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Hardee’s employees expose abusive culture of Andrew Puzder’s CKE Restaurants

Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder -- the current CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s -- for Secretary of Labor is a threat to working families across the country. As Secretary of Labor, Puzder would oversee regulations meant to protect workers and their families. Yet he has built his fast food empire on exploitation and abuse. Throughout his time at CKE Restaurants, the Department of Labor found that more than half of Carl’s Jr. and Hardees restaurants had at least one wage and hour violation.

We contributed to a report, “Secretary of Labor Violations?: The low road business model of CKE Restaurants Inc.’s Andrew Puzder,” authored by Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) to dig more deeply into the damage that the corporation has caused its workers and customers over the past ten years. ROC United communicated with hundreds of former and current employees at CKE Restaurants franchises to get a full understanding of Puzder’s leadership -- and the concerning impact his business decisions and priorities have had on their lives.

Below is an account from Christin, a former Hardee’s employee. Sadly, it’s just one of many heartbreaking stories from the report.

I worked at Hardee’s in North Carolina from around 2006 until 2011. As an employee, it was very clear to me the top priority for the store was profit — regardless of how that impacted workers or customers.

When I started, I made $5.85 an hour and the only wage increases I ever received were due to the federal minimum wage increases. Hourly, the supervisors looked at the cost of labor compared to sales, and whenever that ratio was supposedly too high, they kicked people off the clock. There would be times when we would not be allowed to clock-in for our shift and would have to wait until the supervisors let us. We never had paid sick days. If we were sick, we could call out, although there was pressure not to do so — both from management as well as the fact that many of us could not afford to lose a shift.

The internal dynamics within the store were also not healthy. The store manager had clear favorites, especially those who shared the same religious beliefs as her. This resulted in her favorites getting the best shifts. A supervisor also had inappropriate interactions with me when I first started working there. Once, he just grabbed me and kissed me while we were cleaning in the back. It was very confusing — as a teenager, I wasn’t totally sure what to make of my relationship with him. I felt very pressured by him.

It might sound surprising that anyone would put up working in a place like this, but most of the people who work at businesses like Hardee’s feel like they do not have options. I now have a college degree and knowledge of the legal system, so of course now I would have walked out fairly quickly, but most people do not have that option. I also have learned through school and other jobs what my rights are and how to assert them… but you don’t learn that knowledge or those skills at Hardee’s.

While I’m sure many executives higher up would blame the store manager for these incidents — and while she definitely implemented many of the specific unspoken policies - the executives created the culture in which these practices thrived. The company only cared about profit — and clearly turned their head to anything blatant (such as overworking the assistant manager) and obviously never did any sort of internal audits (otherwise, I’m sure they would of caught on to the fact that we used food until it was gone, even if it should be thrown out). It is both bewildering and infuriating that someone who ran a business that created a culture of profit over the interests of either workers or customers is going to be in charge of enforcing labor laws.

Most of the people I worked with were single moms in way worse off financial situations than me and didn’t have other choices. Working there, you do not feel empowered enough to challenge anything, so you just accept the injustice.

Puzder’s nomination threatens many working people in the United States. Download the full report to learn more about Puzder’s shameful record of undermining workers’ rights at CKE Restaurants, and join us in taking a stand against his leadership. 

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