The Intercept • David Dayen
THE COMPANY RUN by Andy Puzder, who President Trump has nominated for secretary of labor, ran an illegal wage-fixing scheme for managers at his company’s restaurants, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in California superior court last week.
Puzder is the CEO of the vast Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE) fast-food chain. One former and one current Carl’s Jr. shift leader allege that franchisees – which Puzder has repeatedly described as independent businesses — colluded with one another to prevent managers from moving between restaurants.
As alleged, the scheme also appears to violate federal law under the Sherman Antitrust Act, as an illegal restraint of trade. That would be a felony punishable by a $1 million fine and up to 10 years in prison for individuals charged.
For Puzder, the lawsuit adds to a growing list of concerns heading into his Thursday confirmation hearing. Puzder, who has not secured the support of enough Republicans to guarantee his confirmation, delayed his hearing four times to get his financial disclosures in order; admitted to employing an undocumented housekeeper; and worked under the tutelage of a notorious mob lawyer. His ex-wife appeared on Oprah in disguise in the 1990s to discuss domestic violence incidents in their marriage; Senators in both parties have viewed the footage, and divorce records, which include additional allegations of assault, were unsealed on Tuesday.
But the class-action suit filed February 8 in Los Angeles, part of a pattern of alleged labor violations at Carl Karcher Enterprises (CKE) restaurant chains, speaks to the very issues that Puzder would oversee at the Labor Department. Puzder has already proven himself an outspoken critic of the minimum wage, expanded overtime laws and workplace safety rules, and the case charges that under Puzder’s leadership, CKE again violated worker rights.
The lawsuit attempts to show that CKE, which owns the Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito brands, undermined workers’ ability to thrive in the free market that Puzder cherishes so much in public.