Amy Hanauer: What good is an anti-labor secretary?
Posted January 29, 2017 in Op-Eds
Many native Ohioans would make phenomenal top labor law enforcers for the United States. Andy Puzder is not one of them.
The Cleveland-born Puzder, nominated by President Donald Trump to run the Department of Labor, better qualifies as top labor law violator. Ohio senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown should vote against his appointment.
As the chief executive of the company that owns the Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s fast-food chains, Puzder shows little regard for his employees. His restaurants have repeatedly been sued for flouting the law by dodging overtime and neglecting safety. He complained that, including legal fees, his firm paid $20 million for violating compensation laws in California.
When investigators look into allegations of law-breaking at his company, they find the accusations to be true far more often than not. Puzder now seeks to run the agency empowered to ensure compliance with the very laws that he himself repeatedly broke.
Two variables seem common among many of Trump’s Cabinet nominees — obscene wealth, and wealth gained violating the spirit of the agency they would lead. Puzder fits both patterns. He makes more in a day than many of his employees make in a year, but opposes meaningful minimum wage increases.
He’s against the recent update to the overtime rule. The version he backs allowed a manager paid as little as $24,000 a year while working a 50-hour or 60-hour work week to be denied overtime. Puzder supported such stingy policies while raking in $4.5 million a year. Despite perks for him like access to a corporate jet, he even complained about having to give employees lunch breaks.
Not only does Puzder not care much about workers having good jobs, he suggests he would be content for them not to have jobs at all.
Both Fortune and Business Insider cite him fantasizing about running a restaurant with just machines. “We could have a restaurant … where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person,” he said. Machines are easier to deal with he says: “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.”
Is this the attitude we want in someone charged with running our Department of Labor?
Plenty of roles in government protect the interests of employers and business owners. The Labor Department is supposed to improve work conditions and advance the well-being of wage earners. It should be run by someone pushing high-road jobs — that support a family, pay overtime and offer career ladders. Puzder’s companies have promoted the exact opposite — low-road jobs that pay as little as possible, avoid giving breaks and don’t even ensure health and safety.
Puzder doesn’t stand for the beliefs that most of our neighbors share. Ohioans overwhelmingly side with working people because most of us work for a living. When legislators tried to take away collective bargaining from some workers in 2011, Ohioans seized it back in a landslide citizen’s veto.
In 2006, voters here opted to raise the minimum wage. And in polling on overtime, sick leave and other issues, Ohioans consistently side with the pro-worker position.
Families here have watched in horror as good manufacturing jobs have disappeared and been replaced by jobs like those at Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s. Running those companies did not give him the experience or the inclination to promote the jobs that Ohio and America need. Puzder got rich, in fact, off making workers poor.
Puzder comes from Northeast Ohio, but he doesn’t value workers the way most Ohioans do. Senators, we’re counting on you to remember those values and vote against Andy Puzder, the anti-labor secretary.
Hanauer is the executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, on the web at www.policymattersohio.org.
Original Article: http://www.ohio.com/editorial/amy-hanauer-what-goo...