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

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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