From the East Bay Times.
by Kate O'Hara and Josie Camacho
Over the last four years, the East Bay has been at the epicenter of lifting up low-wage working people. We’ve voted by overwhelming margins to raise wages. We just assume that everyone should have paid sick days. And we support fair scheduling so people can budget and plan for child care, education, second jobs and even rest.
Led by East Bay workers, we’ve set the pace for the nation and many other cities and states have followed suit. What’s more is that we have helped to shift the country’s public debate around low-wage jobs. The Bay Area belief that all work is valuable and all people deserve to have their basic needs met has become the national trend to help drive policies that benefit those who struggle to get by.
But all the progress we’ve made stands to be undermined with Donald Trump’s pick of fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder to be our secretary of labor. As CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Puzder has demonstrated outright hostility to workers and opposes even the most basic policies that help working people live better lives.
To be clear, the purpose of the Department of Labor 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.”
Puzder staunchly opposes the economic agenda demanded by millions of voters to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick days. He believes some working people and “some jobs don’t produce enough economic value to bear the increase.” Yet, he earns more in a day than what the average minimum-wage earner makes in a year.
He opposes meal and rest breaks for people working over several-hour shifts and has spoke glowingly of robots taking away people’s jobs to avoid paying benefits. “(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.”
And it’s not just low-wage earners. Middle-class families would be hit as well. Puzder opposes President Barack Obama’s rule of expanding overtime pay to 12.5 million individuals. In his own business, Puzder laid off and gutted retirement plans for middle-class workers even as he continued to enjoy major corporate perks such as personal use of the company jet.
Puzder is not only out of step with the very purpose of the department but he is out of step with the viewpoints of most of the American workforce. He will no doubt seek to dismantle the already inadequate protections that working people count on to get a fair shake.
Trump’s promise to fight for working people is as hollow as the robots Puzder would like to replace workers with. A vote for Puzder is an unambiguous vote against working people. This is not a partisan issue, it’s about the Department of Labor fulfilling its role.
In the East Bay, we know the value of people’s work and we know that everyone deserves to put food on the table, have an affordable home and be able to spend time with their families. Because these are our values, we must fight the appointment of Andrew Puzder as the secretary of labor. It is up to all of us to ensure that Donald Trump does not take us off course from improving the lives of working people and our families.
Kate O’Hara is the executive director of The East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy in Oakland. Josie Camacho is the executive secretary-treasurer of the Oakland-based Alameda Labor Council.
Read more from the East Bay Times.