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Pudzer is bad for workers

Ababuti Ogalla, Logan Airport worker | 1/27/2017, 6 a.m.
While TV pundits debate the political implications of Trump's pick for secretary of Labor and financial analysts make predictions of ...
Logan Airport worker Ababuti Ogallla, a member of SEIU Local 32BJ, speaks during a conference of airport workers held in Washington D.C. recently. Photo: Courtesy SEIU 32BJ

While TV pundits debate the political implications of Trump’s pick for secretary of labor and financial analysts make predications of how the stock market will react, I worry how it will impact my family and millions of other low-wage workers who Andrew Puzder has deemed not worthy of a $15 minimum wage, overtime or sick pay.

As the CEO of CKE Restaurants, Puzder makes 294 times what an average person earning the minimum wage makes in a year. So how could he possibly understand my struggle?

I left my native country of Ethiopia looking for opportunity and security. I found security, which I’m thankful for. I work two jobs at Logan Airport, in passenger services and as a breakfast cook. But I still must rely on taxpayers to get health care for my family. We’ve been fighting for respect and $15 but what I hear from Puzder is that people like me don’t work hard enough to make $15 an hour. I would like to invite him to join us at Logan to see how hard people work. Nobody is asking for a free lunch. We just want to be able to pay the bills and help our families. But that seem like too much for Puzder.

Consider his views and track record in the fast-food industry and you’ll understand my concerns. Under Puzder’s leadership at CKE Restaurants, the company that runs Hardees and Carl Jr.’s fast food chains, wage and hour officials at the Department of Labor found multiple violations in those two chains since 2009. That’s alarming, especially when you consider how little fast-food workers are paid. Asking Puzder, whose company has a troubling history of wage theft violations, to crack down on this kind of abuse is a conflict of interest. It’s like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

There are other red flags. Puzder told the Los Angeles Times in 2016, “There’s no way in the world that scooping ice cream is worth $15 an hour, and no one ever intended it would ever be something a person could raise a family on.” Does he sound like a champion of working people?

Puzder’s history and anti-worker beliefs should give us all pause and raise questions about his ability to objectively fulfill the Department of Labor’s mission which 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.”

As federal lawmakers consider whether to approve Puzder’s nomination, I ask them to remember my family and the tens of millions of other Americans whose lives hang in the balance if they choose Puzder as the next secretary of the Labor Department.