NEW YORK – Days ahead of Andy Puzder’s confirmation hearing for labor secretary, workers in the Fight for $15 took their protest to McDonald’s Monday during the lunchtime rush to demand the fast-food mogul withdraw his nomination or be rejected by the U.S. Senate.
Workers in New York City protested at McDonald’s to stress their opposition to the company’s recent support for Puzder despite an escalating series of unsavory revelations and complaints against the beleaguered nominee.
“We’ve heard Puzder talk about his own employees in a completely disrespectful way and it’s clear to me and so many other workers in this country that he’s not going to stand up for us as Labor Secretary,” said Jorel Ware, who works at a McDonald’s in Harlem. “That’s why we’re out here today to say publicly that he is unfit to serve and he should withdraw or the Senate should vote against his appointment.”
The protest in New York is one of more than two-dozen rallies across the country Monday to declare that Puzder is unfit to serve. Hundreds of fast-food cooks and cashiers will also converge on CKE’s corporate offices in Anaheim, Calif., and on Hardee’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo. The protests mark an intensification of the Fight for $15’s opposition to Puzder’s nomination, which is imperiled by a drumbeat of complaints against the fast-food mogul and his chain, including rampant wage theft, sexual harassment, tax avoidance, domestic abuse, and sexism.
At the action, workers protested the “Puzburglar” who is trying to steal good jobs from hard-working New Yorkers. Fast food workers and others, including members of unions 32BJ SEIU, RWDSU, DC 37, Retail Action Project and community groups including Make the Road New York, Workmen’s Circle and the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition called on the White House to nominate a Labor Secretary who stands with workers instead of big corporations.
“As a retail worker, I am not comfortable with having a labor secretary who has no compassion for low-wage employees,” said Beena Martinez, a retail worker at JCPenny and member of RWDSU. “Pudzer cares only for shareholders and profits and himself. If he becomes the labor secretary, business owners will get more power to abuse workers. Too many retail workers already suffer by not having access to benefits nor to full time hours and being forced to accept on-call shifts. We need a labor secretary who will stand in solidarity with low-wage workers.”
City leaders joined that call on Monday, including NYC Public Advocate Tish James, Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas, New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office.
Monday’s actions follow a series of damaging revelations about the controversial Labor nominee. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that for years Puzder did not pay legally required taxes for a housekeeper he employed until after President Trump tapped him to lead the DOL. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, former Hardee’s worker JoAnne Wise wrote about how decades of work at the fast-food chain left her with no savings, no health benefits and no plans for retirement.
“It is a disgrace that we would would have a US Labor Secretary like Puzder: a billionaire who’s fought against raising the minimum wage, who calls his own employees “the best of the worst” and whose company has a long history of wage theft and safety violations,” said 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol. “Fast-food workers have fought for and won higher wages here in New York state and across the country but their fight continues for good jobs and a union for everyone in the industry. Puzder would be a step backward for our country, not just for fast food workers but for all working men and women. That’s why union members, community groups and progressive leaders are united in opposition to his nomination.”
Fast food workers, 32BJ members and other organizations have vowed to keep up the fight until Puzder withdraws or the Senate votes against his confirmation.
“Andy Puzder is an appalling nominee for Labor Secretary and unfit to protect America’s workers. His nomination exposes this administration’s passion for crony capitalism.”Wealthy Puzder leads firms that steal wages, cheat and exploit workers, denigrate women, and insult all hard working people. His nomination is no surprise. It is also unacceptable,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.
“How can the head of a company found to have repeatedly committed wage theft from its own employees be nominated to lead a federal agency tasked with protecting those same workers?” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “Perhaps that is a question to which only our current President, and his anti-labor allies, knows the answer. What’s clear is that Andy Puzder is utterly unfit to be the head of the Department of Labor, and that we in this energized and engaged labor movement will do everything in our power to ensure that he, and the mega-rich CEOs he represents, is defeated.”
“The nomination of Andy Puzder to the position of Labor Secretary is completely unacceptable and yet another demonstration of this President’s intent to undermine working class Americans at every turn,” said Council Member Mark Levine. ” We must do everything we can to stop his nomination, or President Trump will have successfully put a wolf in charge of the hen house. I am always proud to stand with 32BJ, and will continue doing so to protect the countless vulnerable workers not just here in New York, but across America.”
“Andrew Puzder is the wrong choice for Secretary of Labor. America needs Secretary of Labor who has a track record of supporting working families, rather than supporting corporate interests. Today, on ROC United’s 2-13 National Day of Action to highlight the tipped abysmally low $2.13 federal tipped minimum wage, we stand with the Fight for $15 to raise the minimum wage and to raise standards in the restaurant industry. We say no to Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor,” said Saru Jayaraman, Co-Director and Co-Founder, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United).
“The nomination of billionaire, fast-food CEO, Andy Puzder for U.S. Secretary of Labor is a slap in the face, meant to stifle the momentum of the Fight for $15. Led by low-wage, immigrant workers and people of color, the Fight for $15 is leading a national movement for economic justice and winning real victories for working people in the state of New York. That’s why it’s imperative that our senators stand with us in sending a clear message to Donald Trump: New Yorkers won’t be cowered in our quest for dignity and justice for all workers. No to Andrew Puzder,” said Meg Fosque, Low Wage Organizing Director, Make the Road Action.
Puzder’s restaurants have a long and troubled history of worker abuse. In late January, workers filed 33 complaints with state and federal agencies alleging wage theft, sexual harassment, and retaliation and intimidation against workers trying to organize on the job. 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.
According to CKE’s latest financial disclosures, Puzder makes as much as $10 million a year, which means he makes more in one day than most minimum wage workers make in one year. Despite this, he has been an outspoken opponent of minimum wage hikes, spending $10,000 of his own money in 2006 to block a Nevada ballot initiative raising the minimum wage to just $6.15. He’s shown open contempt for his own workers, calling them “the best of the worst.” A report from the National Employment Law Project estimated Puzder’s low pay costs taxpayers $250 million a year in public assistance.
Puzder has said he would like to replace Carl’s Jr. workers with machines 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.” Puzder has also supported repealing the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid, even while he forces his own workers to rely on these programs by denying them health care.
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Since fast-food workers launched the Fight for $15 over four years ago, the movement has won wage hikes for 22 million underpaid workers, including more than 10 million who are on their way to $15/hour, by convincing everyone from voters to politicians to corporations to raise pay. The movement, which has resulted in $62 billion raises for America’s workers, was credited as one of the reasons median income jumped last year by the highest percentage since the 1960s.
With 163,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 75,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.