Bangor Daily News • Laura O’Meara
As small-business owners in Portland, my husband and I are appalled that President Donald Trump has nominated Andrew Puzder, a millionaire fast food CEO, to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. Puzder’s record shows a disregard not just for workers, but also all small-business owners and responsible employers who believe in safe, fair workplaces.
We have owned a small, independent bookstore with two locations in Maine since 1987. Our staff includes amazing full-time employees who have worked for us from seven to 29 years. We have always operated our business with the knowledge that our success was dependent on the dedication and motivation of our employees. Unlike Puzder, we treat our employees fairly with dignity and respect.
Small business and communities benefit from the key workplace protections that Puzder has attacked. Puzder opposes meaningful raises to the minimum wage, arguing it would be harmful to employers. As a small business, our experience matches what the data nationally and in Maine say — paying fair wages boosts business by increasing employee well-being and reducing employee turnover. So we heartily supported raising the minimum wage, first in Portland and then across Maine.
We’ve always paid our employees at rates well above the minimum, and that has allowed us to attract and retain quality employees. We are proof that paying employees a fair wage leads to worker retention and the success of a business. And a fair minimum wage enables workers to frequent local small businesses, which in turn contributes to the success of the community.
For a CEO of a large corporation like Puzder to argue that he cannot afford health insurance and benefits for his workers is outrageous. Even a small business like ours provides health insurance and benefits for all of our full-time staff because it’s common sense — healthy employees contribute to a healthy and thriving business.
When employers like Puzder take the low road, paying poverty-level wages and denying benefits to their employees, good employers struggle to keep up with these radical cost-cutting measures that put profits before people.
We cannot trust Puzder to hold bad employers accountable and to look out for workers and good employers. His restaurants have been repeatedly named in class action lawsuits alleging failure to pay his managers overtime, and his restaurants been found to have repeatedly violated workplace safety laws. The secretary of labor is supposed to enforce laws that ensure workers’ safety and well-being, not break them.