On Inauguration Day, before millions, President Donald Trump swore an oath to help American workers. "The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes," Trump said. "But that is the past."
In reality, working families--and especially working and single mothers who aspire to reach the middle class--face a very troubling future under the new President. Trump's nominee for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, opposes an increase in minimum wages--wages that unmarried women, people of color, millennials and other members of the New American Majority rely upon to make ends meet.
Puzder, CEO of the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurant franchises, is widely expected to fight increased wages and the broader range of policies that would create opportunities for working Americans to move up the economic ladder--including earned sick days, ending wage theft and improving worker safety. His confirmation hearing is scheduled for next Thursday, February 2.
What's it like for unmarried women to work for the man President Trump has hand-picked to protect the interests of 150 million American workers? Lupe Guzman, a single mother of six who works at a Carl's Jr. in Las Vegas, recently told a Senate panel that she can barely survive on $8.75 per hour. "I mean nothing to them," she said. "All they care about is protecting their money... I work almost every day and am still considered poor."
Laura McDonald, a former 20-year employee at Carl's Jr., told the Senators that Puzder's companies cheated her colleagues out of pay. "Mr. Puzder took a company that I loved and turned it into a business that makes money by stealing from its workers," she said. "I honestly can't think of anyone less qualified to enforce laws that are supposed to protect employees."
Given his checkered past, it's hard to imagine Puzder enforcing workplace discrimination laws that protect women. Divorce records obtained by Politico allege that Puzder "assaulted and battered [his then-wife] by striking her violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders, and neck, without provocation or cause." His ex-wife appeared in disguise on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" as a victim of domestic violence, after having accused him multiple times of physically assaulting her in the 1980s. More recently, she disavowed those claims.
Puzder also has a long history of running sexually suggestive TV ads that demean women. Puzder boasted: "We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don't sell burgers."
And in 2012, he ridiculed millions of working-class voters. In a radio interview, he said the election of President Obama shows that "there are a lot of people out there that want free stuff, and they think they're entitled to free stuff."
President Trump has vowed to protect the interests of working Americans. But his Labor nominee, if approved, is likely to only make life more difficult for unmarried women and other members of the New American Majority, many of whom already are living financially on the edge.
Puzder has consistently shown that he will be hostile to working people. The American people deserve a Labor Secretary who has their back, not a fast-food mogul who will try to hold down their wages and deny them basic rights and protections.
--Page Gardner is Founder and President of Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund