Tuesday, January 3, 2017

From the Left - Not The Jobs We Were Promised

By Eric Chamberlain

It seems like a lifetime ago that now President-elect Donald Trump was on the campaign trail trying to win the support of the American people and as we all know he earned enough support to get the necessary electoral votes to become President of the United States.  When you listen to the analysis of the recent election most experts say that attracting blue collar voters across the upper Midwest was crucial to Trump’s success.  He attracted these blue-collar voters in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for the most part by promising that he was the candidate that would restore manufacturing jobs to the United States.  This promise was why many independents and normally Democratic voters showed up across what many have termed “the rust belt” and voted Republican.  But, when it comes time to choose a Secretary of Labor he does not turn to someone who has experience creating manufacturing jobs, rather he is expecting to ask the Senate to approve his appointment of Andy Puzder.  Puzder’s resume includes a career as a lawyer and then later as CEO of CKE the parent company of fast food giants Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.  So, unless President Elect Trump sees putting together a hamburger as manufacturing, he has chosen the wrong guy for the job.

Mr. Puzder does not have the background to help lead a revival of manufacturing in America and is yet another example of Trump seemingly having no intention to live up to the expectations of those who voted for him.  It appears that Mr. Puzder will be appointed by Trump for Secretary of Labor, so let us take a look at what he believes about issues relevant to the position he is most likely going to be appointed.  As Secretary of Labor it will be his job to ensure that the laws
protecting workers are enforced.  This article will focus on minimum wage, overtime pay and regulations protecting both workers and consumers.

Andy Puzder has spoken out numerous times against raising the Federal Minimum wage while pretending to be sympathetic to minimum wage earners.  He is a CEO of a company that is part of an industry that depends greatly on a ready supply of low wage earners to fill their low wage jobs.  The fast food industry employs many full-time workers who will take home paychecks to families that are living near or below the poverty line.  Mr. Puzder wrote on January 29, 2014 as Congress was considering a raise in federal minimum wage:

Proponents of a higher minimum wage correctly point out that, at the minimum wage, a single-earner family will have to live below the poverty level. This depressing fact often is true. And putting yourself in these workers’ shoes would chill any normal person to the bone.

Not only do minimum-wage workers have to work very hard indeed — and probably not at the most exciting job — but they get paid very little. It’s totally unfair.
But if you think the plight of minimum-wage workers and their families, let alone the hardship faced by those who are unemployed, is a consequence of unfair employers, you are sorely mistaken. Employers, like everyone else in this dismal economy, do the best they can for themselves.

As Mr. Puzder feigns concern for the plight of low wage and minimum wage earners, he has very much done very well for himself.  Puzder’s current compensation package is not made public because CKE is no longer a publicly held company.  He cites the fact that he no longer must abide by regulations requiring disclosure of his salary and other benefits as one of the advantages of being a privately held company.  In 2010, the last year that CKE was publicly held, Puzder owned about two million shares worth $26.6 million dollars.  In 2011, Pacific Coast Business Times reported that Puzder’s compensation was in excess of $10 million.  While he was CEO CKE offered over $240,000 in executive perks for himself and other top executives.  These included club memberships and the use of company jet for personal reasons.  Numbers like these make one question the hardships he has faced in the recent “dismal economy.

One of the reasons that Puzder gives for opposing an increase in minimum wage at the time was that there is a large discrepancy in cost of living across our country’s vast breadth.  This is a point I would not argue but his conclusion that raising the minimum wage was a bad idea is incorrect.  Yes, raising the minimum wage will not equal the playing field for all low wage earners, but that is not it’s intent, it’s intent it is to set a minimum hourly a business may pay its workers.  At the time of his opposition the minimum wage bill he was challenging was going to raise the minimum wage to a little over $8 an hour.  There was no place in the country that $8 and some change was going to allow for workers to live even somewhat comfortably.  It was an attempt to raise the “minimum”, it did not stop states like California and New York where the cost of living is more from raising the state’s minimum wage to a greater amount.   Mr. Puzder goes on to say, “Raising minimum wage is the wrong policy applied to the wrong people at the wrong time.”  The people it is wrong for is certainly not low wage workers, so I assume that what he is saying is it is wrong for him and the other millionaire executives benefiting from cheap labor.

Mr. Puzder repeatedly over the years has also written numerous statements claiming that regulation is putting strain on the restaurant industry.  He is critical of “Obamacare”, which we all agree the rising
cost needs to be addressed, but beyond that it is unclear what regulations he is against.  It appears that regulation itself is the enemy.  The restaurant business has regulations protecting consumers from getting food born illness (is this a bad thing Mr. Puzder?), they also must sell us a beef hamburger if they tell us it is beef, and one can see how this might get in the way of profit and future capital for expansion, but is it a bad thing?  Regulation protects both customers and workers, do we want to live in a country where business pursuit of profit goes unchecked, it certainly would help us compete globally.  China has very few regulations and refuse to abide by intellectual property restraint.  Do we want to lower ourselves to China’s level?  It might be cheaper but is it better?

Mr. Puzder was opposed to recent changes in the law that forced companies to quit using a loophole that put workers on salary to avoid paying overtime.  Minimum wage and the right to earn overtime for work over 40 hours are both laws that the Labor Department are obligated to enforce.  Mr. Puzder does not seem to be the man for that job.  His industry hates both and he is very outspoken against them.  The manufacturing jobs that Trump promised are not historically dependent on minimum wage workers or trying to get around paying overtime.  Mr. Puzder seems to be the right man to protect service and fast food employers but we were not promised that Trump would help create more low and minimum wage jobs that will not restore America or the middle class.

My arguments make it pretty clear why a “liberal” like myself would oppose Mr. Puzder but why should a conservative or a Republican care about this choice?   I would argue that if conservatives and Republicans want to continue to gain support from blue collar workers they cannot turn their backs on the promise of manufacturing jobs coming back.  It is the desire for manufacturing jobs that helped give the “right” control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Without following through on this campaign promise, Michigan and the rest of the upper Midwest will be ready to send the Republicans home during midterm elections and it will guarantee the White House will be occupied by a progressive candidate after the 2020 elections.  We should be looking for leadership in job creation among companies like Apex Resources, a supplier of water soluble polymers.  It is an environmentally responsible company of whom according to Business Insider has seen growth of over 1,100 percent.



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