AFL-CIO says 'power of collective action' defeated fast food barron
Many trade unionists in the USA have a ‘spring in their step’ today after learning that Donald Trump’s nominee for US Labour Secretary Andrew Pudzer withdrew his nomination when he recognised the uphill climb he was facing on Capitol Hill.
Pudzer is the CEO of fast food chain giant CKE Restaurants (which own Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s outlets) and was due to appear before the Senate health, education, labour and pensions committee today.
Pudzer’s nomination faced opposition from unions, progressive groups, Democrats and even some Republicans.
The US Department of Labour website states that its mission is 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.”
Puzder’s record showed he would likely fall foul of this mission statement, since he has done the exact opposite of what it requires.
Puzder has fought against workers’ rights; argued against increases in minimum wages; argued for replacing workers with robots and ‘showed disdain for his own employees – the very people who helped make him a multi-millionaire’, according to Sarah Baker who led the vetting team in the White House under Obama.
It transpires that Puzder employed an ‘undocumented immigrant’ and never paid taxes – and he would have been responsible for wage and working hours standards, benefits and providing protection for workers!
Adverts for his Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s outlets have been described as ‘pornographic’ and ‘sexist’, depicting scantily clad women in bikinis eating burgers. Pudzer naturally disagreed, calling the adverts ‘American’.
Richard Trumka, president of the US union umbrella organization the AFL-CIO, says ‘the power of collective action’ brought Pudzer down.
Unions and progressive groups had organized demonstrations against Pudzer since his nomination was announced, with a remarkable degree of success.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), staged protests around the country, the largest outside of CKE’s St Louis headquarters.
Mindful of the blue collar support for Trump among their own members, unions made Puzder the focus of a campaign to portray Trump as a tool for corporate interests who favours low wages and exploitation.
Thomas Perez, the former US Secretary of Labour who is in the running to lead the Democratic National Committee, called Pudzer a ‘frequent flyer defendant – someone for whom we had a steady diet of wage and hour cases’.
“When you call your workers the ‘the worst of the worst,’ [as Pudzer has done] that’s no way to earn or command respect,” Perez said.
This decision is good news. But as a US friend and a senior union official told me: ‘Who knows who Trump will bring forward next? The CEO of Burger King?’
Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite responsible for manufacturingSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.