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February 10 2017

Secretary of Opportunity

US News & World Report
Sabrina Schaeffer

Women may be divided over President Donald Trump, but they shouldn't be divided over Department of Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder, whose Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for Feb. 16. Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants – which owns Carl's Jr. and Hardee's – understands how government overreach threatens economic growth, job creation and individual opportunity.

Puzder stands out from previous labor secretaries in that he has created jobs on a large scale, bringing CKE back from the brink of bankruptcy and turning it into a billion dollar brand with 3,000 domestic franchisees and 75,000 employees.

Appointing a proven job creator to the post of labor secretary holds great promise for the country. While today's 4.7 percent unemployment rate appears low, the reality is that millions of Americans have dropped out of the labor force in recent years. And millions more are either under-employed or cannot find full-time work. As a result, wages have stagnated. In fact, half of 30 year olds today make less than their parents did at the same age.

So often Washington micromanages the workplace in the name of protecting women, pushing for legislation to close the "wage gap" and advocating for costly "benefits" like paid leave and child care mandates. While these policies certainly sound nice, Puzder understands that burdensome labor regulations drive up the cost of hiring, which eliminates jobs, decreases wages and limits flexibility. And he has experienced this first hand as his franchisees have had to contend with an onslaught of new regulations in recent years from minimum wage increases to Obamacare. By reversing this rule-by-regulation approach, Puzder could help create millions of new job opportunities – ultimately helping many more women and their families.

Naturally this lighter touch makes Puzder a target for progressive activists, especially liberal feminist groups, who advocate for an unending string of new regulations. In particular, they have tried to present Puzder as antagonistic to women, claiming he presided over a company rife with labor violations and sexual harassment.

Of course no one condones a hostile workplace, and it's true the restaurant industry is not immune to these problem. But when activist groups use biased methods to wildly inflate the problem, it diminishes the experiences of real victims. Upon closer examination, it appears many of the claims being tossed about are grossly exaggerated. Consider CKE's compliance record for wage-and-hour violations like wage theft. According to a Bloomberg BNA analysis, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have the third lowest violation rate among 20 major fast food restaurants. And some of these violations were for minor protocol errors like failing to display a labor department poster.

What's more, a recent, national survey of CKE employees conducted by the survey research firm CorCom Inc. found 93 percent of female CKE employees agreed they felt safe and respected at the workplace. And the gross majority of employees said that CKE is a great place to work.

While women in America have more opportunities than ever before, real challenges exist for many who can't access consistent, year-round employment. But there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and well-intentioned government efforts may help some while backfiring on many more by making our workplaces less flexible and discouraging job creation.

Women and their families benefit when they have more choice and flexibility. That's why we need a labor secretary like Puzder who is eager to foster a workplace culture where all Americans can find opportunity.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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