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Workers Allege Violations at Franchises of the Company Run by Donald Trump's Labor Nominee

Fast-food employees have little appetite for Andrew Puzder.

Fast-food workers across the country find the idea of Andrew Puzder as secretary of Labor pretty unappetizing.

Labor nominee Puzder—whose company, CKE Restaurants, controls the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chains—has a Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for Thursday, and employees of CKE franchises are pushing back. Protesters rallied in 24 cities earlier this week with signs of Puzder's face superimposed with phrases such as "Wage Thief" and "Tax Cheat."

The protests were organized by the minimum-wage campaign Fight for $15, which in late January held a press call with employees to announce the coordinated filing of legal claims against CKE franchise owners. "Take it from someone who knows firsthand," Torrance Chambers, a 36-year-old Hardee's employee from Birmingham, Alabama, said during the call. "Andy Puzder doesn't respect working people." 

Chambers said in the three years he's worked at Hardee's, he's never gotten a raise over the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. What's more, he is paid with a preloaded debit card, the basis for a labor violation claim he and his co-workers filed with the Labor Department in January. "Getting the money that's on the card isn't free," he said. "It comes with $2, $2.50, or even $3 withdrawal and transaction fees at many ATMs and banks. All those fees add up to hours worth of work that goes unpaid. And it means that, at the end of the day, I and many co-workers at Hardee's are paid less than the federal minimum wage. Forget $15—Andy Puzder and his company are against a minimum wage of $7.25."

The owner of the franchise where Chambers works noted in an email that employees with bank accounts get a direct-deposit option, and those who get debit cards are not charged any fees if they withdraw their paycheck all at once from a participating ATM. George Thompson, a spokesman for Puzder, took issue with the notion that his boss believes in stiffing employees. "Only 2 percent (114) employees at Andy Puzder's company actually make the minimum," he wrote in an email, so Chambers' claim "is not based in fact."

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