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  February 15, 2017

Millionaire Fast-Food CEO Puzder Withdraws Name From Labor Secretary Nomination

In an earlier interview with The Real News Network, Teofilo Reyes of Restaurant Opportunities Center United said Andrew Puzder is an opponent of the minimum wage and workers protections
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UPDATE: In breaking news on Wednesday Feb 15th, Trump's Labor Secretary nominee- Fast Food CEO Andrew Puzder has withdrawn his nomination after a growing number of Republican Senators have indicated they will not vote for him. Puzder is known to be a fierce opponent of the Fight for $15 movement, raising the minimum wage, unions and other labor protections; but allegations of domestic violence appears to be fueling the republican revolt. Just yesterday, Real News host Kim Brown interviewed Teofilo Reyes of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United to discuss the growing opposition to Puzder, stay tuned for that interview


KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News. I'm Kim Brown in Baltimore.

Donald Trump's nominee for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, who is the CEO of Hardee's and Carl's Jr. Restaurants, is in danger of not being confirmed by the Senate. Four Republican Senators, Murkowski, Collins, Scott and Isakson, have expressed reservations about Puzder's nomination. They say that they will decide how to vote after his confirmation hearing on Thursday.

The main reason for their doubt has to do with his ex-wife's allegations of domestic violence in the 1980's. His wife has since recanted her testimony, but the Senators remain concerned.

Also, Democrats are vehemently opposed to him and also in January, Senator Elizabeth Warren gave the following statement about Andrew Puzder.

ELIZABETH WARREN: He will be the person responsible for enforcing the laws, that ensure that employers actually pay workers for every hour that they work, and setting standards to prevent workplace injuries and death. Unfortunately, Mr. Puzder is not the kind of American person that workers can trust to stand up for them. Since 2000, Mr. Puzder has served as the CEO of the billion-dollar company CKE Restaurant Holdings.

Now, many of you may know it better as the parent company of Carl's Jr., and Hardee's. These two fast food chains are known for paying low wages to their workers. Mr. Puzder also has a long record of cheating workers out of overtime. And he has paid out millions of dollars to settle claims, when he was caught cheating.

KIM BROWN: Joining us to talk about the Puzder nomination is Teofilo Reyes. He is the Research Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United. He's joining us today from Philadelphia. Teofilo, thanks so much for being here.

TEOFILO REYES: Yeah, my pleasure.

KIM BROWN: So, what do you make of the four Republicans' concerns about Puzder? That he might have abused his wife 30 or so years ago, and also the reasons they give have to do with their doubt about him having to do with employing an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper, and paying her taxes, only after he was nominated -- what are your thoughts about these two incidents?

TEOFILO REYES: Well, it's clear that Andrew Puzder is an absolutely terrible choice to lead the Department of Labor, right? The Department of Labor is charged with ensuring compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, ensuring that workers' rights are applied on the job. And to say he's demonstrated that he is an absolute terrible candidate for that position, I mean, we can talk about his personal life.

It's certainly clear through his actions as a corporate lawyer that he is, you know, not interested in following the law, as pertains to employment violations and payroll and wage-an-hour, and then all these issues. These are, I think, tremendous concerns for workers around the country. And if his nomination is approved, I think we will see, that across the country there will be a tremendous downturn in wages and working conditions.

KIM BROWN: And I want you to expand on that because, I mean, you raise a very valid point, that some of the four Republican Senators who are expressing doubts about Andy Puzder, have to do with these personal incidents regarding his wife and employing an undocumented worker as a housekeeper.

However, talk about the real issues, his practices as a businessman, the allegations of wage theft to some of his workers. What are some of your concerns, strictly from a nuts and bolts perspective, a labor perspective, about Andy Puzder?

TEOFILO REYES: Absolutely. So, you know, he is publically on the record as opposing any increase to the minimum wage, right? If you look at how workers are paid in his establishments, the median wage, and then the average wage, they're both slightly above the minimum wage. So, he's interested in creating these poverty level jobs. He's not interested in raising the floor for workers. Over 50% of CKE locations at Hardee's and Carl's Jr. have been found to be in violation of wage-an-hour laws when they've been audited.

