Groups Representing 10 Million People Oppose Fast Food CEO for Labor Secretary
More than 100 food and agriculture organizations, representing more than 10 million people across the food system, sent a letter to Capitol Hill Monday urging senators to oppose the confirmation of fast food CEO Andrew Puzder as secretary of labor.
This clarion call from the nation's farmers, food-system workers and public health advocates, led by Corporate Accountability International, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Friends of the Earth and Real Food Media, comes on the heels of growing opposition and controversy surrounding Donald Trump's pick to head the Department of Labor.
7 Ways #Trump’s First Week in the White House Was a Complete Disaster https://t.co/7eUE9BL8nr #TrumpWatch @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485713210.0
A recent Capital & Main investigation found that under Puzder's watch as CEO, CKE Restaurants faced more federal employment discrimination lawsuits than any other major fast food chain. The corporation violated workers' rights, including wage theft and failed to provide employees with overtime pay.
"Andrew Puzder is dangerous for working families and bad for our food system," said Jose Oliva, co-director of Food Chain Workers Alliance. "The country needs a labor secretary who will protect working families, not corporate interests. Puzder's track record as CEO of CKE Restaurants proves that he should be kept as far away from Washington as possible."
The letter calls the nomination of Andrew Puzder a betrayal of the president's promise to "improve the lives of working people" and urges senators to reject Puzder's nomination. It expresses grave concern with the conflicts of interest between Puzder's tenure at CKE Restaurants and the responsibilities of a labor secretary, including the fact that:
- Puzder's company has faced numerous Department of Labor violations for failing to pay the minimum wage or overtime.
- Sixty percent of inspections at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants found labor law violations.
- Puzder has opposed both raising the minimum wage and enforcing overtime rules and mandatory sick leave.
"Putting an outspoken critic of worker protections and a living wage in charge of the Department of Labor is straight out of an Orwellian nightmare," said Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and technology at Friends of the Earth. "The Senate must reject the nomination of Puzder if it cares at all about the basic rights of working people."
Since Puzder's nomination, advocacy groups have documented numerous workers' rights violations under the watch of the former fast food CEO. For instance, research released by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United reveals a long history of labor violations at CKE Restaurants during Puzder's tenure. Surveys from hundreds of CKE employees reveal that women working at CKE reported more than 1.5 times the rate of sexual harassment as reported for the industry overall.
"The choice of Andrew Puzder for secretary of labor is a dangerous one for this country's working families," said Sriram Madhusoodanan, Value Meal campaign director at Corporate Accountability International. "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?"
In January, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's workers joined the Fight for $15 in opposing Puzder's nomination, taking part in actions in more than two dozen cities. Widespread opposition and questions surrounding Puzder's company's labor practices have prompted Congress to postpone the nomination hearing until February.
"Across the country, millions of people are demanding real change when it comes to our food system and the people who work in it," said Anna Lappé, founder of Real Food Media. "Our Department of Labor must reflect those people—not corporate bottom lines. It is unacceptable to nominate someone who has such a callous attitude to the struggles of working families to head the labor department."
The organizations signed onto the letter represent a broad cross-section of the food and labor movement, uniting groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Workers' Center of Central New York, among many others. The unprecedented nature of this coalition underscores the unique threat Puzder faces to people advocating for environmental protection, workers' rights and healthy food.
Puzder's senate confirmation hearing begins Feb. 7, 2017.
California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.
High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.
Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.
California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.
As reported by AccuWeather:
In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
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