Elizabeth Warren Just Found Her Next Fight

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

Jeff Malet/Newscom/ZUMA

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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:

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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