Fast-food workers protest Trump's labor secretary nominee

LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The union-backed "Fight for $15" movement will protest at Carl's Jr and Hardee's restaurants on Thursday against the nomination of the chains' head, a vocal opponent of minimum wage increases and "overregulation," as U.S. labor secretary.

Senate leadership has pushed back the confirmation hearing of Andrew Puzder to February from a tentative date of Jan. 17, citing a complicated congressional schedule.

Puzder, 66, leads CKE Restaurants, whose 3,300 eateries include the Carl's Jr and Hardee's brands. For years, he has said Obama administration policies have saddled industry with higher costs and contributed to a "government-mandated restaurant recession."

An enthusiastic supporter of President-elect Donald Trump, Puzder has lobbied against efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 and is widely expected to roll back policies such as those aimed at curbing unpaid overtime and improving worker safety.

The four-year-old "Fight for $15" movement has helped win minimum wage hikes in California and New York. It also seeks to unionize restaurant workers.

RELATED: Take a look inside the minimum wage protests:

Inside the minimum wage protests
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Inside the minimum wage protests

The protests were organized by the Fight for $15, an advocacy group that was started by fast food workers in New York City.

Tuesday's protests marked the four-year anniversary of the movement.

Many of the protesters were fast food workers.

Uber drivers and airport workers also joined the fight on Tuesday. Below, protesters march at a rally at Newark Airport in New Jersey.

Protesters also came out in opposition to President-elect Donald Trump's plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

Protesters carried signs that said "No Deportations" in Los Angeles.

Heavily armed Los Angeles police officers watched protesters from the back of a truck.

According to the LA Times, 40 people were arrested at a peaceful protest in Los Angeles.

Protesters were driven off in a police bus.

According to USA Today, about 25 people were arrested at a protest in New York City.

Protesters were also arrested in cities across the country.

Last year, New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed a law that will gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $15 over the next few years.

But that didn't stop protesters from fighting for the cause on Tuesday. A crowd of about 350 protesters stood in front of a McDonald's restaurant in New York City.


The restaurant industry is the biggest U.S. employer of minimum wage workers, and CKE's restaurants, like many others, have been cited or sued for violating wage and safety rules.

"If Puzder is confirmed as labor secretary, it will mean the Trump years will be about low pay ... instead of making lives better for working Americans like me," said Terrance Dixon, 32, who makes $9 per hour at a St. Louis Hardee's and plans to join Thursday's protests.

Senate Democrats including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts held their own hearing on Tuesday after Republican rivals rebuffed their request to bring witnesses to Puzder's upcoming confirmation hearing.

The protestor-packed event included testimony from Laura McDonald, 51, who was a general manager at a CKE-owned Carl's Jr restaurant in Arizona from 1988 until 2012.

She has joined two potential class-action wage and hour lawsuits against CKE, which during her tenure switched general managers from salaried to hourly workers.

"CKE avoided paying overtime by setting our hourly wages so low that we didn't make anything extra working more than 40 hours a week," said McDonald, who added that she routinely worked 15 hours of unpaid overtime.

A transition official accused Democrats of running a smear campaign and lauded Puzder as a successful businessman.

Puzder was unavailable for comment. His backers include the International Franchise Association, which represents companies such as CKE and McDonald's Corp. (Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Sarah Lynch in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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