Labor Department employees have circulated a letter urging Senate committee members to vote against Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s nominee for labor secretary.
The letter, posted on Facebook, says “three specific factors disqualify Mr. Puzder from serving as the head of an agency whose primary mission is to protect America’s workforce: (1) Mr. Puzder’s own business practices; (2) his derisive public comments about his restaurants’ employees and other low-wage workers; and (3) his equally troubling public comments and behavior towards women.”
Puzder’s nomination, now being considered by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, could already be in trouble because four Republican senators have not indicated if they will support him or not. If he doesn’t get the votes of Susan Collins (Maine), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Tim Scott (S.C.), all members of the HELP committee, his nomination is all but dead.
It is not clear how many people have signed the letter or if it was sent. An email circulated by the “Letter Drafting Committee” says it originally hoped to get the signatures of 200 current employees, but “we are not confident we will be able to hit that target. Unfortunately, we are not surprised: We talked to numerous friends and colleagues who quite understandably feared signing. We wish they’d done so, but we don’t blame them. We circulated the letter within 48 hours of [White House press secretary] Sean Spicer’s denunciation of the brave folks at the Department of State who had lawfully expressed dissent about President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations into the United States.” The letter committee revised the goal to 100 current and 100 former Labor Department staffers.
The letter says the employees “are alarmed that Mr. Puzder has presided over a company, CKE Restaurants, whose franchises have repeatedly been found responsible by the Department for violating employment laws … In the anti-discrimination context, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. have had more federal discrimination lawsuits brought against them since 2000, when Mr. Puzder took over, than any other major hamburger chain.”
The staffers were “particularly disturbed by Mr. Puzder’s widely publicized comment that replacing employees with automated machines would be desirable because 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.’”
It is not increasing automation that concerns the Labor Department workers, but Puzder’s “insensitivity to employees’ rights, their needs as human beings, and the importance of protections against discrimination. We fear that Mr. Puzder’s comments evince hostility to the enforcement of workers’ rights that is antithetical to the public-facing role that the Secretary of Labor must play.”
The letter writers also are “extremely concerned about Mr. Puzder’s comments about women. … Mr. Puzder’s enthusiastic embrace of the sexualized advertisements his company has run makes us worried that Mr. Puzder is ill-fit to grapple with the subtle ways that perceptions of women in the workplace affect their everyday working experience.”
Reaction to the letter has been requested from the White House and the Labor Department.