February 14, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY - The prospect of having fast food kingpin Andy Puzder confirmed as U.S. Labor Secretary during Senate confirmation hearings scheduled later this week, has low-wage workers across the country feeling sick to their stomaches — and the nausea is even worse among hardworking women forced to depend on tipped wages to eke out a living.
As head of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurant chains, Puzder, 66, opposed raising the minimum wage, generated numerous wage theft claims, wracked up a raft of safety violations, and generally demonstrated an overall contempt for the employees who’ve helped make him a multi-millionaire many times over.
But presiding over fast food joints that have garnered a ton of sexual harassment charges, and declaring, as he did a couple of years ago, that he likes “beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis” in his commercials — has many convinced that Puzder is the last person on the entire planet who should be charged with upholding the rights of American workers.
"Andy Puzder is an appalling nominee for Labor Secretary and unfit to protect America's workers,” Councilmember Carlos Menchaca said in a statement following an anti-Puzder rally held outside a McDonald’s at Broadway and Thomas Street on Monday. “His nomination exposes this administration's passion for crony capitalism. Wealthy Puzder leads firms that steal wages, cheat and exploit workers, denigrate women, and insult all hard working people. His nomination is no surprise. It is also unacceptable.”
Recently, the Restaurant Opportunities Center — ROC-United — surveyed some 500 workers at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants and found just how heinous the job at those outlets has become for working women and girls.
“Seventy-percent of young women in his company had experienced severe sexual harassment,” ROC-United Co-Executive Director Saru Jayaraman said this past Friday. “Meaning, there were young women who were told by customers walking in the door, ‘You don't look like the women in those sexy ads — but I'lll take you anyway.’ And then followed them our into the parking lot and grabbed them — young girls 16-, 17- and 18-years-old. This is the man who comes straight out of the restaurant association, and who is now going to be leading our Department of Labor.”
In New York State, the overwhelming majority of restaurant workers are women who consistenly feel compelled to ignore outrageously boorish behavior and even outright sexual harassment out of fear of jeopardizing their tips.
And yet, when the state recently moved to set some workers on a slow course to a $15 an hour minimum wage, those already abused restaurant workers were left out and forced to continue languishing under a sub-minimum wage that is now 66-percent of the regular minimum wage, according to Jayaraman.
Seven other states have now moved to scrap the sub-minimum wage and replace it with a uniform minimum wage for all workers.
Advocates for New York’s 400,000 tipped workers are pushing lawmakers in the State Legislature this week to also get behind “one fair wage,” while simultaneously calling on the Senate Committee Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to reject Puzder’s nomination as U.S. Labor Secretary.
“It's a really dire time for New York workers and their families, especially immigrant workers,” Paul Sonn, general counsel for the National Employment Law Project, said last week. “They’re under attack by the Trump administration, and by the Republican Congress. This is a time, therefore, where we really need New York to be a progressive leader to both push forward with new protections to fill the gap for struggling workers and families - and, certainly, not to be complicit in rolling back the protections that we already have.”
The federal tipped minimum wage stands at just $2.13.
Hearings for Donald Trump's widely-derided nominee for U.S. Labor Secretary have been postponed four times. The next hearing is scheudled for this Thursday, February 16.