Puzder pick riles union leaders, allies

Union leaders and pro-worker groups are lining up to denounce GOP President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of fast food magnate Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor.

RoseAnn DeMoro of National Nurses United adds an even more dire warning. The Puzder pick, she says, shows Trump “wants to destroy the labor movement.”

But their protests may fall on deaf ears in the GOP-run Senate, unless they can convince three Republican senators – out of a 52-person majority – to defy party orthodoxy and vote against the anti-worker multi-millionaire.

Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, owner of the Hardee’s and Carl Jr.’s restaurant chains, denounces plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Some 60 percent of his restaurants, including franchises, have rampant wage and hour violations, and California alone has fined the firm $20 million for such labor law-breaking.

Puzder advocates replacing minimum wage workers with robots if the wage is raised. He says food stamps and Medicaid “discourage incentives” to work. He openly hates DOL pro-worker rules, including the one – now delayed by a business-inspired court order – to broaden the coverage of federal overtime pay law, as well as the Affordable Care Act.

Nominating Puzder to run the department “is like giving the fox the keys to the hen-house,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

And one of Puzder’s workers, Carl’s Jr., restaurant cook Rogelio Hernandez, a Fightfor15 activist, says having his boss head DOL “sends a signal to workers that the Trump years are going to be about low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment and racial discrimination”.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka led the way in denouncing the Puzder nomination, blasting him the day it was unveiled, Dec. 8. The Puzder nomination means Trump will not “meet those promises” he made to workers during the campaign “by surrounding himself with people, like Mr. Puzder, whose values are completely out of step with America’s workers,” Trumka warned.

So did Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry, Saru Jayaraman of the Restaurant Opportunities Center and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (see story in Dec. 9 edition). In a follow-up interview with Democracy Now, Henry added that Puzder “represents a corporate race to the bottom, that doesn’t treat the value of work and the dignity of the people doing work, even in his own restaurants.” Other unions and pro-worker groups added their voices later:

NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: “Based on his picks, you can see he (Trump) wants to destroy the labor movement. Labor is the check on the balance of power with corporations and they want labor out of the way,” DeMoro tweeted.

JOBS WITH JUSTICE: “Puzder does not support the policies we need to build a better life. In fact, he despises them. Puzder believes minimum wage raises would ‘destroy’ jobs, rather than lifting millions out of poverty. If the federal minimum wage reaches $15 an hour, he’s even threatened to replace people with machines…To put it plainly, Puzder puts his own interests before those of his employees or working people across the United States. We need to make it clear that his harmful and dangerous views have no place at the Department of Labor.”

COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS PRESIDENT CHRIS SHELTON: “Puzder’s record provides a troubling roadmap as to what he would attempt – or choose to ignore — as Secretary of Labor.

“Puzder has a record of public statements and action that demonstrates why he is a poor choice to head the agency responsible for promoting ‘the welfare of wage earners, job seekers and retirees.’ The Department of Labor is supposed to be on the side of working people when it comes to keeping jobs safe, stopping employer abuse and safeguarding workers’ rights on the job. That’s what working people need.

“Instead, Puzder opposes many of the policies and programs he would administer.”

Besides opposing overtime pay and the minimum wage, Puzder “thinks government support programs for low-wage workers – like those who work at his own restaurant franchises – are a disincentive to work, despite the fact that many fast food and retail workers’ wages are so low that they qualify for food stamps, public housing assistance and Medicaid. He fails to realize that it is low-wage employers– like him — who are the cause of workers living in poverty,” Shelton said.

THE NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT: “Puzder publicly proclaims he considers policies protecting workers to be an intrusion. His comments and conduct suggest he will be focused, first and foremost, on the interests of corporations and the mega-rich.”

TEACHERS PRESIDENT RANDI WEINGARTEN wasn’t surprised by Trump’s pick of Puzder. The two “are cut from the same cloth,” she said. Nominating Puzder “puts the Department of Labor — created to help workers — squarely in the hands of the titans of corporate America.

“As CEO of CKE Restaurants…Puzder outsourced key jobs overseas, planned to replace workers with machines to avoid paying benefits, repeatedly and loudly opposed raising the minimum wage, paid union-busting firms to stop his own workers from forming a union, and opposes the Affordable Care Act because it requires that he provide high-quality healthcare for his employees.”

AFSCME PRESIDENT LEE SAUNDERS: “Puzder believes in, and has practiced, a profits-over-people business model. He believes in paying workers poverty wages – replacing them with machines if possible – while executives get rich.

“This selection is an insult to the grassroots Fight for 15 movement that has done so much, against great obstacles, to help fast food workers and others earn a living wage. Puzder is an outspoken opponent of raising the minimum wage. He has argued that denying workers overtime pay gives them greater pride and prestige. And his company is a regular violator of wage and hour laws.

“At every turn, Puzder has shown contempt for people who get up early every morning and work hard to support their families. This isn’t an encouraging sign that the president-elect will govern as a friend and ally of working people.”

THE ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Puzder “wants to kill” the overtime pay expansion “so he can keep working low-paid employees without paying them a dime extra for their overtime hours…The Labor Secretary is the chief enforcement officer for wage and hour laws, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and other employment laws, but the fast food chain Puzder runs has a long history of wage theft — cheating workers until they get caught by state or federal investigators or they’re sued in private lawsuits.

“Nothing in Puzder’s history of anti-worker and anti-government rhetoric indicates he cares about or believes in the Labor Department’s mission. He would probably make a poor Secretary of Commerce, but he will be a disastrous Secretary of Labor.”

Source: PAI