Demos • Amy Traub
“I was the victim of wage theft, exploitation, and of a stolen paycheck. I was never paid for time I regularly worked before clocking in. Every time I spoke up about the problem I was retaliated against by having my hours cut and my shifts changed.”
Those were the powerful words of long-time Carl’s Jr. employee Roberto Ramirez as he spoke in Spanish before a Senate forum this week. The treatment Ramirez tearfully described was illegal, exactly the type of abuse working people depend on the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate and remedy. But the man ultimately responsible for working conditions at Carl’s Jr. – the chief executive who built his personal fortune on the mistreatment of workers like Mr. Ramirez – is now Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Labor, charged with enforcing these very laws.
Andrew Puzder has been CEO of fast food chain CKE Restaurants, Inc. (which includes Hardees and Carl’s Jr.) since 2000. During that time, his company was a serial violator of key worker protection laws, even as Puzder himself spoke out against minimum wage, overtime, and sick leave rules, even expressing the wish that his employees were more like robots who would never take a vacation or sue him for racially discriminating against them.
On Thursday, Carl’s Jr. and Hardees employees across the country took to the streets with the Fight for $15 to tell the nation exactly how unacceptable a Labor Secretary Puzder would be. “If Puzder is confirmed as labor secretary, it will mean the Trump years will be about low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment and racial discrimination instead of making lives better for working Americans like me,” protested Terrance Dixon, a worker at Hardees from St. Louis.