Hundreds of Law Professors, Students Oppose Labor Nominee

Jan. 26, 2017, 4:08 PM

By Jon Steingart, Bloomberg BNA

Hundreds of law professors and students signed a letter urging senators to reject President Donald Trump’s nomination of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder for secretary of labor.

“We started this because we were so appalled by how out of step Puzder is with working people,” Hugh Baran, who conceived of and is circulating the letter with classmates, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 25. “He represents a fundamental break from what people would expect a Department of Labor leader to uphold.” Baran is a third-year student at the New York University School of Law and a member of its student group Resisting Injustice & Standing for Equality, or RISE, which is leading the effort.

The letter cites news reports about Puzder and his businesses to make a case that his experience shows he would harm workers’ incomes and safety standards. It also refers to op-eds Puzder has written about how much regulatory compliance costs businesses.

Faculty, Students at Many Schools Sign

The letter had about 1,000 signatories — 260 faculty and 740 students representing more than 130 schools — the evening of Jan. 25, Baran estimated. RISE plans to deliver the letter to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee before it holds a hearing Feb. 2 on Puzder’s nomination.

Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., is one of the signers. “This is a man who’s opposed to just about everything we’ve done since the 1930s in terms of protecting workers,” Edelman said about Puzder.

“Everything that I can tell is the whole framework of what has been developed over decades is at stake here,” Edelman told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 25. “You have to look at the whole picture and the whole picture troubles me a lot.”

But the sentiment isn’t universal among law professors. John Eastman, a professor at Chapman University Fowler School of Law in Orange, Calif., thinks Puzder’s experience as chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, makes him well-suited for secretary of labor. Puzder understands factors that can lift or depress wages, Eastman told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 24.

“I suspect somebody that’s come out of the industrial sector like the secretary nominee knows those pressures more than most,” Eastman said. “I do know his experience with Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s puts him on the front line of where this fight has been waged and the sector of the economy that’s most directly been impacted by this issue.”

You’ve Got Mail

A group of 152 advocacy organizations composed mostly of worker advocacy groups signed a Jan. 25 letter to senators. Drafted by the National Employment Law Project, the letter urges HELP committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) not to limit senators’ time when they question witnesses at the confirmation hearing and to allow CKE employees to testify.

The law professors and students’ letter was partially inspired by a similar document about 1,400 law professors sent the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 9 in opposition to the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general. “I’m reaching out to you because I saw that you signed the national law professor letter on Sessions,” Baran told professors in an e-mail obtained by Bloomberg BNA.

The Judiciary Committee delayed by a week a vote on Sessions that was scheduled Jan. 24 because Democrats asked for more time.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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