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Former Hardee’s Employee Paints a Grim Picture of ‘Puzder’s America’

Why the fast-food CEO would make a bad labor secretary

Food Workers Protest Andy Puzder's Labor Secretary Nomination Scott Olson/Getty Images

It’s been a month since Donald Trump put forth his nominee for Labor Secretary, but fast-food CEO Andy Puzder has yet to see a confirmation hearing. Scheduled Senate hearings have been delayed four times now, and he’s failed to submit necessary ethics paperwork, leading some to wonder if he’ll ever be confirmed.

That’s fine by Puzder’s many critics, who argue that appointing the chief executive of CKE Restaurants — parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s — to oversee the Department of Labor would be terrible for American workers. Today in a op-ed for the Washington Post, a former Hardee’s employee details her 21-year employment with the company, saying Puzder would be “a disaster for workers” and arguing that he — and Donald Trump — support “an America where workers give everything to an employer, and in return, receive nothing.”

JoAnn Wise worked at Hardee’s in South Carolina starting in 1984, and says more than two decades later she topped out at $8 an hour — which, when adjusted for inflation, marks only a two-cent raise over her starting pay of $4.25.

Wise writes:

When I began at Hardee’s, I was hopeful. I liked the work and received a promotion to shift manager after only a month. But the pay remained low, and even with my husband’s salary as the head cook at Fort Jackson, we relied on food stamps and Medicaid. We were two full-time-employed adults; we shouldn’t have had to turn to the government, but we had kids to raise, and so we were left with no other choice.

Low pay wasn’t the only reason my family struggled: It was the lack of benefits and respect, too. I remember once my manager came to my house on a day off and demanded I go into work. I remember trudging through Hurricane Katrina to get to the store. I remember being denied a raise multiple times.

In 2005, I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had to stop working. After more than two decades at Hardee’s, I left without any savings, a 401(k), pension or health benefits. That’s Puzder’s America.

Puzder, like many of his fellow fast-food CEOs, is accused of raking in millions on the backs of underpaid and mistreated hourly workers: A recent report by the National Employment Law Project estimates that American taxpayers subsidize CKE employees with public assistance to the tune of $250 million each year, and CKE franchisees are facing numerous lawsuits for alleged labor and wage violations.

Then there’s the broader issue of appointing a restaurant industry executive to head up the Department of Labor, an organization that’s supposed to help protect American workers. Puzder has been a vocal opponent to raising the federal minimum wage above $9, and dismisses worker benefits such as paid sick leave and the Affordable Care Act as “government-mandated labor-cost increases.”

Andrew Puzder Will Be a Disaster for Workers. He Was For Me. [Washington Post]
Taxpayers Pay an Estimated $250M a Year to Subsidize Andy Puzder's Employees [E]
Trump Tapped a Fast-Food CEO for Labor Secretary [E]

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