Organized Workers Must Be Heard In The Fight For Labor Secretary

Puzder’s defeat isn’t just a win for fast-food workers, but for all working Americans.
02/21/2017 03:46 pm ET
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

There’s a lesson that President Trump’s new labor nominee, Alexander Acosta, should learn from the defeat of his predecessor, fast-food CEO Andy Puzder: While last year’s election may have flipped the party in charge at the White House, workers in the Fight for $15 are still a force that cannot be ignored by anyone in Washington. 

With Puzder’s defeat, fast-food workers across the nation won the first major victory of the resistance against President Trump. And we won it by standing together, speaking out, and taking to the streets.  

When Trump first tapped Andrew Puzder to be labor secretary, fast-food workers told the President that if he sided with fast-food CEOs instead of fast-food workers, he’d be on the wrong side of history. Apparently he didn’t care.

Instead of picking a labor secretary who would take on the rigged economy, Donald Trump tried to force through a nominee who would rig it up even more. This was something workers refused to stand for.

In the seventeen years that I’ve worked at Hardee’s I’ve only missed five days. Andy Puzder doesn’t believe that nearly two decades of hard work earns someone the right to paid sick leave. Trump’s nomination of Puzder was an insult to me and to every other worker who is tired being exploited, of making pennies and dreaming for a pay raise that will never come. 

Andy Puzder doesn’t believe that nearly two decades of hard work earns someone the right to paid sick leave.

That’s why thousands of workers in dozens of cities repeatedly took to the streets in protest after his nomination was announced. Days before his withdrawal, hundreds stormed Hardee’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis to show America that Puzder’s own workers reject him. Now, our determination and perseverance has paid off. The Fight for $15 won and the rigged economy lost.

We need a labor secretary who reveres workers – not one who disdains them and blames them for the country’s financial woes. Low wages paid by fast-food CEOs like Puzder cost taxpayers more than $7 billion a year. When my daughter passed away I became the sole caretaker for my two grandchildren, but at $9.99 an hour with no benefits I know I can’t provide for them in the way they need. Fast-food workers want to stand on our own two feet, but can’t afford to on the wages paid by fast-food companies like Puzder’s.

We need a labor secretary who reveres workers – not one who disdains them and blames them for the country’s financial woes.

Puzder’s defeat isn’t just a win for fast-food workers, but for all working Americans. This victory happened not in the courts, but in the streets: In the nine weeks following Puzder’s nomination, fast food workers rallied outside his stores, we stormed his corporate headquarters, and we filed complaints against Puzder’s restaurants to show America how his empire was built on wage theft, sexual harassment and intimidation.

We still have more to learn about Trump’s new nominee, but we’re still clear on what we need in a labor secretary: someone who will put working people over corporate profits. We need to hold Trump to his word when he said that under his American System, “every policy decision we make must pass a simple test: does it create more jobs and better wages for Americans?”

No matter who becomes labor secretary, we’ll keep taking to the streets, standing up and speaking out until we win $15 and union rights for all. This victory is proof that when workers speak up, the President has to listen.

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