Saturday, December 10, 2016

Behold Mr. Puzder, Secretary of Labor

I just heard Mr. Trump has nominated a man named Andrew Puzder to be the new Secretary of Labor. He was described in the Washington Post [Labor Department pick is a critic of $15 minimum wage, WP, December 9, 2016] as an executive of two fast food restaurants: Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. The article called him a supporter for the Trump policy of “lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy and loosening regulations for businesses can boost job creation” the standard slogan of Republicans for decades.

Several other comments outlined in the article stand out. First, the article said Mr. Pudzer is an “opponent of the Affordable Care Act, claiming higher health premiums have left consumers with less money to spend and hurt the restaurant business.” Apparently Mr. Pudzer prefers to have Americans eat hamburgers and french fries as a substitute for health care coverage since that will increase profits in his fast food empire.

However, Mr. Trump promised to create jobs so Mr. Pudzer might like to know that 28.4 percent of new jobs since 1990 have come in the health care industry. The share of America’s establishment employment in health care as published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has increased just under 5 percent since 1990 to 13.3 percent of establishment jobs, both percents more than any other industry sector. The fast food industry has 2.9 percent of establishment jobs, up only .67 percent since 1990. If new jobs are the Trump goal, then health care is the best sector, not to mention the higher pay in health care than the low wage fast food industry.

The Washington Post article also quoted a previous comment of Mr. Pudzer that new overtime rules “add to the extensive regulatory maze the Obama Administration has imposed on employers.” The overtime rules are part of administration of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The current rules he ridicules were drafted by the George W. Bush Administration in 2003 specifically to eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans. President Obama has proposed changing one, and only one, number but nothing else. He wants to raise eligibility for overtime from a salary of $23,660 to $47,776 to make several million people eligible for overtime pay that are denied overtime by people like Mr. Pudzer.

Mr. Pudzer also opposes raising the minimum wage, but that too is part of regulations written for the Fair Labor Standards Act and so the rules he ridicules are the exact rules that allow him to keep wages low and convert costs to profits to put in his pocket. I would say his views show a conflict of interest since he expects to profit from a government policy he intends to control.

Mr. Puzder also invoked a standard corporate threat against higher wages. He said it “encourages automation!” We learn fast food executives are investing in automation and considering machines that could tackle simple tasks such as taking customer orders. “If you’re making labor more expensive and automation less expensive- this is not rocket science.”

Organized labor lost jobs to automation in the 19th century. Over the last thirty years millions have been forced out of jobs from computer automation, but fast food wages are already so low his work force can leave him to be self employed mowing grass or baby sitting compared to the pathetic wages he pays. He ought to remember a bully needs better threats.

A hundred years ago there was no fast food industry but people who worked in low skill, low paid jobs called themselves wage slaves. Apparently the working class voted for Mr. Trump, but Mr. Puzder’s comments give the clearest sign yet the working class will continue to be wage slaves in the Trump Administration.