Fight for $15, low-wage workers protest Trump's Labor Secretary pick

Jan 13, 2017
Originally published on January 12, 2017 8:40 pm

About a dozen low-wage workers rallied in front of the Rochester Federal Building Thursday to demand President-elect Donald Trump drop his pick for U.S. Secretary of Labor: minimum wage critic and Carls Jr. and Hardee's boss, Andy Puzder.

“I think what we can expect from him is an all-out assault on worker’s rights and the livelihood of wageworkers in this country,” said Colin O’Malley of Metro Justice, who organized the local protest that was part of a nation-wide movement.

Puzder has said in an interview that he opposes raising the minimum wage. The fast-food mogul also said he would like to replace workers with machines because they "never take a vacation, never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case."

O'Malley said Trump’s choice speaks volumes.

“As much as he may have spoken to the working class during his campaign, he clearly represents major business interest and he’s making it very clear in every one of his nominations.”

Twenty-three-year-old Zakary Skinner, who works at Java’s Café, was among those who stood holding signs in the rain at the downtown rally.

“I’m slowly climbing out of my debt hole,” Skinner said.

A pay increase to $15 per hour, the barista said, would allow him to break what feels like an endless cycle, cut down on work hours and go back to school.

“For me it would mean the opportunity to actually pay off bills and not just make enough to get by,” Skinner added, “Because currently I make enough to pay my rent, pay my car payment, which gets me to work, which pays for me to get back to work.”

If confirmed as Labor Secretary, Puzder would be responsible for upholding many of the labor regulations that his company CKE Restaurants (which owns Carls Jr. and Hardee’s) was fined for violating. According to the Fight for $15, in 60 percent of Department of Labor investigations since 2009, CKE Restaurants was found to have violated wage and hour laws.

Puzder’s Senate confirmation hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 17, could happen as late as February. O'Malley said protesters will continue to fight for better living standards and better pay.

“It gives us a little more of an opportunity to expose how bad a guy he is,” O’Malley said.