PUNCHING IN: Puzder Patrol, Snapchat's Dirty Laundry

Punching In

Monday morning musings for workplace watchers 

By Chris Opfer and Ben Penn


Waiting for Puzder| Snapchat’s Secrets | Lamar!

Ben Penn: This week was supposed to finally be the Andy Puzder labor secretary confirmation hearing preview edition. But the delay of his HELP Committee hearing from this Thursday to next week, Feb. 7 – at least for now – doesn’t mean our Puzder-watch is on hiatus. 

The same panel that’s dealing with the Betsy DeVos ethics controversy is postponing Puzder’s turn in the box to give him more time to get his paperwork in order. In theory, this gives the 23 committee members and their staffers time to delve into the fast-food CEO’s financials, avoiding the distractions that missing paperwork brought to DeVos’s proceeding.

But are Republicans really just hoping to let the hullabaloo subside? If so, they may be in for a rude awakening next week. As seen with the last two postponements, more time = more digging into past statements and new allegations of workplace allegations at Puzder’s franchised stores. In the GOP plus column, though, it also presents a chance for industry to rally support (the Competitive Enterprise Institute, for instance, is circulating this letter backing Puzder as a job creator to senators this morning).

Still, try as Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) might to get this train back on its tracks, he has a nominee in Puzder who’s never been publicly vetted. Something tells me the complications will only amplify between now and Feb. 7. 

The good news for Puzder is that the Republican caucus has remained strong thus far when other Cabinet nominees’ hearings didn’t go swimmingly. Even the committee’s potential swing vote in moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), is expected to come around, despite detailing her reservations last week. Collins told me that a major deciding factor will be whether Puzder’s company-owned restaurants committed Fair Labor Standards Act violations or if it was the franchisees that ran afoul of the law. A Punching In hunch: Collins likely already received assurance that the corporate-run Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. outlets have a cleaner compliance record. She may be strategically planting concerns, with the full intention of voting yes … barring any paperwork surprises.

I checked in with Jane Oates, who was a HELP Committee staffer when Ted Kennedy was the top Democrat and a DOL assistant secretary under Obama. She performed confirmation reviews throughout the Clinton and Bush eras and was subjected to one herself in 2009. Her thoughts on Puzder’s disclosures: “I think when you’ve been a CEO there are always more possibilities – there are labor disagreements, there are lawsuits, there are unfair practices and things from both your customers and your employees. With his business, he’s all over the country with Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. It’s complicated – I bet there’s a lot of things to look into.”

Curious to hear your thoughts on the labor secretary confirmation circus. Hit us up at copfer@bna.com and bpenn@bna.com, or on Twitter: @ChrisOpfer and @BenjaminPenn.

Chris Opfer: With more executive orders and a Supreme Court nomination potentially on tap this week, the Trump White is again going to be getting much of the attention.  I’m also keeping an eye on an interesting case on the other side of the country.

Snap Inc. is putting on its prettiest face as the social media company preps for an initial public offering that could top out at $4 billion. An ongoing beef between the company behind Snapchat and one of its former employees threatens to put some dirty laundry out on the line. Anthony Pompliano says Snap lured him away from Facebook to mine him for sensitive information about what the original social media behemoth is up to these days. He also says Snap fired him when he “refused to participate in Snapchat’s institutional pandemic of misrepresenting” information “to investors and trade partners.” 

“He disagrees that the data that they’re using to build this valuation is accurate,” David Michaels, who is representing Pompliano, told me last week. “And that’s the real reason that he was fired.”

Pompliano’s lawsuit against the company is redacted to leave out much of the juicy detail about his claims that Snap is pulling the wool over investors’ eyes in the runup to the IPO. That could change soon. A judge in Los Angeles last week said that during an April hearing, he’ll consider whether to lift a seal on the unredacted version. 

BP: After the DOL “beachhead” team of temporary political appointees arrived Jan. 20, we heard little out of the Frances Perkins Building. The Twitter and press release streams slowed down, as the Trump administration got to work setting a new labor agenda. I’m told some career bureaucrats were alarmed to report to work last Monday to the sight of Fox News blasting from the cafeteria TVs. Perhaps someone complained, because later in the week the dial was switched to CNN. Was there not a third option?  

There’s talk from the left that upcoming DOL actions will instantly prove Trump doesn’t actually intend to carry out his populist promises. There are progressive watchdog groups waiting to pounce. Personally, I’m going to keep an open mind and not prejudge. I wrote last week that Wayne Palmer, director of the DOL beachhead team, lacked labor policy experience, relying on his LinkedIn page. One of his former colleagues reached out to tell us he brings a breadth of labor knowledge to the table. Apologies, Wayne. Drop me a line anytime.  

CO: Who says it’s too early to look ahead to the next Congress? Sure the current crop of lawmakers has been in session for less than a month, but there’s already some chatter that Alexander won’t be running to keep his seat in 2020. My guess is that the move would open up the top Republican spot on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who has been leading the charge against the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule.

If the 76-year-old Alexander decides to ride off into the Smoky Mountain sunset, it also creates a potentially intriguing primary race to replace him. I know of one Super Bowl winning quarterback with ties to Tennessee who recently upped his political profile. Then, there’s a certain labor secretary nominee who lives outside of Nashville and could be bolstering his profile with voters.

Whoever eventually lands in Alexander’s seat, they’d better start brushing up on “Tennessee Waltz.”

BP: That’s it for now. Daily Labor Report subscribers can check back in with us during the week for Jay-Anne Casuga’s look at concerns – or hopes -- that Trump could take the wind out of the OFCCP’s sails, permanently.Martin Berman-Gorvine has the goods (bads?) on fear-based corporate cultures. And I’ll be looking into the federal hiring freeze’s effect on DOL enforcement.

We’re punching out. See you here next Monday morning. 

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