By Brenda Flanagan
A coalition of workers’ unions rallied on the steps of Newark City Hall earlier and marched to oppose the Trump administration’s Labor secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder. Organized labor found a lot not to like about the fast food burger baron who owns CKE Restaurant chains like Hardee’s.
“U.S. senators, stand up to this guy! Get some chutzpah! Stand up and say no to Andrew Puzder! No, no, no, no,” said Kevin Brown, New Jersey area director for SEIU Local 32BJ.
In the end, the senators didn’t get the chance. With at least four Republicans opposed, GOP leadership did the math. This afternoon Puzder said he would withdraw his name from consideration. The capitulation followed a long and contentious campaign against his nomination.
“He doesn’t believe in workers’ rights. And he wants to destroy all the work that the labor movement and working people have done over the years and the progress and gains we’ve made,” said CWA Local 1037 Staff Representative Mauro Camporeale.
Workers claimed Puzder didn’t feel their desperation.
“I am here to demand that we get paid $15 an hour because we deserve it. We are hard-working people and we earn the money we are asking for,” said Juana Fuentes, a worker at Port Logistics.
Puzder drew fire not just for opposing a $15 minimum wage and for employing an undocumented housekeeper. He was also widely condemned for cultivating a toxic from-the-top-down corporate culture that spawned multiple unfair labor, wage and sexual harassment complaints. “When they complain, complaints are ignored and managers don’t respond,” noted the National Women’s Law Center.
“A man that’s degraded women, a man that has none of the values that we have as working Americans. People have to start resisting and have to step up to the plate here and we have to fight for those who fight for themselves,” said Ray Greaves, chairman of ATU New Jersey.
Critics pointed to restaurant ads that the now-defunct Gawker dubbed the “slutburger genre.”
But Puzder’s company in 2011 defiantly defended their ads, stating, “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.” The website constructed to promote Puzder’s nomination listed what it called facts, like: “93 percent of female CKE employees agree that they feel safe and respected at work; 92 percent of CKE employees agree that CKE is a great place to work; CKE has the third-lowest wage-and-hour violations rate among 20 major fast food restaurants.”
Puzder did have his supporters.
“Mr. Puzder has created thousands of jobs, he successfully turned around a failing business and that’s the kind of attitude we need. How can we succeed here in the U.S. and create jobs because — at the end of the day — we need an American president that stands up for the American workers,” said Sen. Mike Doherty.
In the end, it apparently wasn’t enough. Labor groups welcomed the news of Puzder’s withdrawal. New Jersey Working Families Alliance said workers across the nation relish being heard.