Labor Voices: Reject Trump’s labor nominee

Ron Bieber

Nine days from today, Donald Trump will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building and be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States — even though he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes.

The Electoral College is an imperfect system, and we don’t have to like the outcome of the election. What we must do now as Americans is focus our energy and attention on holding our new president accountable.

When Trump brazenly lies to the public, we need to call him out and set the record straight. When Trump and his allies spread “fake news” to mislead the public, we need to loudly and forcefully discredit them. When Trump breaks his campaign promises, we need to hold his feet to the fire. And when Trump supports Republican efforts to attack working people, gut Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, we must fight back together to stop him.

The first opportunity will be during confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet appointees. As a candidate, Trump promised he would “drain the swamp.” But instead, he’s stocking it with alligators, snakes and leeches.

Consider Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder. As a fast-food CEO, Puzder vocally opposed raising the minimum wage. In a column for the Wall Street Journal, he argued “some jobs don’t produce enough economic value to bear the increase.” It’s no surprise, since Puzder made more money in a single day last year —$17,192 — than one of his full-time minimum wage workers earned for the entire year — $15,130.

Puzder also wants to replace workers with machines. During an interview with Business Insider, Puzder said he “wants to take humans out of the fast food equation,” and “could soon implement an employee-free operation.” He said machines were easier to deal with than living, breathing human beings, arguing that 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.”

During Puzder’s 16 years as CEO, CKE Restaurants and franchises repeatedly violated wage, hour and workplace safety laws — cutting corners and shortchanging employees to pad corporate profits. The company also faced a class-action lawsuit on behalf of customers who were exposed to the Hepatitis A virus by an infected employee who contaminated food at Hardee’s restaurants over several days.

It gets worse. While Puzder enjoys company-paid dues for recreation clubs, a car allowance and personal use of the company jet for his family, last year he cut his own workers’ retirement plan by halting matching contributions into the 401(k) retirement accounts of 130 employees at CKE’s corporate headquarters.

The Department of Labor was established “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment.”

It’s hard to imagine a worse person to carry out that mission than Puzder. His record clearly shows he won’t be on the side of working people.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.