The nomination of a fast food executive as U.S. Secretary of Labor drew immediate condemnation from unions and other worker organizations, who cited his opposition to raising the minimum wage and expanding eligibility for overtime pay.
President-elect Donald Trump announced he plans to nominate Andrew Puzder, a multimillionaire whose California-based company, CKE Restaurants, owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. chains, to the job that oversees wages and working conditions of American workers.
“His track record inspires deep skepticism,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.
Puzder’s views run counter to a rising tide of support for higher wages and better working conditions for low-wage workers, as witnessed by successful efforts in communities across the country that have adopted a $15 minimum wage and other measures.
The New York-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union called Puzder’s stand on the minimum wage – the exec says it should be no more than $9 an hour, up from the decade-old level of $7.25 – “shameful.”
“If you’re making labor more expensive,” Puzder told Business Insider in May, retailers and fast-food restaurants would automate. “This is not rocket science,” he added.
That Puzder comment prompted New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill deBlasio to tweet a retort on Dec. 8 that “America’s workers deserve a raise and a union, not a Labor Secretary who thinks they’re paid too much and wants to replace them with robots.”
Forty percent of Puzder’s fast food restaurants “had at least one wage and hour law violation,” retired New York Times labor writer Steve Greenhouse tweeted. And video ads for Puzder’s Carl’s Jr. chain feature what Puzder lauds as “bikini-clad women eating burgers.”
"Throughout his career, Andrew Puzder has shown he does not believe in the dignity of all work and has used his position to line his own pockets at the expense of workers,” said Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry, whose union is the prime backer of fast food workers in their long campaign for $15 and a union.
“In 2012, Puzder made $4.4 million, a full 291 times more than the average food worker. He doesn't support measures that would help families who work hard build a better life, such as the overtime rule, which would put more money in the pockets of millions of workers.”
Saru Jayaraman of Restaurant Opportunities Center, a growing organization of fast-food workers, called Puzder “completely unacceptable.”
His record “is riddled with class action wage theft lawsuits, sexist remarks, falsehoods that paint wage increases as ‘job-killers,’ minimum wage earners as entitled teenagers and his own employees as lazy welfare recipients,” she said.