Morning Consult • Alex Rowell
President Donald Trump promised during the campaign that his administration would protect and fight for the American worker. However, talk is cheap, and Trump’s actions — past and present — make it clear that his real priorities lie elsewhere. Trump’s business past is filled with allegations of stiffing contractors and union-busting. And when tasked with choosing a leader to fulfill the U.S. Department of Labor’s mission to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States,” Trump nominated fast food CEO Andrew Puzder — someone who is squarely on the side of big business.
Puzder’s fierce opposition to pro-worker policies and his company’s record of underpaying and mistreating workers contradicts the mandate of the Labor Department, long a bulwark for worker rights and protections.
Puzder personally opposes raising standards for the very workers the DOL is designed to protect. He is against meaningful increases in the federal minimum wage and opposes updating overtime protections for millions of workers — claiming that what workers “lose in overtime pay” they gain in “stature” and “sense of accomplishment.” He blames paid sick leave requirements for forcing companies to automate jobs. While he is nominated to lead the Labor Department, he touts the benefits of actually eliminating workers, noting that robots are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”
Beyond his opposition to strengthening worker protections, Puzder’s record shows his companies fail to follow the laws currently on the books. One of the most important roles of the Labor Department is enforcing federal labor law. Puzder’s company, CKE Restaurants, the parent company to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., and their franchisees have a record of breaking the same laws that the Labor Department is tasked with enforcing. Since 2004, Labor Department investigations have secured nearly $150,000 in back wages — wages that workers were owed but not paid — for Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. workers throughout the country. CKE restaurants and franchisees have also paid $156,000 in penalties for safety and wage and hour violations. And in California, Carl’s Jr. agreed to pay out $9 million to settle class action lawsuits in 2004 that claimed the company failed to pay overtime to workers.