President Trump repeatedly promised during his campaign that he would both bring jobs back to America and create more jobs for people to support their families. By nominating Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains), Trump is blatantly betraying his promise to increase good job opportunities for hardworking Americans. Puzder’s track record of limiting workers’ rights, fighting off employment lawsuits, and publicly speaking about his lack of respect for his employees makes him fundamentally unsuitable for this cabinet appointment. Therefore we must take a stand to prevent him from becoming the next Labor Secretary.
Puzder’s nomination has met widespread opposition from unions, nonprofits, and even CKE employees. The AFL-CIO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Partnership for Women and Families, Equal Rights Advocates, American Sustainable Business Council, Farm Forward, and countless others have publicly urged Senators to reject Puzder’s nomination.
According to its website, the mission of the Department of Labor is “To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”
Puzder’s background and dealings show his direct opposition to this mission statement – he has undermined working conditions for CKE employees, decreased opportunities for better employment, and limited workers’ benefits and rights. He has criticized overtime rules, stated that he opposes any meaningful raise to the minimum wage, and spoken glowingly about the benefits of automation and replacing workers with robots to cut costs.
A major component of the Department of Labor’s work is litigating on behalf of workers when there have been violations of their rights and federal labor law. In 2014, Puzder’s company was forced to pay $20 million in overtime lawsuits filed by California employees. Puzder responded by reclassifying managers as hourly workers to cut costs, and publicly stating that he doesn’t believe in overtime pay and he will no longer build franchises in California because of excessive regulation.
“California’s nanny state laws tell our general managers what they can do, how long they can do it, and when they can do it,” he said in a 2014 graduation speech.
Puzder’s core beliefs about overtime, minimum wage, and labor regulation are out of touch with the nation, especially California. As part of the Fight For 15 movement, after Los Angeles passed a minimum wage increase, statewide organizers campaigned to raise California’s minimum wage in 2016. This will result in hundreds of thousands of hardworking families being able to earn $15 per hour by 2020. And California is not alone – 19 states saw minimum wage increases at the start of 2017. Nationwide, it is a priority to move us forward toward a living wage – not backwards.
Luckily, here in California, Puzder would not be able to affect the minimum wage directly. However, his abhorrence of unions and lack of respect for low-wage workers could result in the decimation of the American labor movement. Rather than building up the middle class, as President Trump promised along the campaign trail, Puzder’s policies will surely eviscerate the middle class and create unthinkable situations for the working poor.
Cities and states need to send a strong message to our senators that Puzder is the wrong choice for this role, and they must not vote to confirm him. To lead the Department of Labor, our country needs a leader who will advocate for working families. We need someone who will carry out the responsibility to improve the lives of hardworking Americans, and fight for policies that improve wages, benefits, and workplace safety. We must appoint a leader who uses their authority to protect and defend workers – not misuse their power to reduce existing rights.
This cabinet position goes beyond partisan politics to the basic rights of working people and the laws that protect them – not only here in California, but across the nation. Confirming a CEO who puts profit before his employees’ health and safety, and legal rights mandated by the Department of Labor, is nowhere near qualified for the position. It’s up to us to vehemently oppose Puzder’s confirmation to be the Secretary of Labor. We must hold President Trump and the next Labor Secretary accountable to the promises he made to America’s working families, to change their lives for the better.