Andy Puzder created businesses that employed tens of thousands of Americans over the past several decades. Few Americans have done more for American workers. That's precisely why Big Labor was determined to defeat Puzder.
Big Labor will find a way to go after President Trump's new nominee, Alex Acosta, as well. Acosta is dean of Florida International University College of Law and a former member of the National Labor Relations Board.
Puzder would have been an outstanding Secretary of Labor, and it is unfortunate that he never got the chance to tell his story in the face of an unrelenting campaign by Big Labor to stop him.
Big Labor is big because it preys on vulnerable workers. It takes portions of workers' paychecks in dues in order to fund political contributions and salaries and pension plans for top union officials, while leaving members' pension plans at less than 65% funding levels.
According to Big Labor, the Labor Department exists to promote organized labor. No matter that the share of wage and salary workers who belong to unions declined to 10.4 percent in 2016, continuing the steady decline since the 1950s.
Ordinary Americans who need jobs and who like successful businesses supported Puzder for Labor Secretary. But many senators were upset that they were receiving union-funded calls against Puzder and withheld their support.
True, Puzder had problems. Thirty years ago, ex-wife Lisa Fierstein had accused him of domestic abuse, including on Oprah Winfrey's show—allegations that Fierstein withdrew in a letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Puzder had hired an undocumented worker, and, although he fired her and offered to help regularize her status, he did not pay employment taxes on her wages.
Without these problems, he likely would have got through. Unions would not have had the ammunition to take him down.
However, it's naïve to say that senators were only upset about Puzder's treatment of women or his housecleaner. In 2009, Timothy Geithner was confirmed as Treasury Secretary even though he had not paid self-employment taxes on income earned while at the International Monetary Fund in 2001 and 2002—even though the Internal Revenue Service had informed him of a problem on taxes owed on his income from 2003 and 2004.
Many of the same senators complaining about Puzder voted to confirm Geithner, including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who called on Trump to withdraw Puzder's nomination. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) said, "You come to this committee with a great reputation for integrity. And I accept completely the explanation you have given us with respect to the mistakes on your tax returns."
Puzder was defeated not because of personal peccadillos but because unions thought he would reverse the pro-union stance of his predecessor, Thomas Perez.
Perez wanted to make it easier for unions to organize workers. One rule, overturned by the courts, would have prohibited employers from getting confidential legal advice on union issues.
Other Departmental guidance documents discouraged the use of independent contractors in order to force employers to hire more workers who might expand union ranks.
Another Perez rule, also overturned, would have prevented firms with allegations—not proof—of labor violations from bidding on federal contracts. That would have opened these firms to blackmail and extortion from unions.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union, an organization trying to rebuild the Teamsters, said last August that "the Executive Order gives unions unprecedented new leverage against companies and institutions that contract with the federal government."
Puzder would have been an outstanding Secretary of Labor, and it is unfortunate that he never got the chance to tell his story in the face of an unrelenting campaign by Big Labor to stop him. He was slandered with no way to respond to Big Labor attack dogs and their henchmen.
Alex Acosta will also be able to improve job prospects for American workers. President Trump has chosen a candidate who will be relentless in leading the Department to end its assault on job creators. The winners will be American workers. The losers will be those who want to stop American workers from living the American dream.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner
Photo by Jeff Curry / Stringer