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Andrew Puzder Labor Secretary to Learn on the Job?

Andrew Puzder

I wonder what led President elect Trump to choose Mr. Puzder as Secretary of Labor?

Trump explains that it is because of Puzder’s “extensive record of fighting for workers.” Whatever it takes to be ‘extensive’ a quick examination of Puzder’s biography finds that his only effect on the government was in restricting abortions, and his fights for workers include opposing increasing minimum wage, overtime and such ‘disincentives’ as food stamps.

His biography notes that Puzder was a student at Kent State at the time of the infamous shootings. Apparently, he was so unnerved by the violence he dropped out of school to spend a few years finding himself. Somehow, during his search he did not have to serve in the military which, at the time, was a powerful inducement for many others to stay in school.

After marching on Washington, working in a guitar studio and finishing his BA, Puzder went to Washington University School of Law where he was editor of the Law Review. He was graduated in 1978.

From 1978 until 1991, Puzder was a trial attorney and a leading anti-abortion activist. Puzder famously wrote Missouri House Bill 1596 that prohibited the use of state money for abortion and included the superfluous declaration that life begins at conception. In 1989, the

Supreme Court upheld the law in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. Webster inspired a new round of state laws to restrict abortion.

Missouri Governor John Ashcroft appointed Puzder chair of the Task Force for Mothers and Unborn Children in 1989. The Riverfront Times published an article detailing allegations that he had abused his wife and Puzder offered his resignation.

Dan Sokol, who represented Puzder’s wife in the divorce, said in an interview that he found Henning’s allegations of domestic abuse to be convincing and that she had presented medical records to back up her claims. But Puzder’s negotiation skills were evidenced by the letter he extracted from his ex-wife renouncing her earlier accusations. Whatever the facts were, Puzder explained one of the incidents by stating a car accident was not caused by abuse, but merely by drunk driving. Apparently his deep rooted concern for the lives of fertilized eggs is not matched by an equal concern for, say, innocent pedestrians.

In 1991, Puzder became Carl Karcher’s attorney. Karcher was the founder of the fast food chain, Carl’s Jr. and in 1991 the chain was close to bankruptcy. Puzder helped Carl’s, Jr. avoid bankruptcy with a sale to Fidelity Financial. Carl’s Jr. became part of CKE, a restaurant group.

From 1995 to 2000, Pudzer was Fidelity’s General Counsel and helped form another restaurant group, Santa Barbara. In 2010, the private equity firm Apollo Global Management (for financial shenanigans junkies, former Drexel partners) managed the privatization of CKE at a value of about $1 billion. Roark Capital Group purchased CKE on terms that were not made public and retained CKE's management team including Puzder.

Puzder has been critical of raising the federal minimum wage, arguing that it would increase costs for consumers, and increase automation, leading to fewer jobs. Jobs do not seem to be his main concern, however as Puzder has said that increased automation could be a welcome development because machines were "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.”

A critic of labor department regulations on sick leave and working conditions, Puzder is familiar with the regulations. The Labor department found violations in roughly 60 percent of their investigations of Hardees and Carls Jr, both CKE restaurants. Since most of the restaurants are franchises, CKE is generally not held legally responsible for its violations.

Puzder’s blog is instructive if not exactly informative. His last ten entries are homages to Trump, with a little time out to blame ‘Obamacare’ for the lack of spending money that seems to afflict poor people.

Trump was bound to pick conservatives to run his administration. It is sadly disappointing that he has picked one with no government or regulatory experience and little public sympathy for workers.

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