And so, how can you have a person who is meant to uphold these laws, when they have spent their life apparently -- based on these audits -- undermining them in the workforce where they've been, you know, where they have been working. So, it seems to me, you know, we've reached out to over 800 CKE workers around the country, and these issues are a problem across the board, across multiple states. It really doesn't matter what region in the country you're looking at.

We see that workers that are not allowed proper breaks, they're not paid time and a half properly. They're pushed to work off the clock. And so, it doesn't seem to us that someone who, effectively should be under scrutiny by the Department of Labor, in any way could then go to head that department.

KIM BROWN: You know Democrats are vehemently opposed to Andy Puzder's confirmation. Senate Minority Leader, Charles Schumer, has called Puzder possibly the most anti-worker choice ever, in a Labor Secretary. But Democrats are also a minority in the Senate with only 48 votes; so thus, they need to mobilize at least three Republicans to prevent his appointment.

So, do you think that this could possibly happen? These four Republicans who are expressing some trepidation, do you think that these people could possibly be swayed to not approve Andy Puzder as Labor Secretary?

TEOFILO REYES: I think they should be swayed. What they will do at the end of the day, I don't know. But if you look at what their constituents want, you know, there's been polling now conducted in Maine and Alaska, where the majority of voters feel that his nomination should not be approved. He's not the right choice to head the Department of Labor. So, if they're actually following the will of their constituents, he will not be approved.

Now, obviously that might not happen, but you know there are other things to look at as well. Like his treatment of women in the workers, we've found very high rates of sexual harassment at the CKE restaurants, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. And it seems to us, that these are tied in part, to the ads, to the environment that they've created, for expectations that they've created for customers that, you know, it's okay to sexualize women in a demeaning manner, in order to sell your products. So, I think that's another big strike against him, as well.

KIM BROWN: So, what do you think this says about U.S. democracy, that candidate Donald Trump, could run saying that he would improve the plight of the working class, and then once he's elected, nominates perhaps the most anti-worker Secretary of Labor ever, as Charles Schumer called him?

TEOFILO REYES: Yeah, well... you know, I think workers and people around the country that voted for Trump are slowly coming to the realization that this was, whatever their complaints and concerns -- and certainly many of them were valid -- that this was not the right vehicle for the change that they were expecting.

We have actually spoken with many of the CKE workers who were Trump supporters, but who have experienced these wage-an-hour violations first hand, these questions around, you know, being forced to work off the clock. And so, I think it's very eye opening for them to see that.

KIM BROWN: So, another major area of concern beside Puzder's anti-worker record and his possible proclivity towards domestic violence is his conflict of interest. He has said that he would divest himself from his company, which has countless open labor disputes in front of the Department of Labor.

So, do you think this is enough to allay conflict of interest concerns, just his insistence, or his reassurance that he will separate himself from his business interests?

TEOFILO REYES: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not, and you can see by the fact that, you know, really the strongest supporters for his nomination are the National Restaurant Association. Which, you know has been one of the main opponents of raising the minimum wage, and of opposing very basic protections, such as paid sick days.

You know, however it is that he disentangles himself from his business, it's clear that he's going to be pushing forward the policy agenda of the National Restaurant Association. They're the ones who, for example, have sent letters supporting him, to Murkowski and to Collins' offices in Maine and Alaska.

And so, you know, they're going to be on the front line supporting him, and we know that when he comes in, if his nomination is passed, that that's what he's going to dedicate himself, is as promoting their agenda, which again, is not a pro-worker agenda at all.

KIM BROWN: Indeed. Well, we will certainly be keeping an eye on what happens with his confirmation in front of the Senate. There still is a hearing that will happen on Thursday, but at least four Republican Senators are expressing some doubts about the nomination of Andy Puzder, as Labor Secretary.

We've been speaking with Teofilo Reyes. He is the Research Director of Restaurant Opportunities Center United. Teofilo, we appreciate your time today, thank you.

TEOFILO REYES: All right, thank you so much. Have a good day.

KIM BROWN: You too. And thanks for watching The Real News Network.




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