American workers just dodged a bullet with Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal.
By Jared Keller
A protester holds a sign during a demonstration against Andrew Puzder outside of the CKE Restaurants, Inc. headquarters on February 13th, 2017, in Anaheim, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Andrew Puzder has been relentlessly cruel to American workers. On Wednesday, he finally did them a favor.
With the federal government already reeling amid new revelations over the White House’s ties to Russian officials, Puzder, the CKE Restaurants chief executive and Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, withdrew his name from consideration.
Puzder, one of the most anti-labor businessmen in the country, was largely seen by labor unions as a “cruel and baffling” choice for a job that directly affects the livelihoods of millions of blue-collar American workers.
As I wrote after his nomination, Puzder had in the past mounted a full-throated rebuttal to the minimum wage activists who have taken to the streets for fast-food strikes. He had also violated federal regulations around wage theft with his own employees, and threatened to replace workers with machines since, as he put it, “there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” The same day as Puzder gave his withdrawal, the Intercept reported on a California class-action lawsuit filed last week alleging he ran an “illegal wage-fixing scheme” for his restaurant managers:
Puzder is the CEO of the vast Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE) fast-food chain. One former and one current Carl’s Jr. shift leader allege that franchisees — which Puzder has repeatedly described as independent businesses — colluded with one another to prevent managers from moving between restaurants. As alleged, the scheme also appears to violate federal law under the Sherman Antitrust Act, as an illegal restraint of trade. That would be a felony punishable by a $1 million fine and up to 10 years in prison for individuals charged.
There were concerns about Puzder beyond his business record. In 2015, he boasted to Entrepreneur that the scantily clad models who frequent Carl’s Jr. advertisements were an inspiration of his own: “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American … I used to hear [that] brands take on the personality of the CEO. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.”
That sensibility looks even more misogynistic given the domestic abuse allegations leveled against him by his ex-wife (who allegedly appeared on Oprah in disguise in the mid-1990s to discuss the incidents, which members of Congress have reportedly seen). From the Post:
A watchdog group, Campaign for Accountability, on Tuesday received the bulk of the couple’s divorce records, which included widely reported allegations that his ex-wife Lisa Fierstein was struck “violently” in the face, chest, back and neck. But the group is still working to make public a portion of the documents that have been sealed since the late 1980s and that they expect will contain more details of how Puzder allegedly treated his ex-wife.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees”—a mantra that is totally counter totally to everything Puzder has coveted in his career. Even the pols in Washington managed to figure it out in the long delay ahead of what was likely to be a tough confirmation hearing before a Senate committee; according to the Washington Post, Republican senators had been quietly backing away from Puzder after weeks of criticism around the latter’s record.
Days before withdrawing his name from consideration, Puzder reportedly told friends he was “tired of the abuse” at the hands of the media. Well, so are American workers — and, for them, Puzder’s withdrawal is a reprieve, however brief, from a twisted Department of Labor dedicated to destroying their livelihood.