Elizabeth Warren Just Found Her Next Fight

The Massachusetts senator takes on one of Donald Trump’s most controversial nominees.

Jeff Malet/Newscom/ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Elizabeth Warren is going all-in against President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Labor. The Massachusetts senator sent a scathing, 28-page letter detailing questions for Andy Puzder—the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s parent company, CKE Restaurants—whom Trump selected for the post. Warren is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, which is scheduled to hold Puzder’s confirmation hearing Thursday morning.

“Your long record of public comments reveals a sneering contempt for the workers in your stores, and a vehement opposition to the laws you will be charged with enforcing.”

Warren framed the letter as an effort to make an informed decision about whether to support Puzder’s nomination. It asks questions ranging from how he plans to avoid conflicts of interest with CKE to how he would enforce the department’s workplace safety rules. But there’s nothing subtle about Warren’s views on Puzder; the letter’s introduction makes it quite clear that she views him as unfit for the job. “You’ve made your fortune by squeezing the very workers you’d be charged with protecting as Labor Secretary out of wages and benefits,” she writes. At another point: “Your long record of public comments reveals a sneering contempt for the workers in your stores, and a vehement opposition to the laws you will be charged with enforcing.”

Puzder is the last realistic hope the Democrats have for derailing one of Trump’s main Cabinet nominations. And the fast-food CEO appears to be a juicy target. During his tenure running CKE, Puzder hasn’t been shy about sharing his views regarding his low-wage employees, once calling them the “best of the worst” and often grousing about how they don’t deserve a higher minimum wage. Puzder has even mused about how much simpler life would be if he could replace human workers with robots, saying, “They’re 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.”

Warren threw all these issues back at Puzder in her letter, suggesting that he’d bring these views and practices from his business experience with him to the Department of Labor. “Because of your inextricable ties to the industry that you will be tasked with regulating I am deeply concerned that you will be unable to work exclusively for the American people,” Warren wrote. The senator expressed concern that Puzder would not pursue wage violation complaints and that he’d be hesitant to enforce tough sexual harassment regulations given his business’ history of advertisements that feature models in bikinis, advertisements that Puzder has defended as “very American.”

The next labor secretary will also be charged with deciding the fate of the fiduciary rule, a regulation that mandates that retirement advisers give investment advice that is actually in their clients’ interest rather than suggesting funds that offer the kickbacks for the advisers. That rule was supposed to go into effect in April, but Trump signed an order that, while not explicit in how it will be executed, will likely result in the rule being delayed and weakened, if not outright abandoned. Warren’s letter included a number of pointed questions asking how Puzder would approach reviewing this conflict-of-interest regulation and whether he was consulted by the White House on the matter before Trump issued his directive.

Warren also questioned whether Puzder would be willing to enforce labor laws against his boss’ company if the Trump Organization is accused of violating its workers’ own rights. After all, while Trump may have handed over day-to-day control of his enterprises to his children, the president still reaps the financial gains from his business ventures, and a federal investigation of their business practices could make a dent in the profits headed to Trump’s trust.

Read Warren’s full letter:

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate