Fight for $15 Supporters Oppose Puzder, Workers File Claims Against His Restaurant Chain

Fight for 15 members, many of them employees of the fast food chains owned by Andrew Puzder, Republican President Donald Trump’s nominee as U.S. Labor Secretary, hit the streets in 31 cities on Jan. 26 to urge citizens and senators to reject the fast-food magnate.

Meanwhile, another 33 workers from Puzder’s Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants took the legal route, filing wage theft, labor law-breaking and sexual harassment claims against supervisors in those establishments on the same day.

The protests and suits mark an escalation in the battle to halt Puzder, a multimillionaire owner of those two chains and the Red Burrito and Green Burrito chains, from taking over the Labor Department. DOL enforces laws, including minimum wage and overtime pay laws and job safety and health laws, that Puzder openly hates.

Fight for 15, a nationwide movement of low wage workers that includes huge numbers of fast food workers, plans more anti-Puzder protests on Feb. 1, the day before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s scheduled hearing on his nomination. 

Fight for 15, which the Service Employees and other unions back, is also urging its members and their allies to call or e-mail senators to reject Puzder.

“While millionaire Andy Puzder takes his corporate jet between speaking gigs to accuse voters of being lazy and entitled, his workers at Hardee's are struggling to put food on the table,” Fight for 15 said, in one of many tweets. “This man is the embodiment of everything wrong with the rigged economy. He must be stopped. Tell your senators to reject Andy Puzder for Secretary of Labor.”

Four workers at Puzder chain restaurants, in claims filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, said they were sexually harassed on the job. Another 22 filed wage and hour violation claims with labor departments in Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, California, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Alabama and both Carolinas.  And seven workers filed labor law-breaking – formally called unfair labor practices – charges with regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board.

In their suits, female workers described managers who forced them into unwanted kisses and other actions, while a gay worker in Oakland, Calif., was sexually harassed by his manager. Workers in several cases around the nation said they had not been paid in a month.

“If Andy Puzder can’t be trusted to pay his workers what they’ve earned, why should we expect him to enforce laws meant to protect working Americans?” Angel Gallegos of Los Angeles asked, in a statement on a pro-worker website.