New York –In the run up to the Senate confirmation hearing of fast-food mogul Andy Puzder as U.S. Secretary of Labor, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other council members joined cooks and cashiers who are part of the Fight for $15, 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa, union members and community groups to protest his nomination on Thursday at the U.S. Department of Labor office in Manhattan.
At the rally on Thursday, New York City Council members pledged their support for working New Yorkers over the next four years and said they will pass a package of bills that will protect fast-food workers in New York City, ensuring they have adequate job protections that will provide much-needed stability for themselves and their families.
“Andy Puzder’s nomination to Labor Secretary could have a chilling effect on labor organizing and seriously set back the progress we have made in raising wages across the country. An attack on working Americans is an attack on all of us – it flies in the face of what our nation stands for,” said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “As a former organizer with 1199 SEIU, I have seen firsthand the power of workers coming together and organizing for their rights. Together, we can send a clear message to Washington: New York City stands with working Americans.”
For workers, like Jorel Ware, who works at a McDonald’s in Manhattan, this support means a lot.
“Andrew Puzder doesn’t stand up for workers like me, he says he’d like to replace us with machines,” said Ware. “We fought and won a big victory to raise our pay here in New York, and we know the City Council will stand with us to pass laws that will help us take care of ourselves and our families.”
Council members reaffirmed their commitment to pass vital legislation that will create a Fair Work Week for fast food workers in the city. The Council has introduced three bills that require fast-food stores to give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules and pay a “penalty” to workers if schedules are changed at the last minute; give current employees more hours before hiring new part-time workers to fill open shifts; and place restrictions on “clopenings,” the practice of requiring workers who close a store one night to come back a few hours later to open it the next morning. A fourth bill, the Fast Food Worker Empowerment Act, would require employers to honor workers’ requests to deduct voluntary contributions from their paycheck to a not-for-profit organization that could fight for the workers, their families and their communities.
32BJ members, community organizations and other workers’ rights group, including the Restaurant Opportunities Center and Make the Road, also joined the rally.
“New Yorkers are united in standing up for justice, for workers’ rights and to make our city and our country a better place for all,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “We need to make sure that working families can survive in our city and I applaud the City Council for standing up for fast food workers. This is more important than ever as we see the President-Elect has nominated a billionaire fast-food CEO, whose company has a history of wage theft and harassment, as Labor Secretary.”
More than 30 City Council members have already signed on as co-sponsors of the fast food bills.
”Andy Puzder is a man who has padded his pockets through wage theft and criticized policies of basic decency like overtime pay and paid sick leave,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “In New York and across the country, we’ve made incredible gains for labor fairness, including a $15 minimum wage here in New York State. We cannot allow Puzder and the Trump Administration to roll back these important victories for the American workforce. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Hector Figueroa and 32BJ SEIU, the Fight for 15, and my colleagues in the Council for standing on the side of hardworking people everywhere.”
“Not only does Andrew Puzder have no qualifications to be the U.S. Labor Secretary, but his record of mistreating employees is everything that the Department of Labor is meant to protect working families from” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “Whether it was wage, overtime, or intimidation tactics, Puzder’s record has been well documented and he should not be appointed to lead the Department of Labor.”
“New York City has made great progress improving pay for fast food workers. Now is not the time to allow regressive labor policies to take hold in our country,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.”All working Americans deserve to be treated with respect and New York City’s fast food workers have my unwavering support during these tough times.”
“Trump’s nomination of Puzder should send to cities a clear signal,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “With no hope for leadership at the federal level, now is the time for local legislators to take the lead on protecting, expanding and enforcing workers’ rights. NYC’s Fair Work Week package will establish a reasonable set of rights for low-wage workers that face an uphill battle each day to make ends meet and provide a stable life for their families. I want to thank 32BJ SEIU for their leadership and organizing around this package, and look forward to passing this vital legislation.”
“We all fought so hard for a livable wage for fast food workers and there is still more work to be done, but naming Andy Puzder as U.S. Secretary of Labor will be a roadblock to all the progress that still needs to be made,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “I’m proud to stand with our Speaker, my colleagues in the Council and all our local workers fighting to make a living for themselves and their families.”
“My first job was at a McDonald’s restaurant when I was 16 years old,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “I know how difficult service jobs can be and how much more difficult it is to sustain a family without making a living wage. That is why I proudly stand with fast food workers, 32BJ, advocates and my elected colleagues in supporting legislation that will ensure workers have adequate job protections. All people in all jobs– particularly those who work long hours in demanding circumstances– should be entitled to much-needed stability for themselves and their families.”
“Now more than ever before the labor movement faces an uncertain future with the nomination of Andy Puzder as Labor Secretary. Throughout his career Mr. Puzder has shown nothing but disdain for workers and labor laws,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “We must do everything we can to protect fast food workers and the creation of a fair work week and additional job protections will give New York City workers the stability to adequately provide for their families.”
“A nonsensical and offensive choice for Labor Secretary should galvanize our opposition to unfair labor practices,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “Predictable schedules, a living wage and benefits, sufficient rest between shifts, and workplace safety are human rights. I pledge my support and solidarity as we oppose this nominee and work to uphold the rights all workers to organize and protect themselves.”
“While our largest corporations have continued to grow to record levels, workers’ wages have not been in line with productivity increases in our economy over the past 35 years,” said US Congressman Jerrold Nader. “Unfortunately, many working families continue to struggle to get by on remarkably low wages. The current workers’ wage is simply not enough to live on. And President-Elect Trump’s selection of Andy Puzder as U.S. Secretary of Labor raises serious concerns about how workers will be protected in Pudzer Department of Labor. As CEO of CKE Restaurants, Mr. Pudzer presided over companies that stole workers’ wages, violated overtime laws and forced employees onto public assistance. Today I stand with my fellow elected officials and support City Council legislation that ensures that fast food workers have adequate job protections that will provide much-needed stability for themselves and their families.”
Background on Puzder:
Thursday’s rally is part of a nationwide wave of actions to denounce the nomination of a CEO who is a symbol of the very rigged economy Donald Trump vowed to fix. Workers from coast to coast will rally against Puzder, who as CEO of CKE Restaurants presided over companies that stole workers’ wages, violated overtime laws and forced employees onto public assistance. The protest in New York is one of two-dozen planned from coast to coast Thursday ahead of Puzder’s confirmation hearing next week. Workers will carry signs that read “I’m not a robot and yes, I will sue if sexually harassed” and “Andy Puzder makes more in a day than I do in a year,” 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.” He has been an outspoken opponent of minimum wage hikes that would allow his workers to meet their basic needs. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found in 2013 that fast-food CEOs like Puzder cost taxpayers $7.3 billion per year in public assistance by holding down pay for their employees.
As labor secretary, Puzder would be charged with upholding many of the labor laws and regulations CKE routinely violated during his time as CEO. 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.
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 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.