‘Corporate Campaign’ Deployed against Labor Secretary Nominee Puzder

Since President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of CKE Restaurants CEO Andrew Puzder to Secretary of Labor, Democrats, labor unions, and their allies have deployed a coordinated attack against him.

It has all the looks and feel of a “corporate campaign,” which is a type of union organizing strategy that uses a mix of legal, political, and public relations attacks to wear down a company’s resistance to unionization. These tactics are intended to impose financial and legal liabilities on the target company, sully its reputation with its business partners and customers, and hurt its standing in the community by subjecting corporate officers to personal embarrassment.

Unions and allies have coordinated protests, released a bogus survey, and created websites in attempts to derail Puzder’s confirmation.

One of the organizations at the forefront of the smear campaign against Puzder is the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a union front group. As I wrote yesterday, it recently released a “survey” of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. employees (CKE Restaurants is the parent company of these restaurant chains), but ROC’s methods were so unscientific that even a liberal-leaning expert questioned the survey’s methods.

Another approach that ROC and allies are using in attempts to discredit Puzder is calling into question the labor practices at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. They point to the heavily cited Bloomberg BNA research on fast-food restaurants’ Fair Labor Standards Act violations.

However, the Bloomberg BNA research was so distorted by labor unions and allies that the author felt the need to clarify the research in a subsequent post:

September Bloomberg BNA analysis of WHD [Wage and Hour Division] enforcement data, is based on about 60 investigations of CKE-affiliated establishments since the start of the Obama administration. That is among the lowest levels of scrutiny in the fast-food industry as a share of overall stores. And no FLSA violations were found within the handful of cases at corporate-owned stores.

It is important to note that under the Obama administration, the Department of Labor (DOL) implemented a “strategic enforcement strategy,” which, in part, targeted the fast-food industry. So, if anything, ROC and others should be praising the efforts of Puzder and Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr franchisees for leading the pack in compliance.  

Whereas Puzder, and the stores operated by the company he leads, did not violate the FLSA at all during the Obama administration, ROC has a more checkered history in running its own restaurant.

ROC runs a restaurant called “COLORS” in New York, which has come under considerable scrutiny. As I previously wrote on the ROC establishment:

ROC’s New York restaurant, Colors, has been described by former employees as, “one of the most abusive in the city,” profiting from hundreds of hours of free labor. According to one employee, “ROC-NY used us and many others to perform hundreds of hours of unpaid work. They even had us kick back our tips when we worked at parties and events as cooks and waiters.”

After promising these workers a stake in the business after many hours of toiling, ROC unilaterally changed its agreement with them. Workers would not get any stake until at least five years of work in the restaurant, and even then their share would be dwarfed by that of investors and management.

For an organization that commonly lobbies for raising the minimum wage, it seems they enjoy not paying their restaurant servers at all.

While not as shameful as not paying their workers, ROC’s restaurant’s sanitation record is also far from first-rate. Its New York restaurant was cited by the City’s Department of Health for multiple health violations, including “evidence of rats or live rats present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.” In another citation, COLORS had “evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.”

It is a shame that an organization like ROC, which claims to represent the best interests of workers, is attempting to derail Puzder’s confirmation to the Department of Labor. Puzder is an accomplished businessman who advocates pro-market policies that encourage job creation and economic growth, which should be something unions and allies can get behind.