Will Trump’s choice for labor secretary make America great again?

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump ran as a populist. A man of the people. An advocate of folks who work for a living, draw a paycheck, and likely “shower when they get home from work rather than before” (to quote Rep. Tim Ryan). People who have quite clearly gotten the shaft the last couple of decades as far as income and standard of living at a time of record profits and pay for CEOs.

Who did Trump decide to appoint as secretary of the Department of Labor? Andrew Puzder, the mega-wealthy CEO of the food chain Hardee’s, who is about as pro-labor as Uncle Scrooge McDuck. The man who is charged with protecting the interests of working people is actually opposed to the mission of the agency he will be leading (and which we all pay for with our tax dollars). He sees no reason for any increase in the minimum wage above $9/hour, and he has opposed expanded requirements for overtime pay for middle managers.

Puzder has said that increased automation in the workplace 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.” He expanded on that theme by saying “If you’re making labor more expensive and automation less expensive—this is not rocket science.” More profit, fewer humans.

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As far as health care for low and middle income workers, Puzder’s solution is this: roll back the support provided under the ACA and Medicaid expansion. Simultaneously cut taxes for extremely wealthy people and large businesses. Folks who work in a job without health insurance benefits, you’re on your own once again.

Does this sound like a guy who will “make America great again” by improving the plight of the American worker? Judge for yourself. If you think he will or won’t, I urge you to call your representatives in Congress (McHenry, Tillis, Burr) and express your opinion on this choice for labor secretary and on his policies.

Garrett Snipes, MD, Tryon, N.C.