Additionally, a poll released Tuesday by Hart Research on behalf of the left-leaning National Employment Law Project that 61 percent of voters in Alaska and 65 percent of those in Maine thought their senators should vote against Puzder. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine were two of the Republican lawmakers reportedly undecided on Puzder. Collins had reviewed the Oprah footage, and said there were “outstanding questions” that she wanted to ask Puzder at the hearing. On Wednesday afternoon, rather than face that hearing, Puzder withdrew his nomination.
“After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor,” Puzder said, in a statement. “While I won’t be serving in this administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team.”
The failure of Puzder to get confirmed is a blow to Trump, and it is a victory for the liberal organizations who have opposed his nomination from the start, though in the end their concerns weren’t the reasons for Puzder’s withdrawal. In their view, he was deeply unqualified for the job. “If you look at any of Puzder’s statements, you will see that he is the most anti-labor labor secretary candidate in the history of the United States, bar none,” Paul Secunda, director of the Labor and Employment Law Program at Marquette University Law School, told me earlier this week. “This guy is remarkable in his complete—not only distaste for labor regulation—but his complete flaunting of labor regulations.”
Puzder had spoken up against campaigns to raise the minimum wage, saying that doing so would push workers out of a job, while at the same time saying he’d like to replace workers with robots because robots “never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” He’d opposed what he calls “antibusiness executive orders” signed by President Obama, including rules to raise the minimum wage for federal workers to $10.10 an hour.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division had investigated CKE stores, as it does many other restaurant chains. Since 2004, the department conducted 108 investigations into CKE-affiliated stores, according to Bloomberg BNA, and the stores agreed to pay $153,921 in back wages for 936 employees. Around 60 percent of investigations at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. stores have uncovered violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to Bloomberg BNA.
“You’ve made your fortune by squeezing the very workers you’d be charged with protecting as Labor Secretary out of wages and benefits,” the Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote, in a 28-page letter to Puzder, ahead of his confirmation hearing.
While it’s unknown whom Trump will nominate next, it’s pretty much certain that whoever it is will lead the department in a direction quite divergent from its record during the Obama administration. The Department of Labor does not make laws—that’s up to Congress—but its Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its Wage and Hour Division do decide how to enforce laws. The Obama administration was aggressive in its enforcement of wage-and-hour laws, which govern how much people should be paid for the hours they work, according to Janice Fine, a professor of labor relations at Rutgers. Obama appointed David Weil, a Boston University professor and expert on wage-and-hour enforcement, to lead the Wage and Hour Division, and Weil embarked on a project to focus enforcement in high-violation industries like the fast-food industry.