Food and Farm Groups Unite Against Trump's Labor Secretary Pick

© FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
"The choice of Andrew Puzder for secretary of labor is a dangerous one for this country's working families," said one activist who opposes the nominee.

After a chaotic and controversy-stoking first week in office, President Trump still awaits the confirmation of a number of key administration appointees, including Andrew Puzder, the Labor Secretary nominee. The nomination of Puzder, a past fast food CEO who oversaw CKE Restaurants—which includes massive burger chains Carl's Jr. and Hardee's—has been met with significant backlash due in part to employment practices that, according to Vice, includes a "record of opposition to increasing the minimum wage, dispensing mandatory paid overtime, and upholding other workers' rights regulations." Now, a group of 100+ food and agricultural organizations have joined forces to oppose his confirmation.

The 105-member group, which is led by Corporate Accountability International, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Friends of the Earth, and Real Food Media, together represent more than 10 million people across the food system. This week, the coalition sent a scathing letter to Congress urging members to reject Puzder's bid, citing conflicts of interest and a past history of faulty labor practices.

"This nomination represents another in a string of Trump administration appointments that betrays the President-elect's promise to improve the lives of working people," the group writes. The letter also lays out the number of ways Puzder's company has clashed with the Department of Labor in the past, including violations of minimum wage and overtime payment found in 60 percent of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's inspections.

The group also notes that Puzder's deep ties to the fast food industry—and their common suppliers—raises a troubling conflict of interest, noting that his confirmation "would ensure that the interests of the fast food industry... would prevail over the needs of hard-working people in the food system who face some of the highest rates of food insecurity due to low wages and poor working conditions."

A recent investigation by Capital & Main also found that during the time Puzder was CEO, his restaurant group faced more federal employment discrimination lawsuits than any other major fast food company and frequently violated workers' rights.

The women's rights group UltraViolet, meanwhile, released an online campaign that emphasizes Puzder's past history of abusing both women and power, noting that "a full 2/3 of his women employees reported being sexually harassed at work," and pointing out that the nominee penned a 1986 Missouri abortion law that weakened Roe v. Wade.

"The choice of Andrew Puzder for secretary of labor is a dangerous one for this country's working families," says Sriram Madhusoodanan, a campaign director at Corporate Accountability International in a press release. "If President Trump truly wants to 'drain the swamp,' why is he nominating people like Puzder, who have played an outsized role creating the swamp in the first place?"

The calls for action put forth by Madhusoodanan and "the many people and groups who are working for a better food system that provides nutritious food and livable wages," will be taken into account on February 7, 2017, the date Puzder's senate confirmation hearing is slated to begin.

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