Proposed Labor Secretary's Anti-Labor Record Comes Under Fire
'Meet Andy Puzder: CEO of the rigged economy'
Ahead of nationwide protests taking place Thursday against Donald Trump's labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder, workers are drawing attention to poor conditions at the fast-food CEO's restaurants.
Puzder's confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee was tentatively planned for January 17, but Politico reported Tuesday that with education nominee Betsy DeVos' hearing now pushed to that date, Puzder may have to wait until February for his time before the panel.
"We're here to start the real inquiry, about whether or not Mr. Puzder is a person who can be trusted to stand up for you and for all the workers of America."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren
But Senate Democrats and labor advocates aren't holding their fire. After Republicans denied (pdf) their request to allow testimony from Puzder's employees at his hearing, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday organized a forum to hear from those very workers.
The forum featured testimony from three current and former employees of CKE Restaurants, the fast-food company run by Puzder that is known for its Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chains, as well as National Employment Law Project executive director Christine Owens. They spoke of wage theft, working without overtime pay, and struggling to get by on minimum wage. Puzder, who made $4 million in 2012, has publicly come out against raising the minimum wage.
More than 100 Carls Jr. and Hardee's workers were present in the chamber during Tuesday's forum.
"If Andy Puzder is confirmed as labor secretary, what happened to me at Carl's Jr. will be multiplied on the national level," said Roberto Ramirez, who worked at a Carl's Jr. for 18 years and said he was so overworked he had to start 30 minutes before clocking in.
"You're right, this is not right," Warren told Carl's Jr. employee Lupe Guzman, a 47-year-old mother of six who provides for her family on $8.75 an hour and said wage theft was common. "And this is what the secretary of labor is supposed to stand up for, is people like you. We're here to start the real inquiry, about whether or not Mr. Puzder is a person who can be trusted to stand up for you and for all the workers of America."
She added on Twitter:
.@realDonaldTrump’s pick to protect America’s workers is a fast food CEO whose burger chains have had numerous labor law violations.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) January 10, 2017
In fact, @USDOL Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder seems to have little respect for American workers at all.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) January 10, 2017
Watch the forum below:
Also Tuesday, Warren unveiled the results of a Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United survey of CKE workers on their wages and working conditions. The survey, conducted between December 19 and January 7, found high rates of wage and hour violations, age discrimination, and sexual harassment.
"If Puzder is confirmed as labor secretary, it will mean the Trump years will be about low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination instead of making lives better for working Americans like me."
—Terrance Dixon, Hardee's worker
A statement from ROC United declared: "Under Puzder's leadership, CKE Restaurants has established a record of multiple lawsuits for discriminating against workers and failing to pay overtime, and has been accused of firing workers for protesting against poverty wages. Workers at CKE restaurants spoke of extensive wage and hour violations and excessive rates of sexual harassment. Considering the mission of the U.S. Department of Labor—promoting the welfare of wage earners, improving working conditions, and enforcing worker protections—these findings call into question the viability of Andrew Puzder for the role of the nation's secretary of labor."
That is the message of protests taking place Thursday at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants and corporate offices and at U.S. Department of Labor branches in more than 24 cities nationwide.
According to organizers, thousands of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's cooks and cashiers will lead marches and rallies, holding signs that read, "Meet Andy Puzder: CEO of the rigged economy" and "Puzder gets rich while keeping workers poor."
"Andy Puzder represents the worst of the rigged economy Donald Trump pledged to take on as president," said Terrance Dixon, a Hardee's worker from St. Louis, who is paid $9 an hour. "If Puzder is confirmed as labor secretary, it will mean the Trump years will be about low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination instead of making lives better for working Americans like me."
Puzder opponents are tweeting about the nominee under the hashtag #AntiLaborSecretary: