By Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute
President-elect Donald Trump announced that he plans to nominate fast food CEO Andrew Puzder to head the Department of Labor (DOL). Puzder, who makes millions as a low-wage employer, fails every test for a Labor Secretary. DOL’s mission is to improve the wages and working conditions of working Americans, but Puzder wants to keep wages low and threatens to replace his fast food chain’s employees with robots if the minimum wage rises enough to crimp his profits.
He’s opposed to the new overtime rule that gave the right to time and a half pay to millions of salaried employees earning less than $47,476 a year. Walmart has already raised its managers’ pay, as did about half of all big retailers, even before the rule was supposed to take effect on December 1. But Puzder wants to kill it so he can keep working low-paid employees without paying them a dime extra for their overtime hours.
The Labor Secretary is in charge of reporting the employment numbers, but even there Puzder can’t be trusted. Either from ignorance or dishonesty, he claims the restaurant industry is in a recession, even though its employment has grown rapidly since the economy came out of the actual recession in 2010. He says Obamacare is to blame, but that’s baloney: the truth is that since the health insurance exchanges came on-line in January 2014, restaurant employment has grown by more than 12 percent, faster than the rest of the economy, where employment grew by about 7 percent.
The Labor Secretary is the chief enforcement officer for wage and hour laws, the occupational safety and health act, and other employment laws, but the fast food chain Puzder runs has a long history of wage theft—cheating workers until they get caught by state or federal investigators or they’re sued in private lawsuits.
Nothing in Puzder’s history of anti-worker and anti-government rhetoric indicates that he cares about or believes in the Labor Department’s mission. He would probably make a poor Secretary of Commerce, but he will be a disastrous Secretary of Labor.