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Trump’s Labor Choice Is Not A Friend Of Workers

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Trump’s Labor Choice Is Not A Friend Of Workers

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Puzder to head Labor Dept

Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder is a frenemy to his employees.

He’s gone out of his way to downplay the needs of his workforce. Primarily, this means those Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. workers who have joined the nationwide clamor to raise the minimum wage.

Puzder is President-elect Donald Trump’s selection for secretary of labor. Hold on to your paychecks, this could be a bumpy ride.

Raising the minimum wage, granting overtime pay, inconvenient questions about why so many burger flippers and french fry scoopers are also on public assistance — it all receives a dismissive wave from Puzder. Too much federal regulation, he says. Not good for business.

Given Puzder’s role as CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., this is to be expected, as were the shouts of dismay at his nomination.

One organizer (Kendall Fells) pressing to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 said Trump’s choice of Puzder was akin to “putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the Treasury.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, told the Wall Street Journal, “With Mr. Puzder, the fox is in the hen house.” She went on to say his nomination is “the greatest assault on workers that we have seen in a generation.”

A moment, please, amid the chaos of name-calling, lest we lose perspective on the complicated problems of low-wage workers and so many others who have a tenuous tether to middle-class status.

Going on four decades now, economic policy has consistently undermined wage earners in favor of pleasing corporate managers and Wall Street. The tools that have been used were widely discussed during the presidential campaign: the off-shoring of jobs, raiding pension funds, all to concentrate profits more in the hands of those at the top income brackets.

This shift basically occurred over the stretch of Puzder’s career. And it happened through the acts of Congress, the courts, state legislators and a press too eager to gulp down the spin that this was all market forces at work. Unions increasingly were seen as the bad guys, out of touch.

So when Puzder says that government needs to get out of the way of business, he finds ready ears to absorb the message. But he’s only telling a piece of the story. The dire situation that too many fast-food workers feel is not, as Puzder likes to posit, simply the work of over-regulation.

Consider the Fight for $15, raising the federal minimum wage. Fast food is where the most public of these battles has been fought, with regular protests outside America’s favorite golden arches and other venues.

The pressure would double the federal minimum wage, on the outset a seemingly an outrageous contention. Puzder has said the protesters might as well be demanding their own firing. He argues that the workers will price themselves out of a job, that bosses like him will merely find ways to offset the higher labor costs through automation, decreasing employment. And it’s true, as some restaurant jobs have been replaced by the efficiency of technology, like touch screens to order food.

But realize that we have also let the minimum wage stagnate for far too long. By some calculations, the minimum wage would be at about $21, had it been allowed to rise alongside productivity gains. That is $5 higher than what many people think is asking too much.

In more tempered writings, Puzder has indicated that he would be OK with a $9 federal minimum. Or perhaps something that eases the increased labor costs on owners over time, incremental increases. If he really gets honest, he’d have to also admit that estimates about how much cost would have to be passed onto customers is also a subject of much debate.

And states and cities have begun to raise their minimum wages, something that Puzder can’t roll back even if he is confirmed.

Despite what many people of solid middle-class status like to tell themselves, the plight of the low-wage workers whom Puzder employs, and often fights, affects you and your household. And not just if they get your order for extra ketchup correct as you go through the drive-thru.

They are connected to the slipping grasp on a chance at middle-class status that so many Americans feel viscerally. It is the anxiety that helped elect Trump.

Puzder was an early and loyal supporter to Trump. The offering of a cabinet post is his reward. The question that remains to be seen is how loyal he can be to yearnings of the American workforce.

Mary Sanchez: 816-234-4752, msanchez@kcstar.com, @msanchezcolumn

IMAGE: Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, departs after meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (R) at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar/File PIcture

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Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez has spent years covering immigration, schools, and other volatile beats for The Kansas City Star. She is now an editorial columnist for the Star, where she continues to offer insightful commentary on immigration, culture, and politics.

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47 Comments

  1. Lynda Groom December 10, 2016

    I can’t think of any republican thats friendly to workers. Can anyone come up with one?

    Reply
  2. Bill Smith 999935 December 10, 2016

    I am a worker, and I think it’s a great choice.

    Reply
  3. Jim Samaras December 10, 2016

    It’s this type of thinking that helped ruined our manufacturing base. Those handle pulling jobs are only worth so much money! Giving into the unions and their ridiculous demands for so many years finally buried our nation when globalization came around not to mention allowed sub quality products to be fed to the American consumer who had no real choices. Jobs will come back under a Trump administration but workers must be realistic in their expectations. Labor will again have a voice in Washington, which is way overdo, but common sense must prevail

    Reply
    1. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

      It’s easy to blame the Unions but in fact it’s greed on Wall Street that has sent so many jobs over seas. Why invest in factories when you can just buy you goods from someone else. Let others make the capital investment and take the money you didn’t spend building factories and buy back stocks. If a worker who creates the wealth isn’t worth $15 per hour then why is the CEO who may not even understand the business worth $15 million a year? We need to get companies to invest in their own companies here instead of stripping the assets for their own personal gain.

