Kansas City fast-food workers protest Trump’s nominee for labor secretary

Kansas City fast-food cooks, cashiers and labor supporters rallied Thursday in protest of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of labor.

Trump’s pick, who faces Senate confirmation hearings, is Andy Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr. and Green Burrito.

Workers carried signs with slogans such as “#Not Our Labor Sec.” and “Puzder is bad for America.” .

“The issue is growing in terms of fast-food workers and the minimum wage,” said Jimmy Thomas, a rally participant who does home repair. “There’s heightened energy in the movement now that we have someone who has resisted the movement who is going to be in charge of the Department of Labor.”

Thomas was among nearly 100 persons who staged a lunchtime demonstration in front of a Hardee’s restaurant on Independence Avenue. They echoed fast-food workers’ complaints against the multimillionaire executive who has opposed raising the minimum wage and criticized the Fight for $15 labor movement.

In a well-publicized interview last year, Puzder said he considered restaurant machines to be superior to workers because they “never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

Puzder also opposed proposed changes to federal overtime law that were put on hold late last year by judicial injunction.

The Kansas City rally was one of about two dozen planned by Fight for $15 organizers in cities around the country. The loud but peaceful march through the Hardee’s parking lot took only a few minutes. It drew no noticeable police presence or reaction from drivers passing the restaurant on Independence Avenue.

“We’re here to protest Andy Puzder as secretary of labor,” said Terrence Wise, a leader in the Fight for $15 campaign. “He is not our labor secretary. Andy Puzder is absolutely the wrong choice for workers in America.”

Puzder’s nomination is supported by the National Retail Federation and International Franchise Association. He’s opposed by the National Partnership for Women & Families and other social and economic groups that support the interests of workers and unions.

Fight for $15 organizers said Puzder personified the “rigged economy” that Trump campaigned against. They criticized Puzder for endorsing repeal of the Affordable Care Act and for backing cuts to Medicaid, noting that his restaurant workers have to use those programs when they don’t receive health care benefits on their jobs.

As labor secretary, Puzder would be in charge of upholding federal labor laws and regulations.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford