It was a photo finish, but Andrew Puzder is the second major casualty of President Trump's administration. Beaten out by Michael Flynn's resignation earlier in the week, on Wednesday Puzder withdrew as the nominee for Secretary of Labor.
Where Flynn was undone by dealings fit for a John le Carre novel, Puzder's was a more pedantic story. He was simply an embarrassment of a nominee, and his withdrawal is a win for workers across the country. Of course, the relief may be short lived.
Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, a chain that runs the fast food chains Hardee's and Carl Jr.'s. His nomination came under almost immediate fire from the left given CKE's history of labor violations, as well as the notorious Carl Jr.'s ads featuring bikini-clad models.
"I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis," he once said when challenged on the ads. "I think it's very American."
This was a nomination almost tailor-made to anger the growing fast-food labor movement as well as women's rights activists. Given Trump's temperament and well-known vindictive streak, it may very well have been an intentional gesture toward those opposition groups.
As a businessman, Puzder has been aggressively anti-labor and the smart money says that Trump's new appointee will share that ideology. Yet this is still good news for workers across America for one simple reason: Trump's next pick might or might not be better, but he or she almost certainly can't be worse.
This is a particularly big deal, because the Secretary of Labor plays an unusually big role in people's day-to-day lives.
It's no secret that when Republicans take office they try to backdoor-abolish departments whose mission they disagree with. Since dissolving the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Education might be a bridge too far, far-Right administrations tend to install heads who disagree with the fundamental mission they're tasked to oversee.
For most agencies, in the long run, that's not such a big deal. American government is lumbering and complex, and changing large scale policy like environmental regulation takes a long time. The scope of damage that a single administration can do is, in fact, relatively limited.
The Department of Labor is different. This agency is tasked with representing the rights and interests of workers nationwide, both in policymaking and individual enforcement. Its mandate covers every worker in the country, and whether the Secretary of Labor takes that seriously can make a huge difference on matters from the minimum wage to overtime and even basic issues of personal dignity.
(It's important to note that the National Labor Relations Board also plays an important role in overseeing worker's rights, and is a separate agency independent of the DOL.)
As a CEO, Puzder hasn't just disagreed with all of that. He has flagrantly tried to break almost every law he would have been tasked with enforcing.
In fact, on the same day he announced his withdrawal, the labor union Restaurant Opportunities Centers United announced a sexual harassment lawsuit against CKE.