President Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration one day ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing.
“I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity,” Puzder said in a statement, citing the “policies and new thinking” he would have brought to the position.
Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, which includes subsidiaries Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. He had been one of Trump’s more controversial Cabinet nominees. A report released in January revealed that 66 percent of women employed at restaurants owned by Puzder reported being sexually harassed at work — significantly higher than the national average for female fast food restaurant workers, which is 40 percent.
Protesters from Puzder’s restaurants rallied in January behind the “Fight for $15” campaign, which seeks to raise the minimum wage to $15.
Additionally, allegations of domestic abuse from Puzder’s ex-wife recently resurfaced. While the allegations were withdrawn, they added more controversy to Puzder’s shaky platform.
What put Puzder’s nomination in jeopardy even among Republicans was recent news that Puzder and his wife had employed an undocumented immigrant to work as a housekeeper. According to Puzder, he and his wife were not aware of the woman’s undocumented status when they hired her.
“When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status,” he said in a statement at the time.
A few Republicans had publicly voiced their opposition for Puzder. But “a minimum” of 12 Republican senators actually planned to withhold support, a senior Republican anonymously reported to the Washington Post.
Republicans who vocalized their doubts included Sens. Tim Scott (S.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who all said they respected Puzder’s decision.
“I look forward to meeting with a new nominee to lead the Department of Labor,” said Scott.
Murkowski called the situation “a difficult process for [Puzder] and his family.”
Democrats widely praised Puzder’s decision, with some saying Puzder never should have been under consideration.
“Puzder should never have even been nominated to lead the Labor Department, and Senate Republicans clearly recognized this, too,” said Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer. “The fact that someone so anti-labor was even nominated shows how far President Trump is from where he campaigned.”
“From the start, it’s been clear that Puzder is uniquely unqualified to serve as secretary of labor,” said Patty Murray, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said, “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.”
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), chairman of the HELP Committee, said the Senate should be more forgiving.
“He made a mistake,” Alexander said. “And in my view, he discovered it, he reported it, he took responsibility for it. He corrected it. And that’s about all you can do with a mistake. So I evaluate him and his whole life’s work, so I didn’t think that mistake should disqualify him from being a cabinet member.”
Sexual Assault, Wage Theft Allegations
Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) released a January report, “Secretary of Labor Violations?: The Low Road Business Model of CKE Restaurants, Inc.’s Andrew Puzder,” detailing numerous allegations of sexual assault, wage theft, discrimination and other forms of unfair treatment. Red flags raised from the report left many people wondering how Puzder would run the Department of Labor if confirmed.
“Workers at CKE restaurants have spoken of extensive wage and hour violations and excessive rates of sexually harassing behavior from guests and customers associated with a brand that has sought to sexualize women as a hamburger-marketing tool,” the report notes.
Seventeen percent of female employees at Puzder’s restaurants said they have, while at work, been asked to “be more sexy” or wear tighter clothing or makeup. Just 6 percent of female fast food workers nationally reported the same scenario.
Also according to the report, 61 percent of the female employees surveyed said they have experienced “sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions” while at work — more than double the 27 percent of women working in fast food restaurants overall.
In addition to the reports of sexual harassment, employees also alleged wage theft, discrimination, unfair treatment/favoritism by managers and stressful work shifts with no breaks.