Alternet • Sarah Anderson

Roberto Ramirez worked for nearly 18 years for the Carl’s Jr. burger chain in Los Angeles. He started doing food prep and eventually took on three additional jobs: cleaning, cashiering and serving. Little did he know his experience would one day land him in the national political spotlight.

On January 10, Ramirez was a star witness in a sort of shadow hearing on Capitol Hill on the business practices of one Andrew Puzder, the fast-food king who is Donald Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary. Democratic senators tried to give Ramirez and others with experience working for Puzder’s Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains an even bigger platform, as witnesses in the nominee’s upcoming confirmation hearing. Republicans nixed that request.

Originally from Guerrero, Mexico, Ramirez addressed about a dozen senators in Spanish, explaining through an interpreter how his workload at Carl’s Jr. eventually became so unmanageable he had to put in half an hour of free labor every day before his clock-in time to be able to finish all his duties. None of this overtime was ever compensated. Ramirez testified that a manager later stole one of his paychecks while he was away and the company refused to help him recover the compensation. When he complained about it, his manager retaliated by cutting his hours to the point where he had no choice but to quit.

Ramirez’s story was reinforced by a new Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United report. Based on questionnaires filled out voluntarily by 564 Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s workers, the report found that 28 percent of respondents had to work off the clock without pay because of understaffing. Approximately one-third reported a wide range of wage theft violations, including not receiving required breaks or overtime pay.

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