Politics

Why Trump's Pick for Labor Secretary May Never Get Confirmed

The confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Labor, CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder — best known for Hardee's and Carl's Jr. — has been postponed indefinitely, CNN reported Wednesday. The hearing has been delayed multiple times since Puzder's Dec. 8 nomination ignited widespread criticism from labor advocacy groups and restaurant workers.

Andrew Puzder at 2016 FreedomFest

The criticism of Puzder is coming from his own employees. In a piece for The Washington Post, former Hardee's worker JoAnn Wise describes spending 21 years working for the chain.

Wise writes (emphasis mine):

"When I began at Hardee’s, I was hopeful. I liked the work and received a promotion to shift manager after only a month. But the pay remained low, and even with my husband’s salary as the head cook at Fort Jackson, we relied on food stamps and Medicaid. We were two full-time-employed adults; we shouldn’t have had to turn to the government, but we had kids to raise, and so we were left with no other choice.

"Low pay wasn’t the only reason my family struggled: It was the lack of benefits and respect, too. I remember once my manager came to my house on a day off and demanded I go into work. I remember trudging through Hurricane Katrina to get to the store. I remember being denied a raise multiple times.

"In 2005, I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had to stop working. After more than two decades at Hardee’s, I left without any savings, a 401(k), pension or health benefits. That’s Puzder’s America."

Her story spread quickly on social media after it was tweeted out by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

In mid-January, in protests organized by the Fight for $15, fast food workers in 27 cities took to the streets to oppose Puzder's nomination.

 

A photo posted by Fight for 15 LA (@fightfor15la) on

"I know first-hand that Puzder would be the wrong choice for America's workers," Rogelio Hernandez, who works at a Carl's Jr. in Santa Monica, California, said in a press release.

Why Puzder's record is under scrutiny.

  • The fast-food CEO is an outspoken opponent of raising the minimum wage and has expressed enthusiasm for automation — replacing human workers with robots.
  • CKE restaurants and franchises were found to violate wage laws in 60 percent of Department of Labor investigations since 2009.
  • No fewer than 33 state and federal complaints were filed by Hardee's and Carl's Jr. workers against their employer in January. The complaints allege violations including wage theft and workplace sexual harassment.
  • In 2011 remarks unearthed by CNN, Puzder made remarks disparaging his own restaurant employees, describing them as "the best of the worst."
  • Puzder admitted to employing an undocumented housekeeper for years without paying taxes, The New York Times reported on Monday.
  • Puzder's ex-wife levied domestic abuse claims against him in the 1980s, though she has since walked back the allegations.
  • The fast-food boss defended Carl's Jr. ads featuring bikini-clad women — widely criticized as vulgar and sexist — in a 2015 interview with Entrepreneur Magazine.

"At its core, the largest issue is that this man is not philosophically suited to being the nation's chief advocate for working people," Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, told ATTN:.

"Everything we have on the public record is about him wanting businesses to be left alone, to do what they want to do and make money how they want to make it," Conti said. "He is not somebody who gets up and thinks 'How am I going to make the day better for working people?"

"We just don't think he is suited for the job for which he was nominated," Conti said.