Over the past few weeks, Capital & Main has interviewed half a dozen current and former managers at CKE, the company run by labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder. We asked them about their experiences working with Puzder and inside the company he oversaw. Here are some excerpts from our interviews.
Ron Suckle, former corporate risk management manager:
- He basically treated the employees like chattel. He refused to offer full-time jobs to more than a very few people.
- His predecessor, the founder, Carl Karcher, was human and definitely treated employees as people — that definitely changed when Puzder came along.
- [CKE] didn’t offer a pension. It offered a no-match 401(k). You could put money into it. Some companies match one-to-one. Their contribution was zero cents on the dollar.
- He’s the antithesis of someone who should be the Secretary of Labor. He’s anti-labor. He doesn’t believe in the minimum wage.
- Puzder doesn’t believe in overtime. He basically believes workers should be used and not nurtured.
Blanca Carbajal, former district manager who was fired in 2015 after 34 years:
- I am living a nightmare. I feel like I am being discriminated [against] for my age, for being a woman, for doing my job. I cannot even go into a Carl’s Jr., because it’s so upsetting for me to just pass by a store that I dedicated my life, my family, everything to — for them to let me go just because they wanted to? I just don’t understand why.
- I worked very, very hard to be where I was at, being a district manager. And for somebody to decide, we just don’t need you anymore, with no explanation given – I feel like I’m useless. My career is thrown in the trash. Everything I gave to this company is thrown in the trash, which is not fair.
A former department director:
- It is very much ego driven — Andy-driven. All of the workers in the restaurant are looked at as a commodity.
- It wasn’t ever a priority to make sure we took care of everyone. Certainly it was never, “Let’s take care of people on the front lines”…It was, “Shut up, keep your head down and be happy you have a job.”
- There was never, ever a woman in charge at any executive level that had an impact.
A current manager:
- There seems to be a glass ceiling that women can’t make it past.
- People totally dislike the man. He’s very arrogant…. People shook in their shoes when he walked in.
- He’s very rude. If you were a white, blond cashier you did a great job. If you were an overweight person, [other managers] highly recommended we try to get rid of you.
A former vice president of human resources and training:
- He did not really like minimum wage laws at all. I heard him say that before. He wasn’t a fan of giving people raises.
- If you have an employee that you’re a little iffy on, you don’t give them a raise, because it would be difficult to get rid of them. I mean, [at CKE] it’s all about being able to fire people.
- I don’t think he should be labor secretary since he doesn’t believe in the minimum wage. In my opinion, that kind of disqualifies you right there.
- The very first thing they tell employees, if it’s the case, is, “You’re in a right-to-work state. We can fire you if we want.” Really gives you a warm feeling.
- Everybody else lets you get your unemployment compensation, but not Hardee’s or, you know, CKE. If you leave or you’ve been terminated, and you qualify for unemployment in your state — anybody else I’ve ever worked for said, “We’re not [contesting] your unemployment.” But they do. I mean, they really nickel-and-dime it.
A former management employee:
- People want to work someplace where it matters…I don’t think Andy Puzder made Carl’s a restaurant that was an employer of choice.
- I wanted to get out of there and be developed. I moved on because I wasn’t going to go anywhere.
- Has he ever stood in employees’ shoes? How does Andy Puzder help Donald Trump with job creation when he has such a myopic business experience? How can he represent a broader spectrum of employees and employers when he’s only been focused on such a narrow segment of the business community that hires fairly unskilled labor? He’s not focused on being an employer of choice.