President Trump's pick for Labor Secretary, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. CEO, Andrew Puzder, has come under attack by workers and their advocates since his nomination was first announced in December. Rightly so. Puzder's approach to doing business and his previous statements regarding key workplace issues paint a very worrisome picture regarding how workers will fare under his watch. Just ask the workers at his own company, who, in a report issued this week, describe a pattern of workplace violations, including being required to work sick and without pay, resulting from business decisions that appear to give low priority to workers' health and well-being.
Glaring Conflict of Interest
Puzder's Senate confirmation process has been one of the rockiest among President Trump's nominees. His hearing has already been delayed four times, largely due to failure to submit his financial disclosure paperwork as well as his plans for avoiding conflicts of interest. This is important because Puzder's industry background raises very significant concerns about how he will weigh decisions affecting the businesses he currently runs. Absent a solid plan to address his glaring conflict of interest, Puzder will have a difficult time convincing many that he is the right choice to head the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
Poor Track Record on Workplace Issues
As CEO, Puzder has worked in an industry where low wages and non-compliance with state and federal labor laws are common. Under President Obama, in fact, the DOL spearheaded 4000 investigations into the country's 20 largest fast-food companies, finding more than 68,000 violations and recovering $14 million in unpaid wages for 57,000 employees.
It seems employees at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are not an exception. During Puzder's tenure, he paid millions of dollars to settle overtime suits brought by employees. DOL inspectors found workplace violations at more than half of their inspections of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants over the past 8 years.
Puzder's company is currently facing several class action lawsuits over its treatment of workers. In January, workers turned out in large numbers at individual stores, the head offices, and local DOL offices in 20 cities to protest their treatment under Puzder, speaking out about safety issues at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's locations, as well as problems with wage theft and unpaid overtime. Several Carl's Jr. and Hardee's employees also raised similar issues last month during a Senate forum held to examine working conditions under Puzder.
Worrying Statements on Key Issues for Workers
Puzder has made many on-the-record statements that suggest that corporate interests - not workers' interests - would be his top priority as Labor Secretary.
On December 1, 2016, an estimated 4.2 million additional U.S. workers would have been eligible for overtime under Obama administration updates to federal overtime rules. The expansion has been effectively stalled by a Texas judge pending the outcome of a lawsuit seeking to prevent the rules from taking effect.
Under President Obama, the DOL actively fought the lawsuit and filed an appeal of the Texas judge's stay. But if Puzder takes over, he will likely withdraw support and end the fight, scrapping an overtime expansion that would have raised the pay of millions of workers.
Puzder himself has been a vocal critic of expanding overtime to more workers. Last May, he condemned the policy in a piece he wrote for Forbes. He said it would only "add to the extensive regulatory maze the Obama Administration has imposed on employers," seemingly discounting the DOL's own figures for how it would benefit workers and reduce uncertainty (and litigation) over which workers must be paid overtime.
Minimum Wage Increase
Support has been growing across the U.S. for a $15 minimum wage, an increase many believe is needed to ensure low-income workers earn enough for basic necessities. For his part, Puzder is on the record as opposing a $15 minimum wage, and if nominated, Secretary Puzder would not be expected to champion the cause.
National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency that protects workers' rights. Puzder has been extremely critical of the NLRB, particularly with respect to its return in 2015 to a broad interpretation of the definition of "employer" under the National Labor Relations Act, which would enable employees of franchisee-owned businesses - such as fast-food restaurants - to pursue claims against parent companies (like Puzder's) and not just franchisees. With such a dim view of the role the NLRB plays, there are legitimate concerns about the Board's ability to enforce labor laws under Puzder.
A Bad Choice for American Workers
Puzder's leadership of the DOL is not good news for American workers. It's why major unions - including United Steelworkers - and his own employees have opposed his nomination.
The time to express concerns about Puzder is now, while his confirmation process is in limbo awaiting his financial disclosure and conflict of interest filings. It is crucial that we speak out about our misgivings about Puzder by contacting senators on both sides of the aisle. We urge you to make your voice heard - click here to call your senator now!