President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice for labor secretary raises a frightening specter for low-wage workers.
Joan M. Graff, President of Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, spoke Thursday about what it could mean for low-wage workers in California and nationwide if Congress confirms Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of the company that operates the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains.
“We have grave concerns about how low-wage workers in the U.S. will fare when the laws and regulations that have been enacted to protect them are eliminated and the enforcement mechanisms within the federal government are compromised,” she said. “If Congress confirms Mr. Puzder as labor secretary, that could undermine decades of progress by workers and their advocates to guarantee fundamental rights.”
The department that Trump intends for Puzder to lead was created more than 100 years ago expressly to protect the interests of workers. The Labor Department’s current website states that its mission is “To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”
Graff noted that, even before the election, Puzder laid out the Trump administration’s plan to erase the gains for workers of the past eight years. Fox News reported on Nov. 6 that Puzder said the administration would focus within its first 100 days on the “rollback of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on regulation of businesses.”
Trump claimed in a statement Thursday announcing his intention to appoint Puzder that the plan to remove regulations would somehow help ensure workers’ safety and rights.
“At a minimum, the newly issued regulation expanding overtime protection will be eliminated, as will new civil rights protectionsafforded to veterans, LGBT, and disabled person who work for federal contractors,” Graff said. “And those are just two of the many damaging rollbacks that we fully expect will be undertaken.”
Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center provides free direct legal services to about 3,000 people per year. It also delivers extensive legal information online and in trainings in person; it litigates individual and class actions; and it presses for new policies and laws at the local, state and federal levels. Andrew Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurant Holdings Inc., based in Anaheim, Calif.