The nomination of fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder had failure written all over the place since the day it was announced. Puzder is known for being virulently anti-worker. His employees have filed scores of lawsuits against his company. He has publicly said that he prefers robots to employees because robots do not complain. In all, Puzder is a fanatical employer advocate with no apparent interest in meeting workers half way.
Nothing shows that he was even mildly interested in advancing federal labor and employment policy. He placed TV ads that many denounce as sexist. It was a nomination tainted in pretty much the same way that the Muslim ban was botched by the less-than-talented Trump administration.
There are many stellar nominees that could fill the seat of Secretary of Labor, nominees that could provide a conservative outlook on federal labor policy, while at the same time meeting workers — so many of whom placed their trust on Trump — half way. One of the things that any labor and employment law and relations professional learns from day one on the job is that the employer-employee relationship is exactly that — a relationship. Both parties have to be able to work together to make their firms prosper. As far as all the evidence available showed, Puzder was not interested in making any relationships work.
In addition to his recalcitrance, which went against the populist message of the Trump administration, the Puzder nomination appeared Janus-faced in a second way: The anti-immigrant administration nominated someone known for having hired an undocumented alien. (Not that it should surprise us, since Trump has also hired firms with undocumented employees.)
The Secretary of Labor holds the keys to important policy concerns, including those related to improving the quality of American jobs, which, by almost all accounts, has increasingly diminished for many Americans. For many working class Americans, work has become harder to come by. A lot of the work that still exists today for many workers pays less than it used to (in real terms), provides less benefits — or none at all — and demands chaotic hours that makes it close to impossible for workers to hold families together. Work is precarious for too many people in America. And precarious — ill-paid, family-destroying — work is undignified. It fans the flames of working class anxieties, which we know led, significantly, to the election of Trump in the first place.
Let us hope that the Trump administration takes the cue. This time, it should nominate someone who can better balance the interests at stake to meet the expectations of “forgotten” workers. Maybe Ivanka Trump should help her dad this time. As far as we know, she somewhat cares about family-work balance issues and could provide a slate of nominees that better reflects the hopes and dreams of the American worker.