Labor Must Say “No” to Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary.
Watching President Trump’s cabinet choices, it’s hard not to think, “What’s going on here? Are they actually just trying to dismantle the government? How is anyone not seeing this?”
Each pick appears to be chosen with the intent to dismantle the very department they are to represent. Within moments of Betsy Devos’ confirmation for Sec of Education a bill was introduced into the House which would termine the Department of Education at the end of 2018. Rick Perry, the now confirmed Secretary of Energy, when running for President in 2012, called for the eradication of, yes, the Department of Energy in his famous “Oops” moment.
And now, with the nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE industries, which runs Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s, President Trump is continuing the trend of choosing a person who has issues with higher wages, especially for managers of his stores and, equally interesting and eyebrow raising for employees, has advocated for robots to replace the workers in these same restaurants. Now, in all fairness, this makes sense from a management standpoint. Low wages and new technologies do streamline processes and lower costs. But for the Secretary of Labor to hold these ideas, this does not bode well for the worker, the very entity the Department of Labor is tasked to protect.
The DoL’s mission statement:
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.
Puzder’s nomination shows almost a disdain for this mission. From the CEO’s own home town newspaper, The St. Louis Dispatch: “The company currently is being sued in California for “wage theft.” The case deals with how CKE’s corporate-owned restaurants switched managers back to hourly wages after the Obama administration’s Labor Department extended overtime pay to salaried workers earning less than $47,476 a year.”
In speaking about the possibility of robots replacing humans Puzder said, “They’re 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.” This should send shudders down the spine of every worker that this person is being put forth as the Secretary of Labor.
The Republicans have been undermining unions for decades and just recently announced an intent to roll out national right-to-work legislation. If you agree that RTW strips unions of the capital they need to bargain effectively for a collective (it does) you can easily connect the dots between this initiative, a pro-management builder president and a labor secretary who seems to have management’s interest at heart.
We’ve sat in negotiations. We’ve looked across the table into management’s eyes. They aren’t bad people. But they have a goal. It is the same goal for their constituency that workers have for theirs: Get the most for their people without giving up anything in return. But in order to have success, there must be a give and take, some sort of compromise.
Unless, that is, the person who is negotiating on behalf of the worker is someone who represents the management. That’s imbalance. And a very precarious situation for the people whose very ability to live & eat rely on good wages.
We must have a Labor Secretary who comes from the ranks of workers. Who understands the needs of workers. Who empathizes with workers and their struggles and plights. Andrew Puzder seems to be no friend to labor and no friend to the worker’s greatest ally, the unions. If we do not expect that from the Secretary of the Department of Labor, we will drown in a tidal wave that washes over unionized labor and drown us in a sea of automation and apathy.