U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
428 Senate Dirksen Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions:
On behalf of the Ms. Foundation for Women, the longest-standing public women’s foundation in the country, I write to express our strong opposition to the confirmation of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.
For 44 years, the Ms. Foundation for Women has supported women- and women of color-led grassroots movements for economic justice across the country. We were one of the earliest funders of efforts to expand access to affordable childcare and to protect women from wage discrimination, theft, and unsafe working conditions. Today, we continue to speak out for economic security for all women, understanding that access to economic security impacts all aspects of women’s lives, determining their ability to live with dignity and free from harm.
Given Mr. Puzder’s record, both as an attorney and CEO of the fast food corporation CKE Restaurants, we believe his confirmation as Secretary of Labor would cause serious harm to women, in particular low-income women and women of color.
The mission of the U.S. Department of Labor is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” Mr. Puzder’s policy positions explicitly contradict these goals. He opposes raising both the overtime threshold and the minimum wage, which would increase the incomes of millions of economically insecure women. Today, even women who work full-time at the federal minimum wage live below the poverty line. We must assume, then, that Mr. Puzder has no problem with families in our country living in poverty.
In addition, the Secretary of Labor oversees the Women’s Bureau. Our next Secretary should have experience with or at least believe in the importance of ensuring that women are economically secure and safe at work. All that we know about Mr. Puzder’s career indicates he does not. The restaurant chains he oversees, including Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, claim some of the highest sexual harassment rates of any in the industry; two-thirds of women who work in his restaurants have experienced sexual harassment on the job. As if that was not egregious enough, Mr. Puzder has treated the many sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuits his companies have faced as nuisances, instead of a troubling trend deserving of scrutiny. In fact, he has said that he would like to replace his employees with robots because they cannot file lawsuits. A critic of paid sick leave and expanding health care coverage, Mr. Puzder has also lobbied for abortion bans, making his neglect for women’s health and safety one of the hallmarks of his career.
Mr. Puzder’s blatant disrespect for his employees alone should disqualify him from consideration as our country’s chief labor protector. Simply put, he cares about profits, not people. In 2011, he called those who worked in his restaurants the “best of the worst” (at Hardee’s, they were the “worst of the worst”) and “the bottom of the pool.” Mr. Puzder has also defended sexualizing women in his advertising images, stating, “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.” These disgraceful, unsolicited displays not only show his character but also how little Mr. Puzder thinks of the communities who are most in need of strong leadership, support, and compassion from the Department of Labor.
Mr. Puzder’s history of fighting against economic security for low-income families, using his position of power to objectify women, and overseeing unsafe, degrading environments for his employees makes him unfit to run the Department of Labor.
We urge you to strongly oppose his confirmation as Secretary of Labor.
Teresa C. Younger
President and CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women