9 Ways Trump’s Labor Secretary Nominee Could Affect Your Job
Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of Labor, might not have any direct government experience, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have opinions on how the government can help — or hurt — employers and their workers.
Over the years, the fiercely anti-regulation Puzder, a fast-food company CEO, has weighed in on everything, including minimum wage laws, immigration, and automation. He hasn’t hesitated to push back against the Affordable Care Act, rules expanding overtime protection for certain employees, mandatory sick leave policies, or significant increases in the minimum wage, NPR reported.
“Government needs to get out of the way. If government gets out of the way, businesses will create jobs,” Puzder told Yahoo Finance in 2014. “Wages will go up, and the country will go back to a state of prosperity instead of what we’re in now.”
If he’s confirmed as the head of the Department of Labor, Puzder will bring that pro-business attitude to an agency that’s responsible for enforcing minimum wage laws, keeping workplaces safe, managing worker’s compensation programs, and taking other steps to “improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights,” according to the Labor website.
Puzder won’t have direct power to tackle all of the issues he’s spoken out about in the past. Congress is responsible for federal minimum wage increases and will decide the future of the Affordable Care Act. But his pro-business attitude will undoubtedly shape the way the Department of Labor enforces certain rules, as well as the guidance it issues to employers, Politico explained. That, in turn, could affect your job.
Here are nine things to know about Trump’s pick for Labor secretary, who doesn’t like the $15 minimum wage push and isn’t opposed to a robot taking your job.
1. He runs a major fast-food chain
Puzder has been the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., since 2000. His career with the company began after he worked as a lawyer for Carl Karcher, the founder of Carl’s Jr. Puzder helped him avoid bankruptcy and preserve his share of the business.
Today, there are more than 3,700 CKE-owned or franchised restaurants around the world. The company employs over 75,000 people in the U.S., and they make an average of $10 an hour, according to the Los Angeles Times. Puzder’s supporters say his background gives him the experience and knowledge needed to run the Department of Labor.
2. He wrote the book on job creation
Puzder wrote the book on job creation — literally. Along with entrepreneurship expert David Newton, Puzder co-authored Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why the Government Doesn’t Understand It, published in 2011. The book argued the government’s “misguided attempts to orchestrate labor markets and the economy through higher taxes, increased regulatory requirements, and wealth redistribution are antithetical to both job creation and American free enterprise.”
To create jobs, the government needs to take a back seat, Puzder argued. In his view, reducing regulations, cutting taxes, limiting government spending, and increasing domestic oil production will create new opportunities for American workers, Reuters explained in a summary of the book.
3. Unions don’t like him
Puzder isn’t too popular with America’s unions, who believe his positions are anti-worker. The AFL-CIO said he’d be a “disaster for working Americans.” Mary Kay Henry, head of the Service Employees International Union, claimed Puzder “does not believe in the dignity of all work and has used his position to line his own pockets at the expense of workers.” The United Steelworkers, the country’s largest manufacturing union, also has spoken out against his nomination, as has the American Federation of Teachers.
For his part, Puzder hasn’t had complimentary things to say about unions either. “Empowering unions can increase labor costs to the point of putting employers in or near bankruptcy,” he wrote in his book. “This is in the best interests of neither employees, employers nor our potential for economic growth.”
4. He doesn’t support a $15 minimum wage
A $15 minimum wage is bad news for business — and for workers — in Puzder’s view. Although he isn’t opposed to increasing the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, he told the Los Angeles Times, raising wages above what the market demands leads to job loss. The typical company would lose about $6,000 per employee by raising wages to $15 an hour, Puzder claimed in an interview with talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. Many wouldn’t be able or willing to absorb the hit.
“You actually go from a situation where … you’ve got a business that can survive and that has economic strength to a business that you really can’t run, you really can’t hire people, so, and you can’t offset these costs of this magnitude with pricing,” Puzder said. “Businesses will move out of the state, marginally profitable businesses will close, and businesses that manage to survive will more efficiently manage their labor by reducing hours to the bare minimum, automating as many positions as they possibly can, and raising prices as high as the market will bear.”
5. He’s not opposed to a robot taking your job
Robots are coming for your job. Close to half of Americans had jobs that could possibly be automated, a 2013 study found. That includes transportation and logistics workers, receptionists, security guards, accountants, cashiers, and clerks. And Puzder doesn’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
“They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” Puzder said when talking about robot workers in the restaurant industry with Business Insider.
Puzder said when the government increases the cost of hiring actual employees by raising the minimum wage, companies naturally look to cheaper solutions. “If you’re making labor more expensive, and automation less expensive — this is not rocket science,” he said. He has since clarified he doesn’t believe automation could ever replace all workers.
6. He’s spoken out against health-insurance mandates
The Affordable Care Act provision that mandates employers to provide insurance to full-time workers or pay a fine isn’t helping workers, according to Puzder. Instead, the rule creates an incentive to cut employee hours.
“Make something more expensive, and employers will use less of it. Make something less expensive, and they will use more of it,” he testified to the Senate HELP committee in 2015. “The result has been a massive reduction of employees’ hours, particularly in the retail segment, lowering workers’ wages and reducing consumer spending.”
Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s started hiring more part-time workers in response to the ACA insurance mandate, he told the Wall Street Journal in 2013.
7. He doesn’t like Obama’s overtime pay rule
An Obama administration rule that would expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay was in legal limbo before the Trump administration put its implementation on hold. Puzder would be happy to see the new regulation die entirely. As with major minimum-wage increases and health-insurance mandates, he feels new overtime pay rules would backfire on the workers they’re supposed to benefit.
“Unfortunately, the move would hurt the very managers [Obama] intends to help by turning them into hourly employees, depriving them of the benefits that come from moving into management,” Puzder wrote in a 2015 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. “Overtime pay has to come from somewhere, most likely from reduced hours, reduced salaries or reduced bonuses.”
8. His company has been accused of discrimination
Since 2000, when Puzder became CEO, CKE Restaurants has been the defendant in more federal employment discrimination lawsuits than any of its other burger-chain competitors (including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King), an Capital & Main investigation found. Those lawsuits include accusations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. A number resulted in settlements paid to workers who alleged bias and harassment.
Two-thirds of female employees at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s Restaurants who responded to a survey by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a worker advocacy group, said they’d been sexually harassed at work. Nationwide, 40% of female restaurant workers report experiencing harassment.
The company’s racy ads appear to encourage a hostile environment. “Customers have asked why I don’t dress like the women in the commercials,” a Tennessee Hardee’s employee said. Puzder claims “93% of female CKE employees agree they feel safe and respected at work.”
9. He’s pro-immigration reform
Puzder supported Trump’s candidacy, but he wasn’t necessarily on board with his plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, he argued for a path to legal status for some people in the U.S. illegally and said he didn’t support “aggressively restricting” immigration.
He also praised the immigrant-heavy labor force at his chain’s restaurants in California, saying immigrants often work harder than native-born Americans. “They’re very hardworking, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact they have a job,” Puzder said at an American Enterprise Institute event.