January 10, 2017

Senators Warren, Murray, Stabenow Host Forum with Workers Mistreated by Puzder

17 Senators heard testimony from current and former Carl's Jr. employees about their experiences working for Puzder's company

Washington, DC -Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.), Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA.), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and 14 other Senators participated in a forum with witnesses who provided information on Department of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder - including fast food workers at Puzder's businesses and employment experts.

The 17 Senators who participated in the forum included: Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Click here for copies of the witnesses' testimonies and the Senators' opening statements.

"The stories from Mr. Puzder's employees are awful: workers are underpaid, their wages are stolen, and they work in unsafe workplaces," said Senator Warren. "President-Elect Trump repeatedly promised during his campaign that he would look out for America's workers. But his nomination of Mr. Puzder is an insult to the working men and women of America."

"On issue after issue, Andrew Puzder has made clear he will do what's best for big businesses like his own at the expense of working families," said Senator Murray, Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee. "Mr. Puzder has spoken out against an increase in the minimum wage, expanded overtime protections, and has even talked about replacing workers with robots because robots don't need breaks or get sick. All of that makes a lot of sense coming from a millionaire CEO who profits off of squeezing workers, but it's very concerning coming from a potential Secretary of Labor-and helps make very clear why he is a uniquely unqualified choice to lead the Department."

"Millions of men and women in Michigan are working hard and playing by the rules. I won't support a nominee for Secretary of Labor who won't stand up for them," said Senator Stabenow. "Unfortunately, Andrew Puzder has spent his whole career opposing higher wages and overtime pay for his workers. While he has made himself rich, his employees struggle to make ends meet. This isn't the right person to be America's top champion for workers."

The forum featured the following witnesses:

Roberto Ramirez, Carl's Jr., (CA)

Roberto has worked in the fast food industry for over 20 years, mostly at Carl's Jr. He regularly worked off the clock and had one of his paychecks stolen by his manager. When he complained, his hours were cut and ultimately he was fired.

Laura McDonald, General Manager at Carl's Jr. from 1988-2012 (Tucson, AZ)

Ms. McDonald has routinely worked 15 hours of unpaid overtime in a week and is often called in to work during vacation days. She worked at the company before and after it was taken over by Mr. Puzder and has said that the wage theft accelerated under Mr. Puzder. She ultimately left the job after the stress and physical work required her to take some medical leave. She is one of the employees who is the subject of a class action lawsuit against CKE related to unpaid overtime.

Lupe Garcia Guzman, Graveyard Shift Leader at Carl's Jr. (Las Vegas, NV)

Ms. Guzman is a 47-year-old single mother of 6 who has been working at Carl's for 7 years. She makes $8.75 an hour and has to rely on SNAP, Medicaid, and public housing assistance to supplement her meager wages. Because of rising costs since she began working at Carl's 7 years ago, she is having even more difficulty making ends meet than when she started.

Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project

Ms. Owens is an experienced workers' rights advocate who has played a large role in campaigns to increase the federal minimum wage and in similar state and local campaigns across the country. She is an expert in labor market research, living and minimum wages, and workplace equity issues.

Last Thursday, 23 Senators wrote a letter to Chairman Alexander requesting that Puzder's nomination hearing include witnesses who could provide the Committee with information about Mr. Puzder's business practices and treatment of workers. Chairman Alexander promptly rejected their request. Given the Department of Labor's role in setting and enforcing workplace safety and pay standards for all workers, the Senators hosted this forum so that the American people have relevant information on the impact of Puzder's nomination to lead this agency.