Puzder protest Scott Olson/Getty Images

Debate rages over Andy Puzder’s labor secretary nomination

Coalition of conservative groups defend restaurant industry executive in face of criticism

A coalition of conservative groups has come to the defense of CKE Restaurants Inc. CEO Andrew Puzder, as labor activists continue to fight the executive’s nomination as labor secretary. 

In a letter released early Monday, the conservative groups said that Puzder “can foster and encourage the business formation that makes job creation possible.”

The letter was signed by 17 conservative groups, including Kent Lassman, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

“For the past eight years, the Labor Department has overwhelmed job creators with burdensome regulations, creating immense uncertainty for employers,” the group wrote. “This has led to subpar economic recovery, including gross domestic product growth that has averaged less than 2 percent under President Obama.”

The letter was released amid intense opposition from liberal groups who have made Puzder’s nomination among the business battles over President Trump’s cabinet nominees. The groups said they believe Puzder would work “for the interests of big business over the interests of working people.”

Confirmation of Puzder as Secretary of Labor has been delayed multiple times and is now set for next Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. The approach of the hearing has led for the intensification of the debate over Puzder, and how he would operate the Department of Labor.

A coalition of more than 75 liberal organizations and labor activist groups released its own letter on Monday opposing Puzder’s nomination, saying that it is “rife with conflicts of interest.”

“Puzder’s company has faced numerous Department of Labor violations for failing to pay the minimum wage or overtime: 60 percent of inspections of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants found labor law violations and Puzder has opposed both raising the minimum wage and enforcement of overtime rules and mandatory sick leave,” the group claimed.

“Puzder’s confirmation would ensure that the interests of the fast food industry — and its large meat and food industry suppliers — would prevail over the needs of hard working people in the food system who face some of the highest rates of food insecurity due to low wages and poor working conditions.” 

Restaurant executives and industry groups have largely cheered Puzder’s nomination because it puts one of their own at the top of the federal department responsible for enforcing labor regulations — restaurants employ nearly 11.5 million people and added about 240,000 jobs over the past year. 

Conservative groups believe that the department was overly aggressive in enforcing labor regulations under Obama and believe that Puzder would ease that regulatory burden.

“Under the Obama Labor Department, for the first time in 35 years, more American businesses closed than launched,” the conservative groups wrote. “This decline in entrepreneurship and opportunities has made it harder for people to find work and many Americans have simply given up looking for jobs altogether.”

Puzder, the conservative groups said, would bring “real world experience” to the department.

The labor activists, however, believe that putting Puzder at the top of the department would do little to help improve working conditions in the restaurant business. They said that workers would have to “rely on vocal opponents of labor regulations to protect their basic workplace rights.”

“These workers face disproportionate rates of poverty, discrimination and sexual harassment and deserve a Labor Secretary who believes that, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘All labor has dignity,’” the labor groups wrote.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze

TAGS: Workforce
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