An anti-labor labor secretary won’t do

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

by Barney Oursler

Our region was built on the blood, sweat and tears of workers in the steel mills and coal mines. The rights of working-class people across the nation were fought for and won by those workers. Pittsburgh is central to the labor movement, to standing up for the working class and to fighting for families.

Tens of thousands of people who voted for Donald Trump in this region did so because they heard his promises of better jobs and and a better life. However, after President-elect Trump’s nomination of fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder to be the nation’s secretary of labor, we see just how false those promises were. Mr. Puzder is vehemently opposed to the rights of workers trying to support their families. He is the antithesis of a labor secretary.

The Department of Labor’s purpose is “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.”

Mr. Puzder’s opposition to minimum-wage increases and paid family leave and his staunch opposition to basic workplace amenities, such as meal and rest breaks, tell us that Mr. Puzder will not uphold the mission of the Department of Labor.

While opposing basic protections for working-class people, Mr. Puzder benefits from a salary 294 times what the average person earning the minimum wage makes in one year. And 60 percent of Labor Department investigations into his Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants have found violations of wage and hour protections, including failure to fairly compensate employees who work overtime.

Additionally, two-thirds of female employees at Mr. Puzder’s restaurants have experienced sexual harassment on the job, according to a study by Restaurant Opportunities Center -- a rate much higher than the industry average. From violating wage and hour laws to ignoring the safety of women in the workplace, Mr. Puzder has time and time again ignored laws meant to protect workers.

How can working-class people trust a labor secretary to enforce laws that his company has repeatedly broken? If his nomination is confirmed, Mr. Puzder will gut the rights for which working people — in our region and all over the country — have fought and even died. Mr. Puzder opposes anyone fighting for protection on the job, a living wage and legislation that helps us to create good, family-sustaining jobs that benefit our communities. Mr. Puzder should not be confirmed as secretary of labor.

Barney Oursler is executive director of Pittsburgh United, a coalition of community, labor, faith and environmental organizations.

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