Union Front Group Uses Sham Study to Smear Andrew Puzder
By Olivia Grady
Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United released a report on January 10, 2017 titled Secretary of Labor Violations?: The Low Road Business Model of CKE Restaurant Inc’s Andrew Puzder.
The report gave the results of a survey that ROC United had conducted on workers at franchised restaurants owned by CKE Restaurant Inc. about alleged labor violations.
The purported purpose of the survey was to determine if Andrew Puzder, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor and the CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., would “uphold the mission of the Department of Labor.” ROC defines the mission of the DOL in its report as “promoting the welfare of wage earners, improving working conditions, and, most significantly, enforcing worker protections.” (To see how the DOL defines its own mission, click here.)
ROC claims there was a high level of response from their survey: 564 workers from CKE-owned restaurants completed the online survey (out of 20,200 total workers), while 891 employees described their working conditions in interviews with ROC representatives.
According to ROC’s survey, there are high levels of wage and hour violations at CKE Restaurants. ROC claims that understaffing has led to workers helping their co-workers when they are off the clock. 77 percent of survey respondents said there was understaffing, and 36 percent said they couldn’t finish their tasks on time. One cashier at Carl’s Jr. in California claimed, “When the labor is too high, I am asked to clock out. If I did not finish a task, sometimes I complete it while off the clock in order to not get yelled at the following day.” Also, almost one-third of respondents claimed that they didn’t receive the breaks or overtime pay they are required to receive by law, and more than one-quarter reported that they had worked off the clock.
ROC supplemented the survey by citing that the Department of Labor allegedly found wage and hour violations at half of CKE Restaurants during investigations. In 2004, CKE Restaurants also settled three class action lawsuits over whether the business improperly classified employees to exempt them from labor and wage rules.
Health and safety violations were also discussed in the report. 20 percent of survey respondents claimed that “they ha[d] been pressured to get work done in a way that could cause injury to themselves or others,” and almost one-third got sick or were injured on the job. A Shift Leader at Carl’s Jr. describes, “Last year, with my old [General Manager], a cook was asked to clean a vent and fell from a ladder. She was sent home but returned the next day because she needed to pay her bills.” Almost 80 percent said they worked while they were sick.
According to the report, CKE is also unfair towards and discriminates against its employees. Nearly 20 percent of respondents said they were discriminated against, usually for age, gender, and race. More than one third claimed to have experienced unfair treatment, such as sexual harassment and racist behavior.
Finally, 66 percent of women respondents reported to ROC that they had experienced sexual harassment (though the report defines the term broadly) on the job. ROC claims the rest of the industry just has 40 percent of women reporting sexual harassment. Most of the self-reported harassment comes from customers. A cashier from Carl’s Jr. in California claimed customers sexually harassed her every day.
The report finally gave information about donations Puzder and his wife made to Trump’s campaign, and claimed there was pay-to-play:
Puzder’s outsized contributions to the Trump Victory PAC may well have secured him a coveted position in the incoming administration where he can oversee the very rules he has opposed for years as a fast food CEO. This clear instance of pay-to- play is unacceptable and highly concerning.
So how legitimate was ROC’s survey of CKE workers?
The method used to ask people to take the survey was social media. They were asked between December 9th and January 7th in 2017 to answer a 45-question survey. Most employees were from Carl’s Jr. and Green Burrito, and 77 percent of respondents were women.
Legitimate polling organizations do not consider this an accepted way to conduct a survey.
The Pew Research Center on December 29, 2010 gave some reasons for why social media surveys are not always accurate in an article called “How accurate are online polls?” Pew Research, for example, uses telephone calls to contact participants.
There are two reasons why social media polls are less accurate than phone participation. The first reason is that not everyone uses the Internet. Internet users tend to be younger and wealthier. The second reason is that people who volunteer to take a survey online are going to be different from people who don’t; people with certain points of view might be more likely to take the poll.
The research conducted by ROC therefore yielded results that are highly flawed. People who participated in this survey are likely to be younger and have had a job for a shorter period of time. They are probably more likely dissatisfied with their jobs. Secondly, ROC even mentioned that the survey sample was weighted heavily by female respondents, and so is likely not representative of the workforce as a whole.
In short, the ROC report is nothing more than a sloppy hit piece on Andrew Puzder disguised as a serious labor report.
So what is ROC anyway?
ROC is a “worker center,” which means it’s not regulated by the National Labor Relations Act and other labor laws. It also claims a 501(c)(3) charitable organization status. So, it doesn’t pay taxes but does get tax-deductible contributions from foundations and grants from the government. It works closely with HERE Local 100 and other unions toward a shared goal of higher minimum wage laws and a unionized restaurant industry.
No wonder they hate Andrew Puzder and are doing everything they can to derail his nomination.