For Immediate Release
Workers File More Than Thirty Wage Theft, Harassment, Intimidation Complaints Against Brands Owned by Trump’s Embattled Labor Secretary Nominee
Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s Cooks, Cashiers Announce Slew of Filings With Protests in 30+ Cities From Coast to Coast
Fast-Food Mogul Andy Puzder Calls His Workers “Worst of the Worst,” Forces Them onto Public Assistance, and Spent $10,000 Trying to Block a Minimum Wage Hike of Just $1
NATIONWIDE - One week before the U.S. Senate holds a confirmation hearing on the troubled nomination of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder as U.S. Secretary of Labor, cashiers and cooks at Puzder’s restaurants announced thirty-three complaints filed with state and federal agencies.
Current and former workers at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants have filed wage theft have been filed with state departments of labor and sexual harassment complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Unfair labor practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board. The announcement was made during protests in 31 cities, the second major protest in a month by workers from CKE restaurants against Puzder’s nomination.
Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s cooks and cashiers held signs that read, “Andy Puzder: Worst of the Worst” and “I’m Not a Robot, And Yes I’ll Sue if Sexually Harassed.”
“Recently the restaurant I worked at went an entire month without paying me a dime, and they only agreed to pay me after I stopped coming to work in protest,” said Angel Gallegos, a Carl’s Jr. cook in Los Angeles. “If Andy Puzder can’t be trusted to pay his workers what they’ve earned, why should we expect him to enforce laws meant to protect working Americans?”
The filings reveal a restaurant chain rife with labor violations. In Whittier, Calif., a worker went a full month without a paycheck. In Durham, NC, workers were paid via debit card that included transaction fees that took hourly wages below the federal minimum wage of $7.25. In Oakland, Calif., a gay Carl’s Jr. worker was repeatedly harassed by his manager, who told customers and co-workers that he “likes boys” and used a feminized version of his name.
“Several months ago my shift-manager asked me for a kiss, and when I said no he told me that unless I started giving him what he wanted, he was going to start taking it,” said Ceatana Cardona, a 28-year-old Hardee’s worker from Tampa, Florida. “But when I complained, they took no action against my shift-manager. Andy Puzder has said he’d like to replace his workers with robots because they don’t file sexual harassment claims. Well, I’m no robot, and he’s absolutely right I’ll hold his restaurant accountable if they don’t protect me or my co-workers.”
In an interview last year, Puzder said he prefers machines to workers because they “never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.” And in a 2011 address to students at Westmont College, he detailed his hiring practices saying “In fast food, you sort of compete for the best of the worst,” adding that at Hardee’s his employees were “the worst of the worst.”
The complaints come on the heels of a bruising few weeks for Puzder’s nomination. Days after fast-food workers protested against Puzder’s nomination in more than 40 cities, CNN reported he was having “second thoughts” about leading the Dept. of Labor because of the pressure. A day later, Puzder went on a Twitter “blocking binge” blocking SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Fight for $15 accounts, as well as organizations advocating for underpaid workers. This Monday, Capital & Main reported that, under Puzder’s tenure as CEO, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have been hit with more federal employment discrimination lawsuits than any other major U.S. hamburger chain. Another report released by NELP the same day found that low pay and lack of benefits at CKE costs taxpayers an estimated $247 million a year. And the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that Puzder spent $10,000 of his own money in 2006 to fight a Nevada ballot initiative that would have raised the state minimum wage just $1, from $5.15 to $6.15.
“CKE: The Press is NOT Our Friend”
CKE and its franchisees have also engaged in a pattern of retaliation and intimidation aimed at preventing employees from speaking to the press or organizing to fight for higher wages and better work conditions. In addition to complaints by workers, local Fight for $15 chapters filed seven Unfair Labor Practices complaints against CKE franchisees for illegal surveillance, threats and intimidation of workers. In one case, a franchisee sent an internal memo to employees stating that “the press is NOT our friend” and that “our franchise agreement with CKE” requires that “no one in this franchise is to talk to any reporter or individual asking questions about our operations.”
“I work hard every day to support my grandmother and myself, taking four buses to work, school and back home,” said Ivan Nava, a Carl’s Jr. worker in Los Angeles. “If it wasn’t for food stamps, I don’t know how we would put food on the table. My manager knows all this, but when she found out that I had started organizing for the Fight for $15, she cut my hours from 6-8 hours a day down to as little as four hours a day and started scheduling my shifts when she knew I had college classes.”
In 60 percent of Department of Labor investigations since 2009, CKE restaurants and franchises were found to have violated wage and hour laws. Since Puzder became CEO of CKE in 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which falls under the DOL, has found 98 safety violations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s locations, with 36 of them capable of causing death or grave physical harm.
“With this round of new complaints, it is clearer now more than ever that Andy Puzder presides over a fast-food empire that routinely exploits and abuses the workers who build its profits,” said Cathy Ruckelshaus, general counsel and program director for the National Employment Law Project. “The U.S. Senate has all the reason it needs to reject this nomination and demand a labor secretary who will look out for working Americans instead of one who looks for ways to keep them down.”
Fast food workers are coming together all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. We work for corporations that are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation.