Maine Restaurant Association backs Trump’s Labor nominee in letter to Collins

The Maine Restaurant Association, the industry lobby group that fought an unsuccessful campaign to stop the state minimum wage increase referendum last year, has begun pressuring Maine Senator Susan Collins to approve President Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor.

On Monday, Washington D.C. publications The Hill and Politico noted that the MRA had sent a letter to Collins urging her to support Puzder, a fast food CEO who has aggressively opposed raising the minimum wage and whose Carl’s Jr. and Hardees chains are notorious for violating labor laws.

Investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor have found wage and hour violations at over half of Puzder’s restaurants, which have also been sued for race discrimination and sexual harassment more often than any other hamburger chain.

“We are proud to have one of our most esteemed industry leaders be nominated for such a critical role in the new administration,” wrote MRA President and CEO Steve Hewin in the letter to Collins. He also called Puzder “uniquely qualified and an exceptional choice to lead the Labor Department.”

The Maine Restaurant Association’s board is chaired by Portland-based Five Fifty-Five owner Michelle Corry and includes representatives from Governor’s Restaurants, DiMillo’s on the Water, certain franchises of Burger King and Pat’s Pizza, and several other restaurants as well as other members of Maine’s food service industry.

Several member restaurants distanced themselves from the lobby group’s anti-minimum wage campaign in October and more than 60 restaurant owners eventually broke with the MRA to endorse the minimum wage referendum.

According to the Washington Post, Collins is still on the fence about Puzder. She has apparently reviewed footage from an appearance by the nominee’s ex-wife on the Oprah Winfrey Show detailing allegations of domestic abuse (which she has retracted following his nomination) and will be following his confirmation hearing, currently scheduled for Thursday.

In addition to his opposition to increasing the minimum wage, Puzder has also attacked overtime regulations, paid sick leave and other workplace protections and has spoken against the Affordable Care Act and legal abortion. The CEO has also courted controversy for his disparaging remarks about women, potential conflicts of interest with his business holdings and recent revelations that he employed an undocumented immigrant as a maid. Puzder was a major fundraiser for Trump’s campaign for president.

Last week, a group of labor leaders and small business owners gathered in Bangor to oppose Puzder, with Cokie Giles, President of the Maine State Nurses Assocation, saying that his nomination represents “a clear and present danger to all American workers.”

Image via CNN video still.

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