During the campaign, Donald Trump sold himself to millions of working class voters as the savior of the common man. But once elected it didn't take him long to turn his cabinet into a billionaires' club, filled with corporate executives whose interests definitely do not align with those of most Trump voters. Out of all of Trump's dismal picks, the worst, as far as American workers are concerned, is his Labor Department nominee, Andy Puzder.
Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, owners of Hardees and Carl's Jr. Trump is going against convention with the nomination for the Labor post, because traditionally that cabinet position has gone to someone who has been connected to labor. Most Labor secretaries have been labor leaders or people involved in labor law. Puzder will be only the second person to ever move from a corporate leadership position directly into the Labor Department.
A lot of people in the labor community are unhappy over the Puzder nomination. But there is one group that Congress should pay special heed to as his confirmation hearings get underway -- Puzder's own employees.
According to The Hill, CKE employees are planning anti-Puzder protests in over 24 cities. The protests, scheduled for Thursday, were supposed to coincide with the start of Puzder's confirmation hearing but that has been delayed.
Hardees worker Terrance Dixon said this in a statement:
Andy Puzder represents the worst of the rigged economy Donald Trump pledged to take on as president. If Puzder is confirmed as labor secretary, it will mean the Trump years will be about low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment and racial discrimination, instead of making lives better for working Americans like me.
Dixon is right. Trump promised to fight for people like him, and instead he is turning his cabinet over to men and women who routinely exploit workers.
In 2012 Puzder made more than $4 million dollars. (CKE is now privately held and doesn't disclose Puzder's current salary.) Even if you generously assume that as CEO he worked 80 hours a week every week of the year, Puzder made over $961 an hour. But he opposes a living wage for his workers.
Puzder told the Los Angeles Times that jobs like those in his company aren't worth $15 an hour.
I started out scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins at a dollar an hour. I learned a lot about inventory and customer service ... but there's no way in the world that scooping ice cream is worth $15 an hour, and no one ever intended it would ever be something that a person could support a family on. ... Those jobs just don't produce that kind of value like a construction job or a manufacturing job does.
As a capitalist, Puzder certainly understands something he doesn't want to acknowledge: in a demand economy such as ours there are no "unimportant" jobs. If there is demand for a service or a product, jobs are created. And if a job is important enough to exist, isn't it important to pay the person doing it a living wage? But the demand argument has been turned on its head by supply-siders such as Puzder. To them, jobs exist because of the generosity of the employer, and workers had damned well better be thankful for whatever they get.
In an interview with Business Insider last March Puzder complained about federal government involvement in wage issues.
This is the problem with Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage. Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?
Puzder offers the same rhetoric as many business leaders about the minimum wage, but he doesn't have history on his side. It is a standard claim that increasing the minimum wage increases unemployment, but over 70 years of data from the Department of Labor says that isn't true. Most minimum wage increases have been followed by reductions in unemployment.
While speaking to Business Insider Puzder also indicated his interest in automating his restaurants. And in doing so he revealed the low regard with which he holds his workers.
[Machines are] 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.
The threat to workers is clear: shut up and take what you get, or I'll replace you with a robot. CKE employees are not happy about that threat, either. Jessenia Adame, who works at a Carl's Jr. in Texas, said,
I’m no robot. If our elected leaders really want to make America great, they should confirm a labor secretary who looks out for working people like us, not someone like Andy Puzder who has made millions by stealing our wages and who wants to replace American workers with machines.
This is the man Trump wants to represent the interests of American workers. A man who tries to keep his employees in line with threats to replace them with machines. A man who thinks his workers do jobs that aren't worth a living wage, yet earn millions in profits for Corporate America. The workers who are most familiar with Puzder are saying he is bad for labor. Unfortunately that will probably only endear him more to Republicans in Congress.