      Reply
      1. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

        I agree Bob. Wall St has had a bigger voice in Washington than labor since the 70’s and the results are obvious. While it may appear on the surface that Trump will continue this charade with some of his appointments I believe labor will be brought back to the table in a big way under his administration. We will see over the course of the next year…..

        Reply
        1. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

          I wish I shared you opinion but i fear it’s going to get even worse. Trump is getting his direction from those who are causing the problem. If you want investment you need to raise taxes not cut them. Make investing in factories more profitable then stock buy backs. When taxes are low so is capital investment. We need modern factories and skilled workers. If we don’t start investing in America things will just keep going as they are.

          Reply
          1. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            Repatriation will may do just that if perhaps part of the deal is investment in cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore and the like. Lowering taxes may also bring business here from other countries to manufacture products here and avoid tariffs. Again though, the American worker must be realistic especially during the first few crucial years. $15 to $20 an hour will sound pretty good to a Home Depot greeter and he must not get greedy.

            Reply
          2. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            Never in history has lowering taxes gotten new factories built, in fact if you look at what happened in the fifties and early sixties you will see manufacturing growth with very high taxes. As for the Home Depot greater, the one in my store make that kind of money because he has work there for a number of years. He’s 84 years old. Most big box retailers are now starting at $10 per hour and can’t find people are that rate.

            What would make you think that any money repatriated would be invested in the rust belt. There is a reason why companies left those areas to move south. It’s cheaper to build a new factory in the southern states. What has Detroit got to offer? Non of that money will be re-invested unless it forced to. It will end up being used for more stock buy backs and bonuses.

            Reply
          3. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            Part of the repatriation deal may be that a percentage must be invested in the areas I mentioned. Just because they are sh^t holes doesn’t mean we can forget them. Shipping infrastructure is already in place so a little motivation is all that’s needed. Lower taxes and import tariffs will equalize the playing field to offset the cheap labor elsewhere. Times have changed since the 50’s! We were the only game in town after WWII having destroyed Europe. We had no choices so high taxes worked then. Lower taxes will create jobs and bring a boom to this nation not seen since the 50’s

            Reply
          4. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            When GW cut taxes did we see an increase in investment? If you want get investment in manufacturing make it more profitable to invest then to buy back stocks. One thing you must keep in mind though is the fact that the US manufactures more today then at any point in history and that we are the second largest exporter after China and the second largest manufacturer after China. We already have the largest economy. Back in the late seventies and early eighties when these jobs were leaving some places figured out how to deal with the problem, they reinvented themselves. Pittsburgh is a good example. Steel is gone but they have a robust economy.

            Reply
          5. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            Bush was an idiot! He was more for Wall St than the American worker. Good point on making investment in manufacturing more profitable than buying stocks. Trump knows the game and hopefully will figure out how to accomplish that. One idea may be to not allow CEO compensation tied to stock prices. Although it sounds intrusive is it any more so than not allowing congressmen to lobby for foreign companies? There must be a way to do it, he’s much smarter than I am

            Reply
          6. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            My fear is that Trump is surrounding himself with Wall Street big wigs and CEO’s with no one speaking for the people who put him in office. Where is the voice of the common man? Sec of Ed with no back ground in education, Sec of Housing with no background in housing, etc.

            Reply
          7. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            He is but those same people know the other side of the equation too. They work for Trump and he is a man for the people. They will do his bidding or will be gone as fast as they were hired. He will see results quickly or not hesitate to make a change.

            Reply
          8. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            Trump says he’s a man of the people but so far his actions give on proof to that fact. I don’t trust Trump, maybe it’s because I know to much about his history and in the past he has not been a very trustworthy person. I have no choice but to wait and see if a leopard can change his spots.

            Reply
          9. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            He’s not even president yet and has made moves that impress many. I do trust him! So, we’ll see

            Reply
          10. jmprint December 11, 2016

            And many more that have made people regret.

            Reply
          11. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            His choices for his cabinet do not instill a sense that things are going to go well. It looks like he is paying debts more then picking great people.

            Reply
          12. jmprint December 11, 2016

            And how many picks are ex Goldman Sachs employees?

            Reply
          13. johninPCFL December 11, 2016

            You’re ignoring the basic driver of employment – demand for product. Ford understood this in the 1920s and paid his workers well above average – so that they could buy HIS CARS. Why so much cheap crap in Walmart? It’s AFFORDABLE.
            When the CEO payout is linked to stock price performance, and interest rates hover near zero, there is tremendous incentive to use credit lines to buy back stock, and use revenues to pay those loan costs (tax deductible.) Using post-tax repatriated money to do the same carries the same incentive – a bigger CEO paycheck.
            Most large companies determine CEO pay using compensation committees. Who serves on the committees? Other CEOs. Did Larry Bossidy EVER vote to reduce Jack Welch’s compensation? No. Jack Welch’s last year’s compensation was over $600 million.

            Reply
          14. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            Very good points john! I mention below that perhaps compensation plans for CEO’s must be changed. Sound intrusive I know but something must and will change under this administration or we the people will be pissed off!

            Reply
          15. johninPCFL December 11, 2016

            Not a venue for the federal government. The best that could be hoped for would be a modification to the tax code. Buybacks are normally called asset acquisitions, and I don’t know of anything that can be done there that doesn’t also impact other acquisitions that all increase “shareholder equity”. Fund managers, who sit on the boards of all of the Fortune 500, would never sit for that.
            Walmart, BK, etc. have a perverse reason to keep wages low. If their employees are on welfare (studies show more than half of their collective employees are), they really will do most of their shopping there.
            The only short-term option I see is an increase in the prime rate, which typically tanks the stock market (because the equity buybacks become less likely) and drives the economy down. We will see that this month when the FOMC boosts the rate this year. The housing mortgage market is already reacting to the forecast – the rates are up 3/4% since October.

            Reply
          16. jmprint December 11, 2016

            When if those that he is picking are the culprits. We the people should already be pissed off, can’t you see the writing on the wall already. Or are you a 2 headed snake trying to convince the people that the apple tree is OK, take a bite of the apple and see.

            Reply
          17. jmprint December 11, 2016

            As long as the CEO’s and Board members make 600 to 1000 times more than the workers, the reality of $15 an hour livable wage is impossible.

            Reply
  4. InGen12 December 11, 2016

    Is anyone really surprised at his choices for top spots? Labor leader (who is supposed to set workplace safety standards and look out for the interest of workers) is anti-labor, environmental leader is against protection of the environment, education leader is against public education and wants only charter schools and private schools, proposed SOS is a “great” friend of Putin – see the pattern here??

    Reply
    1. Dan S December 11, 2016

      Trump is treating these appointments like he’s picking a name out of a hat at random. It’s embarrassing and we the people are the ones who will pay the price for this incompetence. Raise the United States flag upside down ???????? We’re a nation in crisis with no leadership after January 20th ????

      Reply
      1. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

        At least they have some successes under their belts unlike the fellow community activists Obama chose.

        Reply
        1. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

          Obama’s record of success vs. failure beats Trumps who has failed about a third of the time.

          Reply
          1. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            I wish I shared that view but I can’t name one success Obama has achieved.

            Reply
          2. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            He was elected President twice and the country had the longest employment growth period in history. Crime is down, We no longer have body bags at the airports daily. My 401K is doing well.

            Reply
          3. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            Chicago is a good example of violent crime being down I suppose, we have the lowest worker participation since the 70’s, welfare and food stamps are up 40% and your 401K is doing well due to the influx of money shoved into the system and artificially low interest rates. You’re well off but the common man has gotten the shaft and we’re a nation divided greater than any other time in my memory.

            Reply
          4. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            Ever heard of family values. People staying at home to raise their children. That’s what was happening before every family needed two bread winners. Today 40% of new mothers are staying at home to take care of their children instead of putting them in day care. More people are waiting to enter the work force, instead they are going to school to get better skill sets. People are retiring, remember the baby boomers, they are coming to that age now. So being 5% lower the the highest isn’t that big a deal.

            My 401K is doing well because the companies in it are making money. Paying dividends.

            Reply
          5. jmprint December 11, 2016

            Always bring up Chicago, now where’s the list on how many states had less crime nationwide? No you don’t want to show those figures, and you don’t want to talk about the rise of murders by guns either. Obama fixed Bushes mess start there, stop trying to go back to Reagans years. You honestly think that the “common man” is what is on Trumps administration picks minds? If so you are dumber that I could ever, ever have imagined.

            Reply
          6. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            Did you know that Chicago isn’t even in the to ten most dangerous cities in the US and their murder rate is almost half of what it was ten years ago. Here is the list of the top ten.
            http://listtop10s.com/top-10-most-dangerous-cities-in-america-2015/
            Per capita Chicago isn’t any worse the New York and is better the Cleveland.

