Farm Forward Joins Coalition in Opposition to Trump’s Nomination for Secretary of Labor

Farm Forward believes that a sustainable and just food system is one that treats animals and humans with dignity. We’re facing a new administration whose agricultural advisory committee will include outspoken opponents of wage reform and animal welfare policies. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we approach our advocacy in strategic ways, building new alliances and supporting efforts to improve the food system for both animals and people. Our latest effort is joining a coalition of organizations—including those representing workers and the environment—to oppose the nomination of Andrew Puzder as President-elect Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Labor.

The U.S. Department of Labor exists to protect the rights of working people, in part by ensuring employers follow the law. As CEO of CKE restaurants, the parent company of fast food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Mr. Puzder has spent the last 16 years overseeing a fast food chain notorious for violating basic wage and hour laws.1 

At any given time, there are about 3.5 million fast food workers in the U.S. They typically work for minimum wage without medical benefits or the right to unionize. Fast food workers also suffer one of the highest injury rates of any employment sector, and are statistically more likely than police officers to be murdered while working.2 Paul Secunda, Director of the Labor and Employment Law Program at Marquette University has voiced concern that Puzder has taken advantage of the fact that fast food workers are a vulnerable population that is easy to abuse:

“They are usually at the bottom of the pay scale, they usually don’t have the sophistication to know their rights under the law, and it’s hard for them to be collective in their approach because they’re moving around so much… It’s really easy to manipulate them and exploit them, and that’s what we’ve seen,” said Secunda.

Even within a dangerous industry CKE stands out. Since 2006, workplace health and safety violations have been found in 57% of investigations at CKE restaurants. A new report released by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United)—a nonprofit that advocates for restaurant workers’ rights—surveyed over 500 CKE restaurants employees not only found that close to a third of the workers had experienced a form of wage theft, but that two-thirds of female workers experienced sexual harassment at work.3 The rate of sexual harassment across the fast food industry is high— 40% of female workers report some form of unwanted contact, but ROC United argues that the 66% reporting rate found among CKE employees is “disturbing.” Given this track record Puzder is in no way qualified to occupy a position that wields so much power over the most vulnerable of our workforce.

During his years as a fast food CEO, Puzder has made more money than any of his ordinary employees could ever dream of. According to Institute for Policy Studies analysis of the most recent data, Puzder has made as much as $10 million per year in total compensation. Special executive “perks” made up just a small portion of this pay, and yet these rewards dramatically illustrate the challenge of Puzder’s labor policy positions. For example: Puzder opposes mandatory sick leave policies for workers and wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, he himself has enjoyed huge reimbursement checks from his company for medical and dental costs — above and beyond his regular employer-provided health insurance benefits. In just one year, these reimbursements totaled an astounding $61,000. In contrast, only 9% of CKE non-managerial staff have access to health-care through their employer.4

And if that isn’t enough, he directly supports the proliferation of factory farms. Fast food chains are the primary drivers for higher demand of the cheapest, and therefore factory farmed animal products. Fast food restaurants could not subsist without factory farms. This means that Puzder literally would not have an income without the suffering inherent to this modern day method of food production. Our food system is complex and if we are to end the suffering of farmed animals, we must consider the roles of those in power because the lives of millions of fast food workers and animals are on the line.

An indepth look at the treatment of poultry plant workers this year by Oxfam America revealed the severity of worker abuses in the industrial agriculture system. Their comprehensive report, “Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken,” highlights the labor and wage abuses inherent in today’s large scale industrial poultry industry.5 The increasing demand for cheap chicken fuels an unbalanced system—one that is rife with the abuse of power—that creates the suffering of both factory workers and animals alike. The poultry industry is booming. Consumer demand is growing and profits are climbing. Executive compensation is soaring at the cost of both humans and animals. The buying power that fast food chains, like Puzder’s Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., wield could ostensibly shift our industrialized food system to one that is more humane and sustainable. However, this would come at the expense of their profits. Puzder and CKE restaurants exemplify the fast food industry’s blind abandon of dignity, sustainability, and respect for the lives of workers and animals. We must vigorously oppose Puzder’s nomination both ethically and morally as Secretary of Labor since he has made millions of dollars at the expense of these lives.

We believe as Secretary of Labor Mr. Puzder would continue to support the interests of the fast food industry—and its big meat and food industry suppliers—that would prevail over the needs of hard-working people in the food system. Fast food companies couldn’t exist without the products that come from animals raised on factory farms. His confirmation would ensure that the unnecessary suffering of farmed animals on factory farms continues, for his own profit. We oppose Andrew Puzder because he doesn’t represent the interests of workers or animals.

We need you now more than ever. Will you join us in our opposition to Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor as we fight for a more just and sustainable food system that treats the land, farmers and animals with respect? Fill out this quick form to let your Senators know you care.

Oppose Puzder for Secretary of Labor

Help us change the way our nation eats and farms. Share this on Facebook and Twitter and let others know you care about this nomination, and that they should, too!

  1. Kira Lerner and Alice Ollstein, “The CEO of a chain that underpays and mistreats workers is about to lead the Labor Department, 1/4/2017, Thinkprogress, available here.
  2.  Mason, Caleb. “The Fast Food Jungle.” In These Times, April 30, 2001, available here.
  3. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, “Secretary of Labor Violations: The Low Road Business Model of CKE Restaurants’ Andrew Puzder” Report, 1/10/2017, available here.
  4. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, “Secretary of Labor Violations: The Low Road Business Model of CKE Restaurants’ Andrew Puzder” Report, 1/10/2017, available here.
  5. Oxfam America, “Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken” Report, 10/26/2015, available here.

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