Thousands of fast-food workers today mobilized in over two dozen cities across the country to demand that Andrew Puzder withdraw his nomination from President Donald Trump to lead the Labor Department. Puzder, CEO of fast-food company CKE, is a wealthy businessman whose restaurants are now notorious for failing to follow labor laws and abusing their workers.
Workers flooded Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr. and McDonald’s store locations as part of the Fight For $15’s third protest against Puzder’s nomination. CKE oversees Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.; McDonald’s became a target for the protests when its CEO spoke up in support of Puzder’s nomination even amidst allegations of widespread mistreatment of workers at his stores.
In St. Louis, at Hardee’s corporate headquarters, workers chanted “Hold Your Burgers, Hold Your Fries, Down With Puzder and His Lies” and “Make a Dollar, Get a Dime, Puzder Won’t Pay Overtime,” before unfurling two banners: one reading “Puzder: Bad for America” in the lobby and one reading “Reject Puzder” that hung on the parking garage.
Under Puzder’s tenure, CKE chains had more employment discrimination lawsuits than any other major hamburger chain in the U.S. Just last year, Puzder told Business Insider that he would like to have increased automation in place of employees at his chains—because machines “never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” In January, CKE store employees filed 33 complaints with state and federal agencies alleging wage theft, sexual harassment and retaliation and intimidation against workers trying to organize on the job.
Since Puzder became CEO of CKE in 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also found 98 violations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s locations—36 of which were violations capable of causing grave physical harm or death. Puzder stands opposed to meal and rest breaks for employees and increasing the minimum wage and has critiqued sick leave—the result of which is that a startling amount of employees at his chains report working while ill.
“By picking Puzder, Donald Trump has shown that instead of taking on the rigged economy, he wants to rig it up even more,” said Doreatha Hines, a Hardee’s cashier from Orlando, Fla., in a statement released by protest organizers. “If Trump is going to be a president for the fast-food corporations instead of for the fast-food workers he is going to be on the wrong side of history. And one thing is for sure, whether Puzder’s nomination is confirmed, denied or withdrawn: we won’t back down for one minute in our demands for $15 an hour and union rights for all working Americans.”
Alexa Antonelli is a senior at Biola studying English Literature. When she isn’t reading or writing about feminist issues, she’s usually in my car listening to podcasts and trying to stay chill while turning left on the streets of L.A.