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Labor unions and their allies have a beef, so to speak, with the Trump administration’s nominee to be Secretary of Labor, Andy Puzder, who has been the CEO of CKE Restaurants. Mr. Puzder has spoken out against onerous and ill-considered regulations over the years, and his public statements about issues like labor regulation in particular have made him a prime target for union activists who are using the nomination as a vehicle to draw attention to themselves.
The result has been a steady stream of narrative-spinning as the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions prepares to hold its confirmation hearing for Mr. Puzder. For example, as this blog reported not long ago, a labor front group known as the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) released a politically-motivated and less than thoroughly researched “report” on January 10 criticizing working conditions at CKE Restaurants.
Another tactic groups like ROC employ involves highlighting reports of investigations by government agencies. Thus it comes as little surprise to see another labor front group—Fight for $15—promoting a story about roughly three dozen workers who, conveniently, just lodged complaints against CKE restaurants with various government agencies.
Indeed, Fight for $15 itself reportedly had a hand in the filing of said complaints. Still, the group’s announcement yielded the headlines it was looking for, including in the left-of-center publication Salon, which claimed that labor violations “flourished” at CKE. “Flourish” might refer to a journalistic style, but it doesn’t seem to apply to CKE. For example, Fight for $15 trumpeted the fact that OSHA cited CKE restaurants 98 times while Puzder was CEO. But this was over 16 years, meaning that, on average, CKE was cited all of 6 times a year spread over 2,769 restaurants. Most of the restaurants are also franchised and not under the direct control of CKE executives. Moreover, not all OSHA citations are equal—for example an employer can receive a citation for failure to display a poster.
This, however, is typical of Fight for $15, which is throwing everything against the wall and hoping something will stick. As this blog noted before, much of this has less to do with worker dissatisfaction within the restaurant industry than dissatisfaction that unions and their allies are poised to lose their influence at the Department of Labor and are less than happy about it.