Labor groups held rallies at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants across the country Thursday to oppose President-elect Donald Trump‘s nominee to head the Labor Department, CKE Restaurants CEO Andrew Puzder.
The rallies were part of an ongoing effort by the labor unions to paint Puzder, whose company franchises Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, as anti-worker.
The rallies were organized by Fight for $15, an activist group funded and run by the Service Employees International Union. Protests were held in Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Richmond, Va., among other locations. It was not clear how many people participated in the protests and how many of those were employees at the restaurants. An estimated 75,000 people are employed through CKE Restaurant franchises.
“By picking Puzder, Donald Trump made it pretty clear — he’s not taking on the rigged economy. Instead, he wants to rig it up even more,” said Kymiesha Jones, a Richmond Hardee’s worker.
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Labor groups oppose Puzder, an outspoken critic of federal regulations and of the Obama administration’s efforts to expand the reach of labor law enforcement agencies.
Business groups backing Puzder argued that the protests were little more than “deliberate smear campaign.”
“These union front organizations are simply more of the same PR stunts, and as we have seen so many times in the past, most of these protesters are paid union activists, not workers. Furthermore, these protests distract from the real issues at hand for our nation’s leaders – how to create economic growth at all levels, which is the only real solution to income inequality in America,” said Matt Haller, spokesman for the International Franchise Association.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a liberal nonprofit group, released a study Tuesday that said Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. employees reported that they often encountered abusive conditions. A reported 38 percent workers saying they were forced to work off the clock and 32 percent saying they were not paid overtime, the study found. However, officials at two major polling companies told the Washington Examiner that study’s methodology was flawed and it couldn’t be taken as representative of the workers.
“We are not representing ourselves as statisticians,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., told the Washington Examiner when asked about the survey’s methodology at a Tuesday Capitol Hill event to promote it. “What we are giving you is feedback from real people.”
Bloomberg reported Thursday that an analysis of Labor Department enforcement data under the Obama administration found that CKE-affiliated establishments had “among the lowest levels of scrutiny in the fast-food industry as a share of overall stores. And no [Fair Labor Standards Act] violations were found within the handful of cases at corporate-owned stores.”
Only 6 percent of CKE Restaurants are corporate-owned and would be under direct control of company executives such as Puzder. The remainder are franchises, privately owned businesses that rent out the Hardee’s or Carl’s Jr. brands.
Puzder’s first Senate hearing was originally scheduled for next week, but was postponed until next month by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander.
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner