Fight for $15 Supporters Oppose Puzder, Workers File Claims Against His Restaurant Chain

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Fight for 15 members, many of them employees of the fast food chains owned by Andrew Puzder, Republican President Donald Trump’s nominee as U.S. Labor Secretary, hit the streets in 31 cities on Jan. 26 to urge citizens and senators to reject the fast-food magnate.

Meanwhile, another 33 workers from Puzder’s Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants took the legal route, filing wage theft, labor law-breaking and sexual harassment claims against supervisors in those establishments on the same day.

The protests and suits mark an escalation in the battle to halt Puzder, a multimillionaire owner of those two chains and the Red Burrito and Green Burrito chains, from taking over the Labor Department. DOL enforces laws, including minimum wage and overtime pay laws and job safety and health laws, that Puzder openly hates.

Fight for 15, a nationwide movement of low wage workers that includes huge numbers of fast food workers, plans more anti-Puzder protests on Feb. 1, the day before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s scheduled hearing on his nomination. 

Fight for 15, which the Service Employees and other unions back, is also urging its members and their allies to call or e-mail senators to reject Puzder.

“While millionaire Andy Puzder takes his corporate jet between speaking gigs to accuse voters of being lazy and entitled, his workers at Hardee's are struggling to put food on the table,” Fight for 15 said, in one of many tweets. “This man is the embodiment of everything wrong with the rigged economy. He must be stopped. Tell your senators to reject Andy Puzder for Secretary of Labor.”

Four workers at Puzder chain restaurants, in claims filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, said they were sexually harassed on the job. Another 22 filed wage and hour violation claims with labor departments in Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, California, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Alabama and both Carolinas.  And seven workers filed labor law-breaking – formally called unfair labor practices – charges with regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board.

In their suits, female workers described managers who forced them into unwanted kisses and other actions, while a gay worker in Oakland, Calif., was sexually harassed by his manager. Workers in several cases around the nation said they had not been paid in a month.

“If Andy Puzder can’t be trusted to pay his workers what they’ve earned, why should we expect him to enforce laws meant to protect working Americans?” Angel Gallegos of Los Angeles asked, in a statement on a pro-worker website.




Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work