About 40 people marched into the drive-through line at the Carl’s Jr. on W. Slaughter Lane in Austin Friday morning in an Inauguration Day protest. Their order: a $15 minimum wage and the rejection of President Donald Trump’s pick for labor secretary, the burger chain’s CEO.
“I think it’s important for us to be playing offense right now, not just defense,” said Austin City Council member Greg Casar. “Today is a day to renew our passion for what we stand for, to inaugurate resistance.”
Josh Perez, a local Wendy’s employee who was striking, said the demonstration was meant to “call out Trump” and Andrew Puzder, the new president’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Puzder: fuel for the dumpster fire” read one sign, carried by a demonstrator wearing a red “Fight for $15” T-shirt. Another labeled the nominee as “anti-worker, anti-union, anti-women.”
Protesters carried a banner depicting the burger chain’s smiling star logo sporting a frown.
Despite promises to help working people, Trump nominated a vocal opponent of minimum wage hikes and paid sick leave to head the Labor Department. Puzder’s confirmation hearing is set for February 3.
During a brief speech, Casar recognized that it was “a sad” day, referencing Trump’s inauguration, but said the backlash against the new president should jump-start a progressive movement to pass laws that help low-wage workers at the local, state and federal levels.
Through several bills, Texas Democrats have proposed boosting the state’s minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour and allowing city and county governments to set their own.
In the Trump era, allowing municipalities to set their own wage floors is more important than ever, Casar said.
“We know the lion’s share of local elected officials are left of center and opposed to the policies Trump and Puzder support,” he said. “This is a time for bold progressive action at the local level where cities do have power.”
Daniella Vasquez, a co-worker of Perez at an Austin Wendy’s, said she is glad to see that people are taking action to resist the Trump administration’s policies. Vasquez and Perez said they didn’t show up for their shifts Friday to be at the protest.
Vasquez said she has spent much of her life working for minimum wage, and though she currently makes slightly more, she knows how difficult it is to survive on $7.25 per hour in Texas. It will take unified action to change that, she said.
“Even if I just gave a little speech today and chanted, my voice had power,” she said. “It was one of many.”