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December 09, 2016
Safety community reacts to Trump's pick for labor secretary

Reaction to news that President-elect Donald Trump has selected a fast food executive to head the Department of Labor is pouring in. Learn more about the nominee here, and get a sampling of perspectives on what his tenure could mean for OSHA and the regulated community.

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Trump plans to nominate Andrew Puzder to lead the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Puzder, a lawyer, is CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc. whose fast food brands include Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. Puzder’s biography on the CKE website offers revealing insight into his views, describing him as a “poster CEO for the regulatory reform effort.”

Puzder has been associated with a variety of positions, including opposition to increases in the minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act. According to attorney John Alan Doran, a partner at the law firm Sherman & Howard, the naming of Puzder “is great news for employers, and not-so-great for the lawyers who represent them.”

Doran says that, if approved, Puzder will likely work to roll back the “pro-labor agenda” that characterized the Obama administration. “Employers will find themselves in a much friendlier environment, while management-side lawyers will have to retool,” he adds.

That sentiment is echoed by attorney Tressi Cordaro, a stakeholder with Jackson Lewis. She praised Puzder’s “real world experience” and believes that, as a result, “he is likely to understand the impact that excessive and unnecessary regulations can have on businesses.”

As for whom Puzder might name to fill the top job at OSHA (assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health), Cordaro lists Scott Mungo (vice president of safety and vehicle maintenance at FedEx); Jim Thornton (director of environmental health and safety at Huntington Ingalls Industries); or Marc Freedman (executive director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce). Cordaro is hopeful that under new leadership, OSHA will return to more “open and honest discussions about safety and health in the workplace with consideration given to legitimate employer concerns.”

Opposing views

A very different viewpoint on the new labor leadership was expressed by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. He describes Puzder, Trump’s pick to head DOL, as “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people.” Trumka says that while candidate Trump voiced support for workers, “his actions thus far have undermined these claims.”

Disappointment over the Puzder nomination was also expressed by Representative Bobby Scott, a Democratic Congressman from Virginia and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Scott sees Puzder’s nomination as a “cause for concern among workers and employers who support fair pay, worker protections, and equal opportunity on the job”

He notes that, as head of CKE, Puzder has been sued numerous times for labor law violations. Scott attributes a quote to the nominee in which Puzder reportedly said he prefers machines to working people because they “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.”

In describing the nominee, president-elect Trump pointed to Puzder’s “extensive record of fighting for workers.”

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