The Franchise Owner's most trusted news source


Log In / Register | Oct 24, 2017

Andrew Puzder Confirmation for Labor Secretary a Hard Sell

Andy Puzder
Anti-Puzder photo from Union's Fight for $15

Ten days before the U.S. Senate holds its confirmation hearing on Andrew Puzder as President Trump's nomination for Labor Secretary, there is no shortage of opposition. Puzder is the CEO of the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants.

While reports state that if the Republican-controlled committee votes in favor of Puzder, he can be confirmed by a simple majority vote of the full Senate, that could be a long shot.

As the opposition intensifies, the controversial fast food executive being considered for this highly important position is going to be challenged by various groups demanding that Puzder is not fit for the job. For one, The Hill today published five major reasons the Senate must reject him, that his name "does not belong anywhere near" the distinguished list of past "political and intellectual giants," both Democrat and Republican, who have held this key Cabinet post.

The first reason given is that Puzder's corporation, CKE Restaurants, is a persistent labor law violator. The conservative political journalism website published in Washington, D.C. states, "The fast-food sector is rife with unlawful behavior and CKE is one of the worst offenders." It states that a major study by the Department of Labor showed 60 percent of CKE restaurants had at least one Fair Labor Standards Act violation. And the franchise company has faced several class-action lawsuits on wage theft. "Puzder simply cannot be trusted to enforce a law his own Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants habitually violate," The Hill declares.

The news report also says Puzder would benefit powerful corporations at the expense of American workers. It says the CEO opposes an overtime rule that would raise wages for millions of workers. And his own employees are pressured to work "off the clock as they approach 40 hours in order to avoid overtime payments. It adds, "Puzder, who pulls in a multimillion dollar salary, opposes increasing the federal minimum wage and his restaurants pay poverty-level wages. We do not need a Labor secretary from the 0.01 percent who believes that $7.25 per hour is an acceptable living wage."

The Hill also emphasizes, "Puzder opposes holding fast-food and other corporations responsible for the unlawful behavior of their franchisees." It tells that since Puzder was nominated, low-wage workers from Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have come forward in droves with stories of mistreatment, including sexual harassment, and many say management failed to act on their complaints. "Puzder doesn't know or doesn't care about the appalling record of his CKE restaurants," the report states.

Huffington Post published another detrimental report yesterday saying Democrats are warning that Puzder has serious conflicts of interest due to his work for an industry lobby that sued to stop overtime reforms. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told Puzder in a letter"that the committee overseeing his nomination still had not received his ethics paperwork, and that she expected a detailed account of what steps he'd take to avoid conflicts related to overtime regulation."

The Senator wrote, "If you are confirmed your participation in any decisions, meetings, or conversations regarding the overtime litigation may put you in violation of legal ethics restrictions and prohibitions against conflicts of interest, raising questions about your ability to manage a key part of the responsibilities of the Secretary of Labor."

Huffington Post said after President Obama reformed overtime rules to make them more generous to workers, the International Franchise Association joined other groups in suing to stop those rules from going into effect. It said, "So far, they have been successful." And, according to the IFA, Puzder stepped down from the board earlier this month, weeks after Trump nominated him to be the Secretary of Labor. "According to the most recent tax filings available, Puzder's work for the nonprofit was unpaid," the report said.

The Post further stated, "Nothing about having served on IFA's board should forbid Puzder from becoming labor secretary. But having been a board member of a lobby that sued to stop the overtime changes, Puzder showed a vested interest in whether the reforms survive, said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington, a nonprofit ethics watchdog."

CREW feels that, if Puzder is confirmed, he should recuse himself from any work on the overtime issue for the duration of the lawsuit. Libowitz said under the letter of the law, the recusal should last a year from his board resignation; but under the spirit of the law, it should last as long as the matter is in the courts. But IFA does not feel there could be a conflict. Matt Haller, IFA's senior vice president of public affairs, said, "This is laughable and complete hyperbole by the Democrats trying to further muddy the waters and delay the process."

Puzder's confirmation hearing has been pushed back several times. It is now set for February 7. Huffington Post said, "Regardless, of his work for IFA, Puzder's stance on the overtime reforms has been clear: He has argued publicly that the new system would force employers to cut jobs."

Low-wage workers file wage theft, sexual harassment complaints

If fast-food mogul Andy Puzder didn't have enough problems being confirmed as President Trump's pick for the U.S. Secretary of Labor, workers at Puzder's restaurant filed 33 complaints with the state and federal agencies. The current and former workers at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's filed wage theft complaints with state departments of labor and sexual harassment claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 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.

Cashiers and cooks at various Carl's Jr. and Hardee's held signs reading, "Andy Puzder: Worst of the Worst" and "I'm Not a Robot, And Yes I'll Sue if Sexually Harassed."

The workers have staged protests under "Fight for $15," organized under the Service Employees International Union, since President Trump first announced his nomination of Puzder. The organization said yesterday that 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 organizers also said 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."

Fight for $15 also posted, "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."


Related Reading:

No votes yet

About Janet Sparks

Janet Sparks's picture

Public Profile

Janet Sparks is the former publisher of the Continental Franchise Review, an industry newsletter that covered the franchise community for over 30 years. She has also been a columnist for a leading franchise magazine for the past 13 years. Today she is an independent journalist who engages in investigative reporting, tackling complex issues that impact the franchise industry.

Janet can be reached at jsparks@bluemaumau.org or at 303-799-7398.