            Food stamps mostly go to the working poor and since the minimum wage is less then it was back in the 70’s it only makes sense that usage would be up. One of the places that get high numbers of food stamps are the PX’s Our military is very under paid.

            Reply
          7. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            Seattle employees ask for REDUCED hours so that “jacked-up” minimum wage
            won’t cost them their subsidized housing: Gee, who could have seen this coming…?

            Now this is downright funny. They scream for a higher minimum wage, then, when
            they get it they complain because they make too much money to qualify for the
            free stuff, go figure. By jacking up minimum wage, Seattle has provided a valuable
            lesson in liberal economics. The plan has now backfired.

            Nora Gibson, executive director of Full Life Care, told Seattle’s KIRO 7 TV she saw
            a sudden reaction from workers when Seattle’s phased minimum-wage ordinance
            took effect in April, bringing minimum wage to $11 an hour. She said anecdotally, some
            people feared they would lose their subsidized housing so they have asked that
            their work hours be reduced to remain eligible for all government subsidies.

            It doesn’t stop at $11/hour. The law puts it up to $15 starting January 1, 2017, they will
            have to reduce their work hours even more to remain eligible for handouts. Good
            thing the minimum wage wasn’t raised even higher, most would not work at all,
            they prefer to be spoon fed and remain on the government plantation.

            So now workers work fewer hours, but for the same take home pay, business’ labor
            costs increase so prices increase, buyers (workers) pay more and no one is better off.

            Remember free market capitalism? Under that system, the harder and smarter you worked,
            the higher your standard of living. But that was found to result in income inequality, so
            now we have a system where wealth is bestowed by bureaucrats, and working
            harder doesn’t always make sense.

            Reply
          8. bobnstuff December 11, 2016

            So Fox News found a supervise that says a few workers ask to work fewer hours to keep the housing. Here is the problem with this story. at $11 per hour they still only make $22.500 per year, not enough to afford housing in Seattle. Everyone of the stories I could find go back to this one story. If this really was a problem you would think that you would find more examples and different stories from other people. Even at $15 per hour they will still be eligible for public housing since the cut off is $48,550 for a single person or $69,300 for a family of four.
            https://www.seattlehousing.org/housing/public/eligibility/

            The people who they claim are asking for less hours are not burger flippers. They are heath care workers, the people who wipe the buts of our parents and grand parents in nursing homes. Would you do that job for minimum wage?

            As far as making prices go up, here is the cost break down. In fast food you have a labor goal of between 10% and 20%. We will use the high end here If you raise labor cost from $8 per hour to $12 per hour your labor cost as a percentage of total cost go up 10% or your $2 burger goes up by 20 cents. Retail runs lower labor percentage goals, around 5% so you $2 item now cost $2.05.

            Reply
          9. jmprint December 11, 2016

            First and best is our safety here in our homeland. When was the last 9/11 experience, you experienced?

            Reply
          10. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            I see…Orlando, San Bernadino, Ohio St and many others wouldn’t count to the magnitude of 9/11 but matter non the less

            Reply
          11. jmprint December 11, 2016

            Oh those US citizens, like Dillon as well. No I’m talking about 9/11’s. remember the devastation.

            Reply
          12. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            Bigger theater is all

            Reply
          13. jmprint December 11, 2016

            No one can create bigger theatre than Trump, he is the only one that holds the key to the BIGLY TENT.

            Reply
        2. jmprint December 11, 2016

          Not very many people get to list President of The United States on their Resume, I would say you hold him to high degree, should he have walked on water to impress you.

          Reply
          1. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            And once he got there he failed miserably

            Reply
          2. jmprint December 11, 2016

            Only in your little itsy bitsy republican mind, you guys have been living ln extreme world of lies, that now you think Trump is a great thing for America. Shame, on you for being part of the sellouts.

            Reply
          3. Jim Samaras December 11, 2016

            I hope your life improves under this administration but if not there is no one to blame but yourself

            Reply
          4. jmprint December 11, 2016

            This administration won’t have any impact on me, If we all have to stand in line for bread, I will find a positive in there somewhere. But I’m self sufficed, I worry about those that aren’t. I fight against greed, hate and supremacy.

            Reply
  5. jmprint December 11, 2016

    To all you Trump voters. Is this really what you wanted for Trump to do, to hire people at our expense to keep us from progressing. Tear down our democracy, sell us out to the highest bidder, Russia is at the top with a lot of players and cheer leaders in our country. It’s not to late, call your states Electoral College and resend your vote, Let’s keep America for Americans and not the Russians.

    Reply

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