Trumka: Trump's Labor Pick 'Disrespects' Fast-Food Workers, 'Calling Them Unskilled'

A Carl's Jr. employee serves a customer through a drive-thru window in San Diego on Sept. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Sam Hodgson)

The head of the AFL-CIO said one of the reasons why CKE Restaurants CEO Anthony Puzder is unfit to be Labor secretary is because he refers to his fast-food workers as unskilled labor.

Union boss Richard Trumka joined a media conference call with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Thursday about the Puzder nomination, which Murray promised would result in “a very vigorous and thorough conformation hearing.”

Murray called the nomination “a dangerous and alarming example of [President-elect Trump] rigging his cabinet against working families.”

“Mr. Puzder is the classic example of a millionaire CEO who nickels and dimes workers while raking in profits for himself. He has spoken out against increasing the minimum wage. He opposes President Obama’s updated overtime rule. He is dismissive of workplace discrimination issues. He appears comfortable reinforcing harmful stereotypes about women, and I could go on,” the senator said.

Trumka said “selection of a fast-food CEO who routinely violates labor law as the head of the Labor Department betrays the spirit of the campaign” that Trump ran with a focus on the working class “and threatens to leaves working people more vulnerable to abusive employers.”

“There’s no shame in working in the fast-food industry, nor in leading a major fast-food restaurant chain, yet Mr. Puzder’s actions show he’s used his position and authority to enrich himself at the expense of working people by violating labor law,” Trumka accused. “Now, I’m not talking about arcane technicalities. Listen to this. An investigation found wage theft at more than half of the Carl’s Jr., Hardees that I checked. More than half.”

He was likely referring to a September analysis by Bloomberg BNA that found nearly 60 percent of the Labor Department’s Labor Standards Act investigations into CKE restaurant locations uncovered at least one labor violation. Only Pizza Hut, Jack-in-the-Box and Chik-Fil-A, though, have a better labor investigation rating.

Puzder said earlier this year that “there’s no way in the world that scooping ice cream is worth $15 an hour, and no one ever intended it would ever be something that a person could support a family on… those jobs just don’t produce that kind of value like a construction job or a manufacturing job does.”

“The labor of workers at the Carl’s Jr. and Hardees restaurants has made Mr. Puzder very, very rich, yet he disrespects those same workers, calling them unskilled,” Trumka said.

“He opposes a living wage. He opposes raising the minimum wage. He says overtime pay is a barrier to the middle class. That doesn’t even make sense and it leaves me wondering if Mr. Puzder has received his appointment from Mr. Trump to achieve the exact opposite of what the Labor Department was created to do. And that’s a very serious question. It’s one we intend to get to the bottom of,” the union boss added.

Trumka has asked Puzder to “be fully transparent and to release the franchisees’ contracts and data on CKE labor policies and practices concerning its franchise relationship nationwide.”

Saru Jayaraman, co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, said on the call that her group had been speaking with more than 100 CKE employees and “found lots of workers, dozens of workers telling us about working for more than eight hours without any kind of break — without a lunch break, without a 10-minute break, because there’s just not enough staff.”

“Lots of workers reporting that they’re working off the clock, in Carl’s Jr. in particular workers saying that they were so penalized if they hit overtime that they would just clock out so that they wouldn’t make overtime and keep working without being paid. Lots of workers working while sick, which is a public health disaster,” she said. “…Sexual harassment reports from Carl’s Jr. very, very disturbing. We heard from women telling us that managers would grab them in the breast, in the back. We heard customers who repeatedly came in and made inappropriate comments and the managers would do nothing about it.”

Jayaraman said she would have “a lot more data to share from Carl’s Jr. workers in particular, but I will do that at a later point.”