Equal Pay Today expresses deep concerns with President Trump's Labor Secretary Nominee

On January 25, 2017, Equal Pay Today! submitted a letter of concern on the nomination of Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. 

On behalf of Equal Pay Today, we are writing to express our deep concern with President Donald Trump’s nominee for Department of Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder. Mr. Puzder’s professional record calls into question his fitness to serve as this nation’s chief champion of workers. While we recognize and respect each President’s right to appoint nominees of his or — one day — her choosing, we also recognize, respect and rely on the Senate’s responsibility to provide advice and consent on those nominees as a key tenet of the balance of power. As a result, we are compelled to add our voice to the chorus of individuals and organizations encouraging you to evaluate carefully and with a critical eye Mr. Puzder’s record, conflicts, temperament, and commitment to the mission of the Department of Labor.

Equal Pay Today! is an innovative collaboration of women’s legal and workers’ rights organizations, working at the local, state and federal level to close the gender wage gap and engage new and diverse constituencies in the fight for equal pay. We have members in nearly every region of the country and six state projects in California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Washington State. Understanding that many factors contribute to the gender wage gap, we focus on combatting pay discrimination, pay secrecy, occupational segregation, pregnancy and caregiver discrimination, wage theft and an inadequate minimum wage. To this end, it is of paramount importance to us that the Secretary of Labor be a champion of these issues on behalf of women workers and the families and communities who depend on them.

After reviewing his record, we are concerned that far from a champion, Mr. Puzder appears to be indifferent, dismissive, or at odds with the needs of America’s workers on a range of issues. This includes those who work for his company, CKE Restaurant Holdings (CKE). Chief amongst our concerns, however, are his positions on the policies and laws that impact the gender wage gap and women’s economic security.

Mr. Puzder is hostile to laws that would prevent wage theft, raise the minimum wage, and provide sick leave – all of which would help close the gender wage gap. Women, including many working and single mothers, comprise nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers and nearly two-thirds of tipped workers. We also know that wage theft due to wage and hour violations disproportionately impacts women. As a result, raising the minimum wage, including for tipped workers, and enforcing and improving wage and hour laws, including expanding overtime pay, are critical to closing the gender wage gap. Moreover, these policies are overwhelmingly popular amongst the American people, regardless of political affiliation. Polls have also shown that a majority of small business owners are also supportive of gradual minimum wage increases. Unfortunately, Mr. Puzder does not appear to agree. Over the years, he has opposed raising the minimum wage and extending overtime protections.

Moreover, under Mr. Puzder’s leadership as CEO, CKE has been a repeat and egregious violator of wage and hour laws and other workplace laws, from equal employment opportunity laws to occupational health and safety laws. Indeed, a recent investigation found that during Mr. Puzder’s tenure, CKE has been hit with more federal employment discrimination lawsuits than other major hamburger food chains, including Burger King and McDonalds. Many of the laws his company violated are laws that, as Labor Secretary, Mr. Puzder would be charged with enforcing. How can the American people have confidence that he would enforce nationally what he could not or would not enforce within his own company?

Mr. Puzder is also a strong critic of paid sick leave laws, despite the fact that these laws are overwhelmingly popular amongst the American people. Given his position, it is difficult to see him as a credible enforcer of the Labor Department’s rule requiring federal contractors to provide their employees earned paid sick days – days that can be used to address illness, or domestic violence and sexual assault.

Mr. Puzder does not appear to possess the temperament of a leader who is pro-worker, a requirement of the Labor Secretary. Mr. Puzder’s statements about “beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis” are well known, but less known and perhaps more troubling are his extended remarks on CKE’s hyper-sexualized ads, in which he reflects on his influence as a leader. He noted, “I used to hear, ‘brands take on the personality of the CEO.’ And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.” With respect to workers, he once noted that 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.” Worse, in 2011, he disrespectfully characterized his own employees, noting “in the employment pool, you’re hiring the best of the worst. … And at Hardee’s it was so bad, we were hiring the worst of the worst and hoping they would stay.” Even allowing room for differences in personality, these are not the words and tone of a CEO who respects and wants to inspire and protect the totality of his workforce, which includes women, persons of color, persons with disabilities, people over the age of 40, people with children, people who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, humans. These are not the words of an advocate for women who wants to close the gender wage gap. And these are certainly not the words of a servant-leader who desires

’to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.’

Nonetheless, this is the mission of the Department of Labor; this is the charge of the Labor Secretary.

As you prepare for Mr. Puzder’s confirmation hearings and consider his fitness to serve in this capacity, we ask you to review carefully his record, and ask whether this is the record and the personality you want to see embodied at our nation’s Labor Department. We look forward to watching his confirmation hearing and robust questioning in February, to hearing more from current and former CKE employees, to reading his responses to your “Questions for Record” and to generally learning more about the man behind the record and his vision for the Department, but, based on what we know thus far, we do not yet believe he would be a champion for workers. That is a concern for us; that is a concern for your constituents; and therefore we hope that is a concern for you.