Andy Puzder As Secretary Of Labor Nomination Could Create Rift Within Trump’s Blue Collar Base

The potential of an Andy Puzder nomination for Secretary of Labor reported by the New York Times, by President-elect Donald Trump could create a rift with his blue collar base. With financial news focusing on the records being set on Wall Street, featuring a surge from Goldman Sachs, a cabinet choice for Secretary of Labor could easily be lost in the noise. But it is that choice which will affect the lives of many of Trump’s most ardent supporters in some negative ways.

Puzder is the Chief Executive Officer of the company that owns the Carl’s Junior and Hardee’s restaurant franchises. Among his notable public positions, according to The American Prospect, Puzder has been an open opponent of the campaign to raise the national minimum wage. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Puzder has also proposed automation to replace employees as a counter to rising costs for labor.

Andy Puzder is a potential nominee for Secretary of Labor. [Image by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Dream Foundation]

While it isn’t certain Andy Puzder will win the nomination to be the U. S. Secretary of Labor, it is certain that whomever does accept that nomination will be in a position to either shape policies that will help working families to experience a more solid economic footing, or expose the rhetoric that Trump employed during the campaign as sketchy promises. The trouble for Trump is that while the short term economic news from Wall Street looks fantastic, blue collar workers have been suffering from wage stagnation for a long time. Creation of jobs is a good thing, but it will only match Trump’s campaign rhetoric if those jobs offer an opportunity for people to earn enough money to provide for themselves and their families.

Andy Puzder’s opposition to increased wages stands at odds with the needs of middle class labor and the working poor. According to the American Institute for Economic Research, an independent nonprofit whose mission is to help average Americans deepen their economic and financial knowledge, the cost of living since 1979 has gone up by nearly 70 percent. A bag of groceries that cost $30.13 in 1979 would cost $100 today. At the same time, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan, nonprofit think tank that focuses on the economic conditions of low-income and middle income workers, wages for the average worker only increased by nine percent between 1973 and 2013.

Sharyn Layfield, writing on the Service Employees International Union’s website, is one example of the difficulties faced by low-income workers. It is relevant to this discussion because her story takes place during this extended period of wage stagnation.

“Although I’ve been teaching writing and literature at small Vermont colleges for more than 35 years, this year I will only earn $10,000. This makes it difficult to save for retirement or anything else. With the help of my modest Social Security income (which is about $900 a month) I just purchased my first home—a mobile home—last year. I’m 67 years old.”

While the Secretary of Labor cannot unilaterally raise wages, nor control inflation, she or he can set the tone for how the nation talks about those issues. Andy Puzder’s tone could be a harsh one for the middle class to hear. The blue collar workers that showed up to assist Trump in his presidential campaign will likely be expecting a friendlier voice in the position that polices employer abuses.

One final note of interest relates to Andy Puzder’s early legal experience. Puzder graduated from law school in 1978, and served as a trial lawyer in the firm of Morris A. Shenker. Shenker was a lawyer for Teamster’s Union leader Jimmy Hoffa. It would stand to reason that Andy Puzder was able to learn a good deal about labor law, and the workings of that system in that position.

As Secretary of Labor Andy Puzder would be the administration’s face to labor. [Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

As the Secretary of Labor, Puzder could, in theory, use that knowledge to battle against unions fighting for higher wages. In an era of wage stagnation and when union jobs provide on average about $10 per hour more in wages and benefits to middle-income workers, Donald Trump’s blue collar base needs more jobs that pay as well as unions. Andy Puzder is a champion of lower labor costs, automation, and for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Those are hardly positions that champion the needs of blue collar workers.

If Andy Puzder is nominated to be Secretary of Labor, the message to the blue collar workers that Trump sold on the campaign trail could be exposed as yet more “trickle down economics.” Over 30 years after that system was introduced, statistics say that Americans are poorer for the experiment. Doubling down on policies that lead to stifling wage stagnation could send those blue collar supporters Trump relied on elsewhere for the next election.

[Featured Image by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]

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