With all of the organic and local items on menus, it has never been a better time to eat in our country. At the same time, this may be the worst time in a long time to be a restaurant worker. The wages of restaurant workers in Philadelphia have declined by 11% since 2003 and nationally, the tipped minimum wage hasn’t increased since 1991. Yesterday, five former workers from a popular Philadelphia sushi restaurant announced that they had reached a $40,000 settlement with their employer, showing a growing food worker movement a powerful example of how they can get organized and win.
Andrew Puzder is an avowed enemy of restaurant industry reforms. As CEO of CKE Restaurants, and a spokesperson of the National Restaurant Association (or, the “Other NRA,” as we often call them), he is not suitable to be the next United States Secretary of Labor. Like the Other NRA, he champions low wages. Like the Other NRA he wants to roll back taxation and regulations for the benefit of wealthy restaurant CEO’s. His company’s past is riddled with class action wage theft lawsuits. He peddles falsehoods that paint wage increases as “job-killers,” minimum wage earners as entitled teenagers, and his own employees as lazy welfare recipients who don’t ask for promotions “for fear of losing public assistance.”
Unfortunately, the President-elect wants this man to serve as America’s next Secretary of Labor. Is the Other NRA taking over the Department of Labor?
For all Donald Trump’s campaign talk about standing with American workers, this appointment is a clear step in the wrong direction. It is a slap in the face to America’s 12 million restaurant workers, and a victory for the Other NRA.
As owner of the fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, Puzder is responsible for sexist TV ads featuring a scantily-clad Paris Hilton writhing on the side of a luxury sports car while devouring a cheeseburger. Remember those? This is particularly distrubing because sexual harassment is an epidemic in the restaurant industry. Will Puzder, a spokesperson for the Other NRA, fight to ensure women tipped workers are protected from the daily sexual harassment they continue to endure?
Tipped workers are largely women and people of color. Many receive just $2.13 per hour, thanks to America’s subminimum wage system. Forced to rely on tips to survive, they face disproportionate rates of poverty, sexual harassment, and discrimination. The job of the Labor Secretary is to protect our nation’s most vulnerable workers, including tipped workers. Like the Other NRA, Puzder’s stated positions include total opposition to raising the minimum wage and threats to replace restaurant workers with machines. Quite simply, Puzder is the last person that should fill this role.
We are concerned that Puzder will do the bidding of the Other NRA, an organization that has spent nearly a century keeping restaurant wages abysmally low and workplace conditions inequitable. He will attempt to roll back the many advancements we have made under the Obama Administration, including wage increases, safer workplaces, corporate accountability, and growing support for the movement for One Fair Wage. It is an appalling prospect, if not a surprising one; Puzder’s own company is among the nation’s worst offenders. A recent Labor Department investigation into twenty of America’s largest fast-food brands found over half of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants had at least one wage-and-hour violation.
Puzder is a completely unacceptable choice, and should outrage anyone who values dignity, fairness, and equity in the workplace. It will be a disaster for America’s restaurant workers. It is wholly an insult to women in the restaurant industry. The Puzder nomination is the clearest signal yet that the incoming Trump Administration seeks to exploit the Department of Labor as a platform to implement the Other NRA’s dangerous, anti-worker policies.