North Carolina’s working people are looking to President Donald Trump to put his money where his mouth is on standing up for them, but if his nominee for labor secretary is any guide, it looks like those campaign promises were nothing but a big whopper.
In a surprise move last month, President Trump nominated fast-food burger CEO, Andy Puzder, to head up the U.S. Department of Labor, the federal agency tasked with promoting the welfare of America’s wage earners and improving the health and safety of their working conditions. Unfortunately, Puzder’s career has largely been spent trying to destroy this mission – a fact that likely leaves North Carolina’s workers in a pickle when it comes to their workplace safety, wages, and opportunities for advancement into the middle class.
That’s why North Carolina’s senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, should look outside the bun for the nation’s next labor secretary and seriously question Puzder’s nomination.
Bad burger puns aside, Puzder’s nomination really does represent a serious betrayal of the promises candidate Trump made on the campaign trail to stand up for the interests of working class North Carolinians – promises that Sens. Burr and Tillis would do well to remember.
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As CEO of Hardees and Carl’s Junior, Puzder built his company on the backs of low-wage workers. He repeatedly refused to pay his frontline managers and workers enough to make ends meet – in fact, he even refused to pay his workers what he promised. Puzder’s companies have faced dozens of fines from the California Department of Labor and a growing list of class action lawsuits focused on his company’s unwillingness to pay his employees overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.
In 2014, for example, a court found that Puzder had shortchanged his employees by almost $20 million in unpaid overtime wages.
An astonishing 60 percent of the official investigations into Puzder’s labor practices have found that his company clearly violated workplace safety and wage and hour laws. These are the laws that provide the basic, historically accepted legal minimums that employers must meet in order to ensure that their workplaces are fair and do not present a threat to health and well-being. They are also among the laws Puzder would be enforcing if confirmed as labor secretary.
Not only has Puzder made his fortune by cutting corners on his employees’ health, safety, and wages, he told Business Insider last year that he was considering firing his human employees and replacing them with automated systems, because “(Machines are) always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”
Just imagine – having a man who kills American jobs as secretary of labor in the administration of a president who campaigned on bringing jobs back to America.
Andy Puzder represents the absolute worst kind of employer; the kind who puts his workers’ wages, health, and safety on the backburner. The secretary of labor is supposed to protect workers, but if Andy Puzder gets the job, all they’ll get is a big nothing-burger when it comes to getting the wages they’ve earned and the workplace-safety protections they deserve.
Allan Freyer is the Director of the Workers’ Rights Project at the North Carolina Justice Center.