February 16, 2017
By Steven Wishnia
Washington, DC - Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, withdrew his name from consideration Feb. 15. His nomination had drawn virtually unanimous opposition from Democrats and labor unions, and his ex-wife’s accusations that he’d beaten her had recently resurfaced.
His withdrawal came the day before the Senate was supposed to hold hearings on his confirmation. CNN had reported that four Republican senators were committed to voting against him, and that another eight might join them.
"The simple truth is that given his relationship to employees at the companies he runs, he was not fit to lead a department responsible for defending workers’ rights," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. "We need a Secretary of Labor who is going to fight to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour and pay equity for women. We don’t need a labor secretary who makes millions while his workers are paid starvation wages.”
Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, the company that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. hamburger chains, was an outspoken foe of raising the minimum wage and expanding the number of workers eligible for overtime. In March 2016, he told Business Insider that robots would be better than humans for some jobs because they never took vacations, showed up late, or filed injury or discrimination lawsuits. In one week in January, according to Mother Jones magazine, workers at CKE franchises filed 34 complaints with the Department of Labor, for wage and hour violations such as paying less than minimum wage, unfair labor practices, and sexual harassment.
“This is a major victory for the Fight for $15,” Darin Brooks, a Hardee’s worker and a member of Raise Up $15 in Durham, N.C., said in a statement. “We rallied outside Puzder’s stores nationwide and showed America how his burger empire was built on low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment, and intimidation.”
The Communications Workers of America said Puzder’s withdrawal “demonstrates the power of grass-roots resistance and mobilizing against corporate greed.” He was an “outrageous pick” to head the agency responsible for promoting “the welfare of wage earners, job seekers and retirees,” it added. “His long record of public statements and action opposing a fair minimum wage, overtime pay and other basic policies that support working families made him an unacceptable choice.”
“Andrew Puzder should have never been nominated to lead a department once headed by Frances Perkins, a true working-class hero,” 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said in a statement. “As we celebrate Puzder’s withdrawal, we should also honor Perkins and the many men and women who dedicated their lives to fight for the minimum wage, equal pay, the 40-hour week and the right to have a voice at work.”
The turning point may have been the resurfacing of his ex-wife’s abuse accusations. In 1988, she’d sued him for $350,000, charging that he’d beaten her badly enough to rupture two discs. In 1990, she withdrew those allegations as part of an agreement to split custody of the couple’s two children, and she later claimed she’d been manipulated by her lawyer. But earlier that year, she’d appeared pseudonymously and in disguise on an Oprah Winfrey Show segment called “High-Class Battered Women.”
“He was an attorney and he knew how to play the system,” she’d said. “Most men who are in positions like that don’t leave marks. The damage that I’ve sustained, you can’t see. It’s permanent, permanent damage. But there’s no mark. And there never was. They never hit you in the face. They’re too smart.”
The tape, reported by Politico in January, was shown privately to senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.