St. Louis celebrates Puzder’s defeat; new nominee to receive same scrutiny

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VICTORY RALLY IN ST. LOUIS – The Fight for $15 campaign rallied Feb. 16 at the Hardee’s restaurant on Hampton Ave. to celebrate the victorious withdrawal of Hardee’s CEO Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary. This was part of celebrations nation-wide capping off Puzder’s withdrawal. – Fight for $15 photo by Martin Rafanan

In citing “an historic victory for workers” and the national resistance campaign, the withdrawal of Hardee’s CEO and St. Louis attorney Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary was celebrated Feb. 16 by the St. Louis Fight for $15 campaign with a victory rally and celebration at the Hardee’s restaurant on Hampton.

“This is the first major defeat by the resistance movement against the Trump administration. But if he continues to appoint mega-rich CEO’s who stiff their workers of rightful pay and turn a blind eye to sexual harassment, it won’t be the last,” said activist Frances Holmes speaking to the rally crowd.

Even as the rally was underway, a new Labor Secretary candidate — attorney Alexander Acosta — was receiving a cautious “wait and see” approach by the AFL-CIO. See related story below.

“Unlike Andy Puzder, Alexander Acosta’s nomination deserves serious consideration. In one day, we’ve gone from a fast-food CEO who routinely violates labor law to a public servant with experience enforcing it,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“The Labor Secretary is not just another Cabinet member – his or her actions directly impact our wages, safety and rights on the job every single day. We will judge this nominee by the commitment he shows to making life better for working people.

“We will review Mr. Acosta’s record as thoroughly… he will have to answer tough questions and explain how he will enforce and uphold labor laws to benefit working people and not further tilt the balance of power toward corporate CEOs,” Trumka stressed.

‘PEOPLE STILL HAVE A VOICE’

UFCW International President Marc Perrone welcomed the withdrawal of Puzder and promised to give Acosta a good looking-over.

“Given recent reports that have come to light, it is clear that Mr. Puzder’s values were not the values of hard-working families,” Perrone said. “His withdrawal proves that the American people still have a voice and the power to shape our government.

“It’s critical for the person running the Department of Labor to be willing and able to be a champion for all workers, including our members, who deserve and have earned a better life. In the coming days and weeks, we will be reviewing Mr. Acosta’s positions and past statements to see how they’ve impacted UFCW members, their families and all hard-working men and women.”

One ominous note: Acosta served previously as a clerk for right-wing Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when Alito was an appellate judge.

CELEBRATION

“Give us a real Labor secretary!” Holmes said at last week’s rally here.

“We rallied outside of Puzder’s stores, we stormed his corporation headquarters and we filed complaints against Puzder’s restaurants to show how his burger empire was built on wage theft, sexual harassment and intimidation,” she said.

The group issued a statement calling Puzder’s withdrawal an “historic victory for workers” who have fought the nomination since it was announced last December and made a final push Feb. 15 with more than 100 workers on Capitol Hill.

“They waged three waves of nation-wide protests in January and February, culminating in a march on CKE’s corporate offices in California and a takeover of Hardee’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis on Feb. 13,” Fight for $15 said. “Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. workers also filed 39 complaints alleging wage theft, sexual harassment and intimidation at Puzder’s stores.”

‘WE KNOW HOW TO COUNT’

With his confirmation hearing scheduled for last week, Puzder instead issued a statement that he would not continue as the nominee.

He didn’t say why he was withdrawing, but it had become clear he didn’t have the votes for confirmation. His nomination was roundly criticized over his enforcement of pauper’s wages at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants, his not paying taxes for five years on a housekeeper who wasn’t authorized to work in the U.S., and even for those sexy Hardee’s TV commercials.

A reported six Republican Senate members had said they couldn’t vote for him. Their votes plus the Senate Democrats were enough to sink the nomination.

“We know how to count,” one Administration official said privately.

“It’s a reminder of the collective power of working people and a clear message to President Trump that it’s time to change course completely, not double down,” Trumka stressed.

WILL TRUMP LISTEN?

“The American people want a Labor Secretary who will hold employers accountable for paying a fair wage and providing a safe workplace while ensuring our right to a voice on the job.

“President Trump made a lot of promises on the campaign trail about supporting working people. It’s time to start turning those promises into action.”

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ACOSTA

Who is Alexander Acosta?

Alexander Acosta is the son of Cuban immigrants to Miami who actually has some civil rights and Labor work in his background.

He is the first Hispanic nominated to President Trump’s cabinet.

He previously served under President George W. Bush as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, the first Hispanic to serve in that division. He had been U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida and served as a Bush appointed member of the National Labor Relations Board between Dec. 2002 and Aug. 2003 where he authored 125 opinions.

Currently he is dean of the Florida International University College of Law and chairman of U.S. Century Bank. He graduated from Harvard with law and economics degrees.

Acosta serves on the Commission for Hispanic Rights and Responsibilities. He was also named one of the 50 most influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business Magazine.

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