DESPITE Donald Trump's campaign promises, the swamp in Washington has not been drained. In fact, it is now full of the nastiest, flesh-eating crocodiles that have ever set foot on Pennsylvania Avenue.
While Trump tries to distract us with petty tweets about Meryl Streep, the Celebrity Apprentice and Broadway musicals, he is filling his Cabinet with the worst, anti-worker, pro-corporate candidates we've ever seen. Trump is hoping we won't notice that he not only put the wolf in charge of watching the sheep, but he is cheering on said wolf to burn down the farm altogether.
There is no better example of Trump's slash-and-burn picks than Andy Puzder, his candidate for secretary of Labor. As CEO of Hardees and Carl's Jr., Puzder made $4 million per year, and he was openly hostile to working people. Puzder's companies settled millions in wage-theft claims and received 98 safety violations from OSHA, many of them so serious that they could've resulted in death or serious harm to employees.
Puzder would have direct control of the restaurant industry, which represents a giant conflict of interest that would line his pockets while rigging the system against the millions of Americans who rely on fast-food and other restaurant jobs to care for their families. While most Americans balk at this obvious conflict of interest, the Trump administration clearly sees it as a feature, not a bug.
Trump isn't concerned that Puzder is unfit to run such an important agency. His objective is for Puzder to "fail" and for the Department of Labor to be underfunded, toothless and bound for extinction. The Department of Labor directly impacts every American, and putting Puzder in charge has real consequences for all of our lives. This goes far beyond the fast-food industry and could call into question things we take for granted every day, such as: Is your employer allowed to steal your wages? Do you get a lunch break and overtime pay? Are your loved ones safe on the job? Are roads and bridges made safely? Did your pilot just fly for 36 hours in a row? Is the nurse caring for your loved one assigned too many patients?
The Department of Labor, when functioning properly, can safeguard our families from workplace abuses caused by greed and negligence. There is nothing that greedy corporate CEOs such as Puzder want more than to fly free of any restrictions. Puzder and his cronies would love to get rid of the minimum wage and remove health and safety requirements that protect workers. They have said so, in plain English, blatantly and repeatedly. Most important, and despite Trump's campaign rhetoric otherwise, they want to ship jobs overseas or replace them with robots.
In a comment fit for a Terminator movie, Puzder earlier this year lauded robots as the perfect workers. "(Machines 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."
The secretary of Labor is supposed to protect workers – not replace them with robots.
Hardworking families want a Labor secretary who will look out for them, not destroy their rights and protections under the law. The Senate must block the confirmation of Andy Puzder. Our lives, jobs and futures depend on it. If our newly elected leaders in Washington don't stop these attacks on working people, perhaps it's time they are replaced with robots who don't take recess and don't need health care, pensions or six-figure salaries.
Gabe Morgan is the vice president and state director for 32BJ SEIU, the union representing 22,000 property service workers in Pennsylvania.