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.

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