been picked to run. She writes,” They will have been placed in their positions and handed the reins of power not to govern, but to destroy.”

The competition is difficult, but Andrew Puzder is certainly a top contender for the title of “Chief Agency Destroyer.” In an appointment that is absurd even by the low standards of Donald Trump, Puzder, a fast-food executive, has been selected to preside over the Department of Labor, a department whose mission is:” To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” Judging by his announced views, Puzder, whom AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka has called “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people,” will not be a Secretary whose aspirations are guided by the Department’s mission statement. He will be the Anti-Labor Secretary.

Some of his positions are predictable. He is, of course, opposed to any serious increase in the minimum wage; the “$15 and a union” poverty-stricken fast food workers should not look to him for any sympathy, much less help. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says that his company is a regular violator of wage and hour laws, so don’t expect an aggressive enforcement of fair labor standards. On the other hand, do expect an early attack against the Obama Executive Order that requires Federal contractors to grant up to 7 days of paid sick leave in a year, an order that affects more than a million workers. Certain to draw his ire is the Executive Order that sets a ceiling of $47,476, below which salaried workers must be paid time and a half for overtime. This order, making an estimated 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime pay, is now being held up by a Texas court. To kill the order, Puzder need only stop the appeal from going forward.

Then there are his own eccentric, individual opinions. Like any respectable Trumpist, he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Beyond the usual arguments, however, he maintains that the high premiums of the ACA have created a restaurant recession because they have left people little money to dine out. His attitude toward workers is unique in the history of Labor Secretaries: on the whole, he prefers machines. He observes that they are never late for work, never take vacations and never sue because of age, sex or race discrimination. We could add that they never whine about poverty wages, need time off because of a sick child,
or want to join a union. They are, in short, the ideal workers by this Secretary’s lights.

Andrew Puzder will harm the working conditions of millions of laboring people; he will destroy the opportunities for a better life of millions. The Senate should protect America’s workers by refusing to confirm him.

Jewish Labor Committee Urges Friedman Rejection

Yesterday the Jewish Labor Committee urged the Senate to reject the nomination of David M. Friedman as the next Ambassador to Israel. In a statement, the JLC noted its opposition to new or expanded settlements in the West Bank territories and its support for a “…reasonably negotiated, fair and secure two-state solution for Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.” Declaring that it was essential for a United States Ambassador to be supportive of the two-state solution, the Committee said,”…Because Friedman is an active supporter of the West Bank settlement movement and because he does not believe in a two-state solution… he is not an
appropriate nominee for this crucial post.”

The JLC expressed its concern that the incoming Trump administration wishes to express its endorsement of Friedman’s views by his nomination. Such an endorsement, it said “…Will communicate to Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab world and the entire international community that the United States is no longer interested in using its good offices to promote a peaceful
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Committee said that not only were Friedman’s views contrary to decades-old bi-partisan American policies but contrary to Israel’s long-term interests: ” Rejecting the two-state solution would doom Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Ameinu, the Labor Zionist organization, has similarly condemned Friedman’s nomination and has started a petition campaign to urge the Senate to reject it. The petition can be found at the group’s website, www.ameinu.net.

Labor Sec Perez in for DNC Chair

Highly regarded Labor Secretary Tom Perez announced yesterday his candidacy for Chair of the
Democratic National Committee. Perez is thought to have been encouraged in his bid by the Obama-Clinton forces in the Democratic Party who are unhappy with Keith Ellison, the other major candidate for the DNC post. The stage is now set for a contest between the centrist and progressive wings of the DP.

Perez is considered a friend by much of the labor movement, including the AFL- CIO which has endorsed Keith Ellison. The major fault found with Perez by the unions is his advocacy of the TransPacific Pact as an emissary of the Obama administration, and some labor leaders are said to be annoyed that he delayed his announcement until after they had committed to Ellison. The process, they say, has been going on for months, and Perez should have indicated his interest earlier.

In the opinion of progressives, the election of Perez would pose several problems in the rebuilding of the DP from its catastrophic defeat in November. First, it would mean that the rebuilding process would be in the hands of those who have had undisputed control of the party machinery for the last eight years and who led the DP to disaster. Their inability and even unwillingness to confront the Republicans over working class issues is seen as helping cause significant defections from the Democrats in November. The likelihood that they would change course is considered remote, but without changing course, the party is likely to face the same electoral defeats that it did in 2010, 2014 and 2016, defeats that have left the three branches of the Federal government in conservative control.

A Perez leadership of the party might well infuriate the Sanders-Warren wing that is solidly behind Ellison. Certainly the activists who came into the party through the Sanders campaign are unlikely to continue as foot soldiers in a DP dominated by the same old same old Obama- Clinton supporters. More probable is a continuation of the battle for control of the party extending for years.

For social democrats, the key question is, who will be more likely to take the DP in the direction it needs to go to become a social democratic/progressive party, a party that will be responsive to the needs of the people? It’s probably fair to say that Perez is the status quo candidate and that Keith Ellison is the agent of change. It was in the belief for the necessity of change that SDUSA endorsed Keith Ellison this week.

SDUSA Endorses Ellison Bid for DNC Chair

The National Committee of Social Democrats USA, at its meeting on Wednesday, December 14th, endorsed the candidacy of Keith Ellison for Chair of the Democratic National Committee. The Committee’s resolution said:

” The National Committee of Social Democrats USA proudly joins major labor organizations including the American Federation of Labor- Congress of Industrial Organizations, the United Steel Workers, the Communications Workers of America, the American Federation of Government Employees and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and progressive and labor leaders including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative John Lewis, Randi Weingarten (President of the American Federation of Teachers), RoseAnn DeMoro (Executive Director of National Nurses United), and Lee Saunders (President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) in endorsing the candidacy of Representative Keith Ellison for Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

” We believe that, after decades of neoliberal control, the Democratic Party must regain its historic position as the party of America’s working class. The people of our country require a truly progressive Democratic Party, one that strongly advocates jobs for all at living wages, the rebuilding of the labor movement, healthcare for all without regard to ability to pay, fair taxation and public investment in infrastructure, education and child care. The Party requires a leader of vision and courage, one who does more than tinker with the machinery of the Party to make it run more smoothly. Representative Ellison is that person.

” Keith Ellison has promised to respond to the recent catastrophic defeat by building the
Democratic Party from the ground up. He listens and learns. He will hear the deep concerns of the working class base of our Party. He will bring into the Party the enormous progressive energy unleashed by the Sanders campaign, and he will listen to the voices of ordinary Democrats throughout the nation. Keith Ellison understands the value of coalition building: an early supporter of Senator Sanders, he became a tireless campaigner for Secretary Clinton when she won the Democratic nomination. He will bring change and unity.

” Social Democrats USA is a principled supporter of the State of Israel. We are proud that most of its principal founders were members of the Labor Zionist and Socialist Zionist movements to which we feel a kinship. We strongly favor an Israel at peace with its neighbors, and we support an independent Palestinian state at peace with its neighbors. We
were concerned, therefore, about allegations that Representative Ellison is anti- Israel and even anti- Semitic. In assessing these allegations, we rely on the witness of those who have worked closely with him, such as Teachers’ President Randi Weingarten, a practicing Jew
and a progressive Zionist, who called the allegations “swiftboating.” President Weingarten went on to say,” I can feel and smell anti- Semitism. Keith Ellison is no anti- Semite, and it is maddening when anybody who doesn’t know him or his record makes that ugly accusation…Keith is an agent of change, a fierce fighter for working folk and someone who understands that one has to fight against bigotry and hate and fight for the economic and educational opportunities that America’s working families need.”

” We polled our members, and while we did not get a strong sampling, the responses were in favor of endorsing Ellison. We, therefore, ask our members and friends to join us in urging the Democratic National Committee to elect Representative Keith Ellison as its Chair.”

Progressive Ellison Running Hard for DNC Chair

Minnesota’s progressive Congressman Keith Ellison is mounting an unusual campaign for Chair of the Democratic National Committee, unusual, among other reasons, because it is even happening. In normal times the Party’s Chair is in the gift of insiders who choose one of their own (think Donna Brazile). Ellison is campaigning hard and publicly for the job with a fundraising effort and a 12 page platform, and his effort has begun to draw early support.
There is, as would be expected, support from the usual suspects: Senators Sanders and
Warren. Not so expected is the support that he is getting from outgoing and incoming
Senate Minority Leaders Reid and Schumer. There is talk of an endorsement by the AFL-CIO, and the presidents of the American Federation of Teachers and the State, County and Municipal Employees are already behind him. In addition to the big names, Ellison is looking
to the party’s grass-roots to back his programmatic campaign to rebuild from the ground up
(again, the emphasis on program is unusual; the DP Chair is customarily conceived as a nuts-
and-bolts mechanic whose job is to tune up the Party machinery).

Without discussing the recent Democratic debacle, Ellison’s platform shows where he would put the emphasis in the future. It is clearly on the concerns of the working class and progressives. The Congressman has been the co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
and was an strong Sanders supporter, and as the progressive/social democratic forces come together on a local level, it is likely that he would give them a sympathetic ear.