- Robert Reichformer labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. Reich now teaches at UC Berkeley.
President-elect Donald Trump has picked fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder to become the next secretary of labor. He is a longtime Republican donor who has been a vocal critic of raising the minimum wage, the Fight for 15 movement, expansion of overtime pay, paid sick leave and the Affordable Care Act. “If you have a president—a secretary of labor who’s against all of these labor laws, there’s a substantial danger that they will not be enforced, because that’s what the Labor Department does, is it enforces,” says former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton, now professor at University of California, Berkeley. So let’s go to the labor secretary nominee of Donald Trump, the president-elect, Andrew Puzder, the fast-food CEO who is the head of the company that franchises Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., longtime Republican donor, a vocal critic not just of the living wage, but of the minimum wage, expansion of overtime pay, paid sick leave and the Affordable Care Act. Can you talk about the significance of this position that you occupied decades ago?
ROBERT REICH: The secretary of labor presides over a vast regulatory and enforcement agency in charge of all of the labor laws of the United States, beginning with everything from unemployment insurance all the way through workplace safety and pension protection and enforcing the minimum wage laws and the 40-hour work week with time and a half for overtime and—and everything you could imagine. If you have a secretary of labor who is anti these labor laws—and Andrew Puzder has said again and again that he’s against raising the minimum wage. He doesn’t even believe in a federal minimum wage. He’s against the overtime regulations that came out that President Obama promulgated. He’s against many of these labor laws. If you have a president—a secretary of labor who’s against all of these labor laws, there’s a substantial danger that they will not be enforced, because that’s what the Labor Department does, is it enforces.
And I, frankly, worry about that. I’ve seen up close how important that enforcement is. You have some firms that will disregard those laws, unless the risk of getting caught times the penalty is greater than the benefits to that firm of simply flouting those laws. Mine safety is a good example. We’ve had, tragically, in the past, examples of mine owners who have basically turned their backs on those laws, a mine owner like, incidentally—or perhaps not incidentally—Wilbur Ross, who is going to be secretary of commerce, that terrible mine tragedy at one of his mines, where he was—he actually owned. Well, if you have a secretary of labor that is not enforcing the mine safety laws, you’re going to have mine owners that basically disregard them, like Wilbur Ross did.