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Labor Activists Turn Up Pressure on Murkowski, Collins

Ads, polls released to pressure senators to vote down Puzder for labor secretary

About 20 activists with Fight for $15 protest the nomination of Andy Puzder to lead the Department of Labor / AP
• February 15, 2017 1:50 pm

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Union activists are launching a last-minute campaign to pressure Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) to oppose Andy Puzder's nomination for labor secretary as they did for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Allied Progress, a liberal non-profit research group, released a pair of ads targeting the senators. The 30-second spots attempt to connect Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, to sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. They then call on the senators by name to oppose the nomination.

"It's no surprise that Senators Collins and Murkowski have concerns with Puzder's nomination," the ad says. "The ball is in their court to hold the Trump administration to the high standard that their constituents deserve and reject Andrew Puzder."

Murkowski and Collins are among the top GOP recipients of union campaign contributions. Murkowski has received about $300,000 from organized labor in her two terms in the Senate, while Collins has received $316,000 since she was elected in 1997, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They were the only Republicans to vote against DeVos's nomination to lead the Department of Education, forcing Mike Pence to cast a historic tie-breaking vote for her confirmation.

Allied Progress is not the only liberal activist group targeting Murkowski and Collins. On Tuesday, the union-funded National Employment Law Project (NELP) released the results of polls it conducted in Alaska and Maine. The poll asked respondents for their views about a number of attacks against Puzder and CKE, and found that a large majority of respondents opposed Puzder's nomination.

"The poll shows that 70% of Alaska voters and 72% of Maine voters consider it to be a conflict of interest if Andrew Puzder were confirmed and then led a federal agency that is investigating his former companies, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, for stealing workers' pay," NELP said in a release.

More than 30 unfair labor practice complaints have been filed against Hardees and Carl's Jr. in the wake of Puzder's nomination. CKE, the parent company, has denied any wrongdoing, pointing out that 95 percent of its restaurants are franchised, meaning local owners are responsible for wage, schedule, and worker policies.

Puzder spokesman George Thompson condemned the NELP poll as "union-sponsored junk data" and "deceitful."

"This is more union-sponsored junk data from NELP, which appears to have built a ‘survey' around the tired attack points from the Democrats and special interests. Survey 101: start with a leading question and you'll get bad answers," he said in a statement. "These deceitful tactics are just another smear in the ongoing campaign against Mr. Puzder, a proven jobs creator and an outstanding choice for Secretary of Labor."

Puzder is the Trump administration's most vulnerable nominee, and Democrats have pledged a united front against him. At least four other Republicans have voiced concerns about the nomination. Unions have contributed more than $10 million to Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions that will hold Puzder's confirmation hearing.

Labor watchdogs expect Democrats to grill the nominee, who would become the first career businessman to head the Labor Department since 1985. Heather Greenaway, spokeswoman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, said Democrats are right to believe that Puzder will bring massive changes to the department, which aggressively advanced a pro-union agenda during President Obama's tenure in the White House.

"Andy Puzder has the real-world experience and know-how to unravel eight years of Obama’s job-killing regulations, which have upended decades of established labor law and stifled small businesses," she said. "Senate Democrats on the Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee have received millions in political contributions from labor bosses and they are doing the bidding of their union cronies by trying to block Puzder’s nomination."

Puzder will appear before the Senate committee on Thursday. Multiple previous hearings were cancelled as Puzder attempted to divest his CKE holdings in compliance with ethics rules.

Published under: Unions